Showing posts from May, 2010

Heysel study seeks truth

When an accident at a public gathering results in mass casualties, inevitably the moment at which all the causal factors arrive at their fatal collision sparks chaos and confusion.   When the dust settles, explanations are put forward and culprits sought but often there is no definitive truth, only individual accounts of what appeared to happen. After Hillsborough and the Bradford fire, in terms of magnitude rather than chronology, the third football disaster of the 1980s was Heysel, where 39 people died, for the most part Italians and supporters of Juventus, at a European Cup final played in a decrepit stadium in Belgium, 25 years ago this week. Blame at the time and since attached to Liverpool supporters, and in so far as it was Juventus fans being pursued by a Liverpool group who were crushed by a collapsing wall there is no argument with that basic hypothesis. But there were undoubtedly other elements that contributed to the tragedy.  The stadium, due for demolition and st

Practice makes perfect...usually

Fi nding the key to sporting excellence has been testing the intellects of scientists and psychoanalysts for generations. How much is down to natural talent? Is being lucky the secret? Or is it just a matter of sheer hard work? Journalist Matthew Syed joins the debate in a new book, Bounce : How Champions are Made . The Times writer has carried out an exhaustive study, examining the careers of Tiger Wood, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Greg Norman, Lance Armstrong and Michael Jordan among others, looking for clues as to how they achieve consistent success. He looks at the role of temperament -- why some players choke and others do not when the pressure mounts -- but tends to come down in favour of the hard graft element, citing the 10,000 hours of practice Tiger Woods had clocked up by his mid-teens, mentioning also that Mozart’s musical achievements must have owed something to putting in 3,500 hours at the piano before he was six years old. His conclusions essentially support the o

Premier League will test Holloway philosophy

As much as Blackpool’s players will need to make big adjustments after their fairytale promotion to the Premier League, so Ian Holloway, their engagingly characterful manager, may find his values tested by the challenge ahead. Holloway’s personal history has given him a grounded outlook on life, shaped both by his football career and the difficulties encountered in his family life.  Three of his four children were born profoundly deaf and his wife is a cancer survivor. Three years ago, speaking after the publication of his biography, the loquacious Bristolian told his interviewer, the Independent’s Brian Viner, that he did not want to go down the path of Sir Alex Ferguson, with whom he will now have the chance to occupy neighbouring dug-outs, at least twice, and be a football obsessive. "I'm 44 now, and I'm targeting 50 as the age to retire,” Holloway said. “I don't want it to say on my headstone, 'I wish I'd spent more time at home'. “I admire and

How Steve Hodge swapped his shirt for the fury of a nation

England and Argentina have not been friends on the football field since Antonio Rattin was sent off at Wembley in 1966 quarter-finals, when the South Americans suspected a conspiracy between England and Germany to ensure their elimination from the tournament. A goal by Geoff Hurst -- the only one of the game -- was allowed to stand despite Argentine suspicions of offside by German referee Rudolf Kreitlein, who reportedly sent off Rattin, the captain, for "violence of the tongue", even though he spoke no Spanish. But it was in 1986 that their mutual dislike became irreversible, thanks, of course, to Diego Maradona and the "Hand of God" goal in the quarter-finals in Mexico, which was generally seen by the little maestro's country as a justifiable act of retribution for the Falklands War of four years earlier. England missed the chance to avenge their sense of injustice when Germany eliminated them from the 1990 tournament at the semi-final stage, denying th

Life as seen by Bumble

Ever walked into a city centre pub while there is an Ashes Test in town to find Sir Ian Botham sitting on a bar stool, discussing the quality of the ale with the locals? Or maybe stumbled into a modest curry house late at night to find David Gower tucking in at the next table? Thought not. But substitute David Lloyd for either of those two names from the Sky commentary box and there is a fair chance the answer would be 'yes'. Lloyd, known to colleagues and viewers alike as 'Bumble', has a face every bit as familiar but where his on-screen chums might prefer to unwind away from public scrutiny, the garrulous Lancastrian has a list of favourite watering holes to make a beeline for once stumps are drawn and the on-air light goes out. They are not the kind with soft, deep sofas and chic decor and fancy chefs catering for a well-groomed and well-heeled clientele. If you've frequented the Circus Tavern in Manchester or Whitelocks in Leeds, you'll know the

This Week's Hot Sellers

The Sports Bookshelf's research reveals that sports book buyers bought these titles most during the last seven days. 1) Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Christopher McDougall's compelling study of the reclusive Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's savage Copper Canyons, who for centuries have practised techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest. 2) Bounce: How Champions are Made It was the golfer Gary Player, borrowing words uttered in 1929 by Arnold Palmer , who said: 'The more I practise, the luckier I get'. In Bounce, Times sportswriter and former world table tennis champion Matthew Syed argues that Palmer and Player were right: there is no such thing as natural talent and success in sport is the consequence instead of huge amounts of practice. Taking in the latest in neuroscience, psychology and economics, Bounce examines the real nature of talent, what kind of practice actual

Vote for your favourite cricketer

My Favourite Cricketer is an anthology of some of the finest writing on the sport taken from the world’s number one cricket magazine, The Wisden Cricketer. Editor John Stern has assembled a collection of personal tributes that celebrate the enduring character and spectator appeal of 46 of cricket’s most-cherished and colourful performers. An array of sports writers and celebrated cricket fans recall and reminisce about their most-admired players.  Publishers A&C Black  want to know who the nation's favourite cricketer is and have invited readers of The Sports Bookshelf to submit their votes.  You can pick your top three from the list below and email to  where the votes will be collated. The Sports Bookshelf will disclose the results next month. Everyone who votes will be entered into a prize draw, with five copies of My Favourite Cricketer to be given away as prizes. Wasim Akram Alan Knott Mike Atherton Allan Lamb Ken Barrington Harold Larwood Bi

