All good things must come to an end and unfortunately that’s the case for Netflix’s outstanding sports documentary series The Last Dance, which is the centered on the trials and tribulations of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.
Set in the 1990’s, we are taken on a nostalgia filled ride alongside the team as the Bulls dominate the NBA, spearheaded by Michael ‘Air’ Jordan, the finest athlete to ever grace the court.
I have found this series to be a truly fascinating journey as we follow Jordan as a young rookie finding his pathway into the game, fuelled by his unrelentess desire for competition, which as we found out in later episodes can sometimes be to his detriment.
Michael’s road to immortality was not forged alone as we are given extensive behind the scenes access to the running of the franchise as a whole, with telling contributions from fellow team mates, head coach Phil Jackson, and general manager Jerry Krause.
This is where the series itself has created such a stir amongst sports fanatics and the general public itself, as we see another side to Jordan’s multifaceted personality, as many of his former team mates have derided his questionable attitude on the road to their six NBA championships.
The show doesn’t hold back as we gain the inside track on locker room discussions and training sessions that have never been seen before by the public. Head coach Phil Jackson is on hand to keep super sized ego’s in check in order to maintain harmony in a winning team. On many occasions Jordan is seen to castrate his team mates for any slight misdemeanour or mistake in training, in a show of almost bully boy tactics.
However, his fellow professionals were also in agreement that his ruthless attitude and gut wrenching desire to be the best was the force that drove them towards greatness, and without it they would probably not have reached such unprecedented heights.
I personally cannot condone such behaviour, but lest we forget that Jordan is simply the greatest of all time and he had set sky high standards for himself and his team over a number of years. So for anyone to not pull their weight and perform at the highest level with a one hundred percent committed attitude was deemed unacceptable.
Michael was thrust into the leadership role at a young age with his gravity defying displays and in the words of the great man himself you had to hold onto superman’s cape if championships were to be captured, and his record breaking statistics will lay testament to that fact, but by his own admission leadership would come at a cost.
Eventually Jordan’s coach and mentor Phil Jackson would convince Michael to have more faith in his team mates, as his propensity to do it alone would sometimes lead to the teams downfall and in interview excerpts he acknowledges so himself.
Enter the supporting cast of Basketball icons in their own right, as we get to meet the likes of Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, and the notorious Dennis Rodman. As the incredible drama unfolds through the series it is clear to see that they were also vital cogs in the creation of the Chicago Bulls dynasty.
With an episode dedicated to each of them it is heartening to see that these mens contributions were not overlooked, and Jordan’s admiration for them shine through on screen as he remembers fondly the men who stood beside him in battle on the court.
There were some truly titanic battles along the way, as we bear witness to action footage from the various showdowns that the Bulls were embroiled in on the way to the famous double three-peat, which is three championships in a row on two separate occasions. An achievement that has never be accomplished by any other franchise in the sport.
Off the court is where we delve deeper into what makes the man himself tick and this is where I believe the show comes into its own, as his personal struggles and foibles are laid bare for all to see in captivating footage.
His addiction to competition is overwhelmingly evident throughout the show, as money begins to change hands over the most mundane competitons created by Michael himself. This would sometimes cause friction amongst his peers, as stories of his love for casino’s and gambling would often create controversy and outrage amongst the press. Who themselves had cultivated an image of Michael that he had never felt completely at ease with.
Jordan’s fame in the 90’s had ballooned into something akin to a movie star as his image and name seeped into pop culture, turning his Basketball career into headline making theatre. His various endorsements would be found almost everywhere and none were more bigger than the creation of the trainer ‘Air’ Jordan’s, which sent Michael’s name and earning potential into the stratosphere as the shoe sold hundreds of millions around the globe and still remain popular today.
Starring in the movie Space Jam, a film primarily aimed at youngsters, Jordan found himself typecast as a role model for children whilst also being burdened with the expectation of being a political activist as a black athlete, which by his own admission he did not want to partake in.
Thus, any news of Michael enjoying the fruits of his hard earned labour would be scrutinised extensively by the media and this would routinely be a source of great frustration as he only ever wished to be a great basketball player and nothing else.
