Talking Sport Now & Then: Steve Hossack on Tom Smith, Richard Bailey, golf and the price of football

I was sad to learn of the death former Scotland and British & Irish Lions prop Tom Smith a few days ago at the age of 50.

By Steve Hossack
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 10:15 am

Tom was the man lined up to replace Doncaster Knights director of rugby Clive Griffiths at the end of the following season after signing a three-year deal at the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

The two men were scheduled to work together to make the transition as smooth as possible at the end of the 2019-20.

I was keen to interview him when the appointment was first made but that proved more difficult than I had imagined with Tom, who was based in France at the time, deciding he had other priorities.

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Tom Smith, pictured during his time at Northampton Saints in 2007. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

I also found out that he was not one for the limelight and had often shunned media requests during his glittering career.

However, when I did get the chance to sit down and have a chat to him after training one afternoon he was very generous with his time and we spent over an hour chatting all things rugby.

We got on very well and I left thinking that I would have a good relationship with him when he took over from Clive who I had always got on well with.

Sadly, that was the last time I spoke to him as he left by ‘mutual consent’ just weeks before the start of the 2019-20 season.

Doncaster Rovers stalwart Richard Bailey sadly died aged 54

There was speculation that the two men hadn’t got on but the real reason for his shock departure came that November when he announced he had stage-4 cancer.

During the brief time he worked with the players during pre-season Tom made quite an impression judging by the comments made to me by several senior players.

His departure led to forwards coach Steve Boden being promoted and the rest, as they say, is history, with the former Knights’ hooker steering the club to successive top-three finishes for the first time in their history.

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Premier League football fans are feeling the pinch. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Could I associate myself with the comments made by former chairman John Ryan, and others, regarding the sad passing of Doncaster Rovers stalwart Richard Bailey.

I often came into contact with Richard during my time at The Star and he was always full of enthusiasm and a very likeable character who will be sorely missed by all of those who knew him.

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I suspect a lot of people in the town will have been out on the golf course recently following the Masters – the first of the golfing majors this year – I was.

Danny Willett. Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Of all the golfing majors, the Masters in my favourite. Unlike the three other events, which are staged at several different venues, the Masters is always played at Augusta National Golf Club, one of the most iconic courses in the game.

It also has many other things which makes it different to all the other events, not least the presentation ceremony, the white boiler suits worn by the caddies and referring to spectators as patrons.

Although the big talking point among UK golf fans was Rory Mcllroy’s stunning last round 67, which earned him the runners-up spot, Sheffield’s Danny Willett also showed up well.

Despite the odd notable success Danny has not kicked on as he probably would have liked since he was a surprise winner of the coveted green jacket in 2016.

But hopefully he can build on his form at the Masters to kick on again.

I always take an interest in Danny’s results since interviewing him at the Doncaster Golf Range run by Lyall Jardine, where he was officially opened a new £40,000 high-tech facility back in 2014.

Little did I know at the time that I was interviewing a future Masters champion.

I bumped into Wheatley’s Ian Garbutt, who famously led the Open after 12 holes a few years earlier, at the function and told him I was looking for a new putter and could he recommend one.

Given that Ian had just started a high-profile job working for Callaway it was hardly surprising that one of those he suggested was the Odyssey.

It has proved a good buy and the only reason I don’t sink as many putts as I should is simply down to my lack of ability.

I’m hoping for better things this year but my round at Owston Hall on Thursday didn’t offer too much hope.

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With the cost of living soaring and set to go even higher, I wonder whether any Premier League clubs will drop their season ticket and general admission prices or reduce the price of replica kit to help hard-pressed fans?

There have been any number of politicians and various organisations calling on the Government to step in and offer more financial support to help offset the rise in fuel, food and heating costs.

But none, far as I am aware, have asked wealthy football clubs to help out.

I appreciate that clubs will also have to contend with rising prices – and wish to remain competitive on both the domestic and international stage.

But I would argue that their finances are a lot healthier than many of their working-class supporters and thus better able to weather the financial storm.

It wouldn’t hurt some of those players paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a game that millions play for nothing every weekend, to offer to take a wage cut or make a contribution – and to be fair some do – to help those struggling in the local community.

It will be interesting to see whether the level of away support drops next season if prices, especially fuel, remain high.

I would certainly expect fewer individual car journeys and more car sharing or more people using supporters’ club coaches.