Well not only is the year drawing to a close but so is the first decade of the 21st century. It doesn’t seem like 10 years since we were at Geoff and Maureen’s Millenium night party smiling at the thought of all those New Labour ligggers queuing up to get into the Dome. On a personal basis it’s been quite a time for us; we saw two daughters happily married and welcomed two great grandsons into the family, we lost Carol’s mum and Terry from my family as well as several friends sadly but also experienced living in Italy after leaving BT following more than 30 years with the company. Some great memories but I was thinking about some of the sporting highlights in the last decade.
If I had to list my top 10 they’d be:
1. I think the biggest rush was watching England win the RWC final against Australia in 2003 with that dramatic last minute drop kick from Johnny Wilkinson. I was responsible for putting my company’s name, Cellent, on the England shirts (and the association still continues via O2 to this day) and that win seemed to be a vindication for the sponsorship investment. We hosted a fantastic night with the players at the House of Commons when they returned to the UK too. What a night that was.
2. England wining the Ashes in 2005. I know they did it again earlier this year but there was something about the earlier series victory that was just so compelling – maybe it was the outstanding overall performance of Freddie Flintoff or possibly his gesture of commiseration towards the beaten Brett Lee at Edgbaston, or maybe it was Vaughan’s shrewd captaincy. But for me it was because for once England played like a team which was greater than the sum of its parts against an Aussie side packed with the world’s best spinner, fast bowler, batter and wicket-keeper in Warne, McGrath, Ponting and Gilchrist. Great stuff and the partying which followed was great fun.
3. Man Utd’s Champion’s league victory over Chelsea was a great match and an even better result of course which all hinged on that missed penalty from Chelsea’s swaggering captain John Terry. Oh that was a moment to savour. The look on Abramovitch’s and Kenyon’s faces at that moment was priceless.
4. And just to show that I’m not a myopic graceless soul, I have to admit that an even better final was Liverpool’s unexpected and stunning 4-3 victory over AC Milan in 2005. Possibly the greatest comeback ever seen at a major football event. Even that waste of space Smicer scored for the Reds. Unbelievable stuff.
5. Perhaps the last decent thing he did in an England shirt. What am I talking about? – that fantastic free-kick by David Beckham in the dying seconds of the World Cup finals qualifying match against Greece in 2001. He had a crap hairstyle at the time but all was forgiven as the ball was curled into the top corner beyond the outstretched fingers of the Greek goalie. I can still hear the commentator John Motson shouting BECKHAMMMM, YES YES HE”S DONE IT! Classic Beckham.
6. We were actually on holiday in Italy when England played against Germany in Munich in 2001. I was listening to the game on Italian radio and after Germany went 1-0 up I switched it off thinking the game was already over. Little did I know. A text message from my old mate JP confirmed the result and, bless him, he recorded the match for me to watch when we got back. 5-1 eh, what a fantastic scoreline. Those were the days when Sven was regarded as the new Messiah. Sigh.
7. Now for a change of sport. Unquestionably the best game of tennis I’d watched since Borg won his 5th straight Wimbeldon title in an epic match against McEnroe (involving a 34 point tie-breaker and a 4th set won 18-16 by the Mc) was the amazing Wimbledon final played out in 2008 between Federer and Nadal. It lasted nearly 5 hours and ended in the gloom with Nadal the victor. Simply fantasy tennis.
8. I thought the Open at Carnoustie in 2007 had the best closing day I’ve ever seen in golf. Garcia who had led the tournament from the first day, started his final round 6 shots ahead of Padraig Harrington. But hole by hole he pulled Garcia in until the 18th when he dumped the ball into the burn to allow Garcia a 10-footer to take the title. He missed of course and Harrington went on to win in the play-off. Breathless stuff.
9. Conversely one of the most poignant moments was at this year’s Open when Tom Watson just hadn’t enough in the tank to win an improbable Open title 16 years after his last Major victory. Needing just two putts to win at the 18th he took 3 and Stewart Cink went on to win the play-off to become the least popular winner of the Claret jug ever.
10. Heading right back to the start of the decade was one of those compelling late night tv sporting moments when Steven Redgrave won his 5th rowing gold medal in consecutive Games in the coxless fours. Surely a feat never to be repeated. The race itself was extremely close and gripping and the tension was incredible but Redders pulled it out in the last few strokes to win by the narrowest of margins. Marvellous stuff and a great decade of British sporting achievements
If there are any moments more memorable to you please let me know.