The twisting of the facts by news outlets and tabloids is prevelant throughout the show and truly gives food for thought, as even the murder of his beloved father is somehow manufactured into a news piece linking it to Jordan’s own failings. Which seems brutally unjust to a man that had given his blood, sweat, and tears to entertain Basketball fans all over the planet.
For the media to handle these events in such a manner presents us the viewer with a interesting conundrum.
Do we simply absorb what the media present to us as fact or do we reserve judgement on matters until we have heard the story from each persons perspective?
A difficult choice to make in a time where we rely so much on mainstream media outlets to keep us connected both mentally and socially.
Michael’s willing to sign autographs and cater to the fans needs is seen throughout the show and it is easy to forget that underneath the harsh exterior lies a man who was always willing to go the extra mile to keep his adoring fanbase happy, and for the media to attempt to consistently assassinate his character left this viewer perplexed.
For that reason Jordan himself should be given even greater kudos in regards to the hardship and pressure placed on his shoulders over such a such a prolonged period of time with his performances never wavering at game time.
Throughout the show’s narrative we are also treated to testimonies from his former rivals within the game as they desperately attempt to dethrone the king of the court. The ill tempered rivalry with the Detroit Pistons and the courtside battles with the Utah Jazz take centre stage, while the likes of the legendary ‘Magic’ Johnson are on hand to offer their own analysis on the matter, which I found both engaging and compelling at the same time.
The highlight of each episode would always come with the sit down interviews with Jordan himself as he is pressed on subjects that may have been perceived as off limits in the past. Finally he is able to tell his side of the story after years of media and press intrusion into his personal life and this becomes the crux of the show throughout.
As the show headed towards its thrilling final quarter I found myself disappointed that the journey was set to come to an end, as the show had captured my imagination from the offset, with its story covering every aspect of what makes up the DNA of a championship winning phenomenon like the Chicago Bulls.
The legacy left behind by Jordan cannot be tainted in my view as his stardom and unique ability on the court attracted millions of fans to game and his success has never been repeated. His unbelievable determination to succeed in life must not be ignored and only now can the man who was addicted to winning sit back and enjoy life somewhat out of the limelight, as he had always wanted to.
If this shows critical triumph is anything to go by however, it may not last forever.
I would say that in conclusion this ten part mini-series is much like Michael Jordan himself.
The Olympic Games has been the theatre that has played host to the most celebrated and distinguished athletes in history since its revival in Athens in 1896.
The absolute pinnacle of sporting competition, we have seen world records fall, tyranny defied, and childhood dreams realised throughout the annals of time.
Olympian’s have entertained us, broken the mould, and inspired millions, so with that in mind I have chosen my top 5 Olympic athletes of all time.
Each choice have differing factors as to why they have been selected, yet I feel that each of them harvest the true embodiment of the Olympic spirit.
5. Michael Johnson.
Regarded as the greatest sprinter of his generation, this man is a four time Olympic Gold medallist and held world records in both the 200m and 400m simultaneously.
Johnson’s mere presence would suggest that something special was on the horizon at every event he competed at, with his unorthodox upright running style and explosive speed making him the featured attraction.
At the Olympics Games in Atlanta 1996 he destroyed the notion of what we deemed humanly possible, with a performance that shattered the world record for 200m. Running a mind blowing 19.32 seconds for Olympic Gold, in one of the most iconic sporting moments of the 20th century.
In the very same Olympiad he also captured 400m Gold, becoming the only man ever to win both medals at the same event.
His extraordinary display shocked the world and he was crowned the fastest man on the planet, an accolade usually reserved for the quickest 100m athletes.
Michael maintained a fierce stranglehold over both disciplines over the next four years, claiming the 400m world record as his own whilst swatting aside the competition with ease on a regular basis.
However, in an unfortunate turn of events he was denied a chance to defend his 200m title due to injury problems, and would only claim 400m gold at the Sydney Olympics in the final chapter of his illustrious career.