Moments in history: Four minutes that cost 56 lives

Tragedy invariably inspires acts of humbling selflessness.  The Bradford City fire, which claimed the lives of 56 football supporters 25 years ago today, encouraged many, both on the day as survivors battled in horrifying circumstances to save the less fortunate, and subsequently. Paul Firth, who was in the stand engulfed by the blaze with his father-in-law and a friend, found himself immersed in thick, acrid smoke and escaped only because he noticed that the choking, disorientating cloud around him seemed less black to his left than it did in the other direction and chose to go that way, which led him to the safety of the pitch. "How I got there I've never, never known," he said in a recent interview. Given that it took only four minutes, from the first wisps of smoke as rubbish beneath the wooden stand caught light, for the whole structure to be turned into an inferno, he counts himself remarkably lucky. Five years ago, he brought together his own recollections a

World Cup 2010: the key players

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal have the misfortune to be in the toughest group of all in the World Cup finals.   While North Korea ought to be no barrier to their progress into the second stage, their place in the round of 16 will have to be obtained at the expense of either Brazil or the Ivory Coast, the nation of Didier Drogba, who will have Sven Goran Eriksson at the helm. Yet in Cristiano Ronaldo they have one player whose absence would certainly be to the detriment of the later stages in South Africa. There were plenty of Manchester United supporters who would not have been disappointed to see Ronaldo's star on the wane after his £80 million transfer to Real Madrid last summer. But he has transferred his prodigious talents from the red of United to the white of Madrid without even a hint of a stumble. He set a club record when he scored in his first four appearances in La Liga and chalked off another personal ambition only last week when he scored his first hat-trick for

Why budding authors must Know The Score

The collapse of Know The Score Books after five years and numerous worthy titles comes is a sobering moment at a difficult time for the industry. The Warwickshire-based publisher has become known for a prolific output since it appeared in 2005.  The more outstanding among more than 80 titles include soccer manager Dave Jones's autobiography, No Smoke, No Fire and the merry tales of sports writer Christopher Davies, Behind the Back Page. Former Daily Mirror chief football writer Harry Harris and football historian Ivan Ponting have had several books published under the Know The Score imprint. David Tossell, whose Grovel! The Story and Legacy of the Summer of 1976 was runner-up in the Best Cricket Book category in the 2007 British Sports Book Awards, has written another cricket title, Following On: A Year with English Cricket’s Golden Boys , which was due to be published by Know The Score last week. Know The Score has been embroiled in a number of legal disputes, with the pu

New book recalls golden days of Yorkshire cricket

Andrew Collomosse was a 13-year-old schoolboy when Yorkshire won cricket's County Championship in 1959, breaking a Surrey stranglehold on the competition that had kept the championship pennant flying at The Oval for seven consecutive seasons. It was Yorkshire's first title since 1946 and marked the beginning of a golden era in Yorkshire cricket. Over the next decade, the side captained initially by Ronnie Burnet, then Vic Wilson and, from 1963 onwards, by Brian Close, would win seven championships of their own, as well as the Gillette Cup twice. Collomosse grew up in awe of the likes of Close, Fred Trueman, Ray Illingworth, John Hampshire, Philip Sharpe and Jimmy Binks.  They and the other members of that all-conquering Yorkshire team were his boyhood heroes, their names every bit as magical as Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pieterson or Stuart Broad might be in the minds of today's generation of cricket-loving youngsters. By 1969, Collomosse was earning his living as a jo

IPL concept would have seen W G Grace at head of queue

Twenty20 cricket and the riches of the Indian Premier League might seem to have turned cricket into a game far removed from the one in which W G Grace enjoyed fame in the late 19th century but in some ways not a lot has changed. The amply proportioned doctor might not have attempted nor wished to compete with the fleet-footed fielders essential to any successful T20 team, while the idea of trying to scramble at least a quick single off every ball would not have interested him at all. Yet in his day Grace was every bit as willing to sell his talent to the highest bidder as a Kevin Pieterson or an Andrew Symonds. Indeed, he did so in 1899, when he abandoned Gloucestershire in order to accept £600 per year -- equivalent to about £60,000 today -- to be captain, secretary and manager of the newly-formed London County, a team set up in a short-lived attempt to give the capital a presence in first-class cricket. Grace was officially an amateur yet made a handsome income from playing

New book celebrates life of Joe Fagan

Maybe this is not the best moment to remind a Liverpool fan of the days when their team stood at the pinnacle of English and European football, their success not measured in the occasional consolation trophy (and even the 2005 Champions League now seems a little bit like that) but in domestic championships and continental glory nights, year after year. In the evolution of book, timing can only ever be shaped by  informed guesswork and perhaps journalists Andrew Fagan and Mark Platt supposed that the first week of May, 2010 would find Liverpool supporters celebrating. Perhaps they foresaw this as the year in which Rafa Benitez finally took his place alongside Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and Kenny Dalglish among the managerial giants of the modern era. Instead, now that another season has effectively passed with ambitions unfulfilled, they can hope only that Joe Fagan: The Authorised Biography , published next Thursday by Aurum Press, serves to inspire the team to strive