Talking Sport Now & Then: 2022 will go down as the greatest year of sport

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The last 12 months will surely go down as the greatest year in the history of sport as a result of several major Covid hit events having being carried over from 2021.

With World Cups in both rugby codes, the World Athletics Championships, the women’s Euros, the European multi-sport Championships to name just a few in addition to the usual domestic highlights, there has literally been something for everyone during the year.

For the vast majority of people in the UK, though certainly not all and I include myself in that number, the current World Cup will be the highlight.

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What the last year has shown is that there is a tremendous amount of talent within a number of sports which can only dream of the sort of exposure and potential financial reward that Gareth Southgate’s men are currently enjoying.

England celebrate winning the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 tournament. Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty ImagesEngland celebrate winning the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 tournament. Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images
England celebrate winning the UEFA Women's Euro 2022 tournament. Photo: FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

I know from my own sporting experiences, which included 200-400m sessions on a local racecourse at 5am and running up steep hills in a nearby wood in the dark late at night after work, and also visiting a variety of clubs within the city over the years, that a lot of people train just as hard as England’s top footballers.

National Lottery funding has helped a lot of those athletes at the top of their particular sport but there is often little help for those hoping to climb the ladder while having to fit in training around their other commitments.

Little wonder then, that an ever-increasing number of youngsters are setting their sights on becoming a professional footballer rather than opting for less high-profile sports.

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*I was watching a recent Strictly Come Dancing programme - my wife’s a big fan - and one of the songs the dancers performed to was Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York.

It took my mind back to a Star end-of-season football awards dinner for all the professional football clubs in the paper’s circulation area.

The legendary Derek Dooley had died since the last dinner and his favourite song was New York, New York – something he shared with news journalist Graham Walker who organised the event.

To mark the occasion Graham thought it would be a good idea to get all the managers to sing the song.

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They were all handed a copy of the song lyrics after being invited up on the stage, not something I was aware was going to happen.

From my seat it looked as though Rovers’ boss Sean O’Driscoll was enjoying being up on stage – though being a Kings of Leon fan I’m not sure that Frank Sinatra was his cup of tea.

I found out just how wrong I was when I visited Cantley Park the next day for that afternoon’s press conference.

O’Driscoll called me into his office and launched into a foul-mouthed tirade about how embarrassing it had been - despite the fact that I told him I knew nothing of the plan.

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He also said he would never attend the function again and he proved to be a man of his word.

*Cantley’s Dennis ‘Bimbo’ Hickling twice reached the quarter-finals of the BDO men’s World Darts Championships, which was the one all the top players wanted to win back in the days before the PDC became the dominant force in the sport.

Like a lot of people my age back then I would occasionally play socially in the local WMC on occasions. But I was never very good at the game

So, I had to think about it when I was asked to take part in a charity pro-celebrity darts pairs competition, which attracted a number of top stars from the Doncaster sporting scene, at the old Toby Jug pub on the North Bridge in the 80s.

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I had mixed feelings about being paired with Dennis. Delighted that I had the best thrower in the competition as my partner – and therefore having a better chance than most to win one of the two impressive-looking trophies up for grabs – but concerned that I might let him, and myself, down.

We coasted through the first couple of rounds during which I somehow outscored Dennis on a couple of occasions.

“I thought you said you weren’t very good,” said Dennis as we prepared for our semi-final tie.

I just smiled and shrugged my shoulders.

What I didn’t tell him at the time was the reason I was regularly hitting the treble 18 was nothing to do with any skill on my part more to do with the fact that I was rubbish at hitting the treble 20 which is where I was aiming.

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We ended up winning the competition and I was delighted to take home one of the trophies even though I felt a bit of a fraud given how badly I had played.

*It is good to see that Doncaster RLFC will be laying on better pre-match and post-match entertainment at the Eco-Power Stadium ahead of games next season.

It something that I have long advocated and would like to see the club, or whoever will be organising the proceedings, include the occasional kids races and parents’ egg and spoon and sack races.

*One of my pet hates watching football on TV is the way some players slide on their knees after scoring a goal.

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I am not a physio, though I always took a keen interest in sporting injuries when I was both covering the city’s major clubs and still actively involved in sport myself, but I wouldn’t have thought such actions do the knee joint much good.

Having said that, if it were dangerous surely the medics would have put a stop to it by now.