The original Superman will never be forgotten for raising the bar in track and field to dizzying new heights, and can now be seen as the BBC’s resident analysis expert for athletic’s events held around the globe.
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The World’s Strongest Man 2017 marked the end of a friendship between two warriors that had initially garnered each others respect. Having battled alongside each other for five years in a race to be crowned the strongest man on Planet Earth.
Both men had toiled in the runner up categories for a number of years in an event dominated by the American giant Brian Shaw, and Lithaunian brute Zydrunas Savickas.
Eddie Hall’s ascendency to the throne culminated in 2017 with a titanic battle in the searing heat of Botswana.
A narrow one point margin handed Hall the title that he had craved like no other throughout his existence, much to the chagrin of his now sworn enemy Hafthor Bjornsson.
Eddie controlled the entire event from the offset, scoring high across each of the eight disciplines, It seemed as though this was his time, his moment had arrived.
Hafthor finished runner up once again and later threw shade on Hall’s victory, inferring that the contest was rigged in his favour after being denied a 15th rep in the Viking press by referee Magnus Ver Magnusson. Who controversially ruled that he had double dipped in an effort to gain an extra repetition, costing him a precious point.
Hall surpassed Hafthors total with relative ease however, gas still seemingly left in the tank, which would suggest that Hafthor’s petulance would only serve to make him seem bitter for his rivals success.
The Beast had also become the first man to ever deadlift 500kg the year previous, a Herculean feat that had never even been attempted.
Watched on by his childhood hero Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hall wrenched the Olympic bar from the ground, the iron plates contorting it’s shape, Hall stood tall as his nose began to bleed, refusing to budge against the irons will.
He had accomplished the unthinkable and will always be the man who broke down the barrier that many thought was impossible.
With both of his career aspirations conquered, Hall decided to retire from competition, citing both health reasons and a need to spend time with his family. The dream he had harboured since giving up swimming for strongman as a teenager had come to fruition and he felt it was time to step away for the next generation of athletes.
Enter Hafthor Julius Bjornsson, the Icelandic superstar has not only found fame for his superhuman exploits in strongman competition, but also for his predominant role in HBO’s Game Of Thrones. Starring as The Mountain, a frightening blood thirsty guard of the Lannister family.
Without question his stardom has attracted many more spectators to the sport which until recent years had almost a cult like following rather than the mainstream success it enjoys today.
These giants have to sacrifice everything in their being to reach the pinnacle of their profession, eating 10,000 calories per day is seen as routine in their world. Mammoth training sessions that strain and stretch every sinew in the human body is required to be the best.
In this regard I feel that this is where Hafthor may have lost his edge to Eddie in previous years. I do not doubt everything that he has given, but it was never quite enough in an era where The Beast stamped his authority across the realm of strongman.
Filming schedules, travel commitments, and mental fatigue will surely have a detrimental effect by not having 100 percent of your energy and focus on the task that lies ahead.
Success and failure is often decided by the most fractional margins in any elite level competition and I feel that Hall gained the upper hand in that five year period due to his sheer dedication and full blooded commitment, with no external distractions to concern himself with.
Bjornsson finally claimed the World Strongest Man’s golden trophy in 2018, one year removed from Hall’s retirement. The perennial runner up at last stepped onto the Champions pedestal, becoming only the 2nd Icelandic athlete to capture the prize after Magnus Ver Magnusson.
Without a shadow of a doubt, it is perceivable that Hafthor could go on to dominate the sport for many years to come as he seems to only get bigger and better as time passes us by.
His new deadlift record of 501kg in his own gym has courted controversy and like many others I believe it should be carried out in a contest setting, as it is impossible to recreate the tension and pressure that a live audience can generate.
But if the relative ease that he seemed to perform the lift is anything to go by then I would suggest that even greater things are on the horizon for this superhuman monster.
However, for Hafthor to cast aspersions on Hall’s accomplishments leaves a sour taste in the mouth. For a sport that had been forged on mutual respect since its inception, it does not bode well when a man who is destined for such great heights cannot accept defeat graciously.
