Brian Viner: Golden Bear's not too old to score a handsome 70

The Last Word

Saturday 09 January 2010 01:00

Last week's visit to Alexandra Palace for the darts world championship, enjoyable though it was, interfered with this column's venerable tradition of opening a new year by looking forward to the sporting birthdays and anniversaries that will encourage us, over the coming months, to look back. But the second and third outings of the new year will serve just as well, so today The Last Word looks forward to the end of June, and next week rounds up the rest of the year.

On 21 January, the great Jack Nicklaus turns 70, and as he enters his eighth decade the Golden Bear might just be reflecting that his record of 18 majors is looking a little safer than it was a year ago, following the travails of the Tiger. On 20 February Jimmy Greaves joins him on three score years and 10, followed just four days later by another redoubtable striker, Denis Law. Not every goalscorer is worthy of sharing a paragraph with those two, but here's one who is: on 1 March it will be 30 years since 73-year-old Dixie Dean expired at his beloved Goodison Park, following a Merseyside derby.

On 7 March Ivan Lendl turns 50, and a fortnight later Ayrton Senna would have done. On 1 April it will be 20 years since an Old Firm derby at Ibrox became the first league football match in Britain to be broadcast on satellite television, by BSB. Who knew then what a revolution, for good but also for ill, would follow?

On 7 April, Cliff Morgan – once a scintillating fly-half for Wales and the Lions, later the BBC's head of sport and outside broadcasts and also a supreme broadcaster in his own right – turns 80. It is sad that he does so having lost that glorious Rhondda voice to cancer, and it is also sad that he does so without ever having felt the cold tap of steel on his shoulder. Surely the Prince of Wales should put a word in; the principality hasn't had a sporting knight for half a century.

On 10 April Linford Christie accelerates past the 50 mark, and a week later it will be 150 years since the first international boxing match was staged at Farnborough in Hampshire; Tom Sayers of England met John Heenan of the United States in a bare-knuckle contest that ended in a draw, after 37 rounds lasting more than two hours. Just five more minutes, reckoned the watching Lord Redesdale, and Sayers would have won. Easy enough to say from the sidelines. On 29 April it will be 40 years since the first replay of a Wembley FA Cup final, Chelsea beating Leeds United 2-1 at Old Trafford, after extra time, and on 13 May, 60 years will have passed since the first race in the inaugural world motor racing championship, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, won by Italy's Giuseppe Farina.

On 18 May, it will be 50 years since one of the greatest exhibitions of attacking football, the remarkable 7-3 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden Park that won Real Madrid the European Cup for the fifth consecutive year.

How many teams would have given that Real Madrid side containing Puskas, Di Stefano and Gento a game? How about the Brazilian team of Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao, Gerson, Rivelino and Carlos Alberto – surely the greatest XI of all time. On 21 June it will be 40 years since Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium to win the World Cup for the third time, entitling them to take the Jules Rimet trophy home for keeps. On the same day, 1,500 or so miles north in Minnesota, Tony Jacklin won the US Open, the first Brit for 50 years to do so.

Another notable Brit, Cuthbert Collingwood Tinling, better known as Teddy, was born on 23 June, 1910. He will be remembered on his centenary as a tennis player, umpire, writer and wartime spy, but mainly as a racy fashion designer. The lace-trimmed knickers he designed for "Gorgeous" Gussie Moran in 1949 made him persona non grata at Wimbledon for the next 30 years. But should the England football team lose to the US in their opening World Cup group match on 12 June, the humiliation might last twice as long as 30 years. After all, plenty still remember England's 1-0 defeat by the US in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on 28 June, 1950, also in a World Cup group match. Admittedly, the Americans are no longer a motley crew of part-timers, as was the XI that beat an England team containing Billy Wright, Stan Mortensen, Wilf Mannion and Tom Finney, but a precedent is a precedent. Next week, July to December.

And our lucky winner is...

My Christmas quiz had a record number of entries, though fewer than 20 of you got every answer right. For a full list of answers email me at Meanwhile, thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to Alan Macmillan of Aberystwyth, who wins a year's supply of Spitfire Ale generously donated by master brewers Shepherd Neame (www. Mr Macmillan pipped it, or perhaps pip-pipped it, with his suggested advertising slogan: Spitfire Ale: If the British pub should last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest pour".

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