To place doubt on a fellow competitor’s life of sacrifice leaves a stain on the sport in my view, and as far as Hall is concerned I believe his achievements speak for themselves and he doesn’t need to enter into the mud slinging that is present across various social media platforms.
Eddie’s name will always be entrenched in the public mind’s eye as the first man to deadlift half a tonne, much like Roger Bannister will never be forgotten as the first man to run the sub 4 minute mile.
Hafthor will surely go on to raise the bar both metaphorically and physically in strongman, with his fame and brand ever increasing in a sport that has finally received the respect and adulation it deserves.
I look forward to his impending deadlift record attempt in a competition setting which I feel is vital to cement his expanding legacy.
Rivalry is a crucial element in any sport, it entertains us the fans and often pushes the opposition into raising their performances to bold new heights which us as spectators can only sit back and admire.
In this case however it has quickly degenerated into a public slanging match, as the trading of insults has wrongly taken centre stage over both men’s colossal exploits.
In a world that has been turned on its head by such unprecedented events, a display of mutual respect from both camps would likely be welcomed with open arms.
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In an ever changing world where we currently do not have live sport to keep us entertained, I felt it would be an appropriate moment to look back on one of the most monumental feats in Football history as we near the four year anniversary of this heart warming story.
A team that had narrowly avoided relegation from the top flight the season before were crowned the new kings of the Premier League, ripping the crown from the grasp of the status quo that had maintained a stranglehold over the games top prizes for decades.
Pieced together from players plucked from obscurity, managed by a man who had never tasted success in his career, it was little Leicester City who defied the odds and landed a first Premier League title in their 132 year history.
Considered by bookmakers as mere relegation fodder, the season began with the club a massive 5000/1 to win the title, but as Leicester began to pick up wins they soon found themselves at the summit alongside the established cash rich outfits with many expecting an inevitable slide down the table.
It never materialised as Leicester soon became every body’s favourite second team, we all watched on in awe as they gave the big boys a thumb in the eye every week, a joy to behold in a game that had seemingly been lost in recent times due to the Billions of pounds awash within the Premier League.
Other teams had lavished absurd amounts of money on their clubs playing staff and wage bill in order to achieve their aspirations and here were Leicester City breaking the mould, shattering the convention that money would buy success, this was one Premiership Title that would be earned.
Heroes were beginning to emerge across the entire squad.
N’golo Kante was the little engine that could, his relentless and energetic displays left the opposition without a moments rest. This ball winning midfielder was recruited from French second division club Caen and was soon regarded as the most feared tackler in the division, a shrewd acquisition in anyone’s books.
Riyad Mahrez, an unknown entity at the time, was signed for a mere £400,000…an absolute snip in todays bloated transfer market. The silky Algerian lit up our television screens on a weekly basis with his trickery and skills, often seen dropping delightful passes over the opposition backline for his strike partner Jamie Vardy. He was later voted PFA player of the season for his pivotal role in the teams success with his creativity and 17 goals.
Jamie Vardy thrust himself into the limelight with his swashbuckling displays and electric pace, smashing home 24 league goals that season. The former Fleetwood Town frontman also etched his name into the Premier League history books, as he memorably eclipsed the record of former Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy for scoring in 11 consecutive matches.
Wes Morgan, the ageing club captain, manfully stitched together a back four comprised of performers that were cast aside by the established elite, told they weren’t good enough, players like Danny Simpson once of the mighty Manchester United.
He was a reliable and commanding presence week in, week out at centre back with his partner Robert Huth alongside him. Whilst Kasper Schmeichel, son of the legendary Peter, was consistently outstanding as the last line of defence in goal.
Claudio Ranieri had managed at a plethora of clubs across world Football, yet he had never managed to capture any major league titles. With his diminishing years in terms of age it seemed a strange appointment at the expense of the popular Nigel Pearson, who had masterminded the clubs great escape the previous season.
However, the 64 year old Italian presided over this extraordinary campaign with a reassuring calm, working his way into the public’s affection with his light hearted approach to weekly press conference’s and seemingly being indifferent to the mounting pressure as the season began to head into the home stretch.
When David met Goliath at the Etihad Stadium it was again Leicester who were expected to falter on the final charge. Faced with a Manchester City side that had a team assembled from the finest talent that money could buy, Sergio Aguero and his star studded team mates were expected to put the Foxes back into their hole.
Leicester and Robert Huth had not read the script however, as the German centre half thundered home two towering headers in a 3-1 victory that sent shockwaves through football. The miracle was edging ever closer.
Tottenham Hotspur began to emerge as the only real threat as the season drew to a conclusion, an ill tempered 2-2 draw with arch rivals Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would hand the title over to Claudio Ranieri’s men as Jamie Vardy threw a famous party at his house, in uplifting scenes that gave football fans across the nation a reason to dream again.
Serenaded onto the pitch in their final game of the season by famous Italian Tenor Andrea Bocelli, it was a fitting and emotional moment that encapsulated this incredible journey from the most unlikeliest Premier League Champions of all time.
A truly genuine feel good story that showed us that romance in football was indeed still alive as the rank outsiders bloodied the noses of the corporate big guns in a series of displays that seemed to show that the embodiment of the human spirit cannot be bought and sold.
What this team lacked in stardust was nullified by an unbreakable unity of mind, body, and soul that could not be overcome by the highest bidder.
For that reason this triumph shall go into folklore as one of the greatest of all time.
Eleven years since his last major victory, Tiger Woods tumultuous career came full circle with a breathtaking Master’s victory at Augusta National in 2019.
With him now holding the honour of slipping on the prestigious green jacket for a 5th time placing him one behind the legendary Jack Nicklaus.
The final day drama began at an unusually early time of 7:30am due to the gathering storm clouds on the horizon, yet it was the five men were clustered together at the top of the leader board who would provide a whirlwind of entertainment on an enthralling final days play.
Francesco Molinari began the day in pole position and maintained his status as leader with a typically steady front 9, yet as we entered the turn the momentum began to shift in the direction of the legendary 43 year old from California.
The usually steadfast Italian found water on the Par 3 12th hole whilst the unflappable Woods safely landed on the green and sunk an 8 foot putt for par. Rae’s Creek had claimed yet another victim in Molinari.
As we headed into the climax of proceedings it was Tiger who began to purr, rattling off 3 birdies on the 13th, 15th, and 16th holes. Meanwhile Molinari continued to tread water in an attempt to re-establish himself at the summit, yet it wasn’t to be as at the par 5 15th he sunk without trace. Pitching his 3rd shot into water once more, a catastrophic error ending his hopes of a maiden masters victory.
Tiger now found himself leader of the pack for the first time since the tournament began, with the powerful Brooks Koepka emerging from the chasing horde with a stunning eagle on the 15th, setting up a dramatic finish to a captivating final days play.
Trailing by a single shot at 12 under, Koepka needed to step up his assault with birdies being his prime objective, it was time to hunt down the Wily old veteran.
However it was to be in vain as it was Tiger who held off the challenge of the young pretender, using his years of experience to keep his cool on the home straight, holing out a exquisite birdie on the 16th whilst Brooks could only claim par.
The final hole would see these two golfing giants go head to head for a place in history with Koepka requiring a birdie in order to force a dramatic play off. Whilst Woods had to weather the impending storm on and off the fairway, a par would hand him an emotional and poignant victory.
Koepka’s approach shot landed him on the green with a real chance of making his required birdie, yet he agonisingly failed to capitalise as the resulting putt missed by mere inches, as he holed out for par Woods knew that single bogey would land him the prize.
His 2nd shot left the adoring crowd slightly concerned as his approach with 8 iron came up short, however in typical fashion Woods held steady and landed flush on the green with his 3rd leaving him needing to hole out in just two strokes.
The crowd held its breath as Tiger stepped up and duly obliged, sending home the final putt of the Championship for glory. A sight many believed would never be witnessed again after so many injuries, health problems, and off the course personal issues.
An emotional Woods soaked in the adulation from the crowd as they had witnessed history. Shortly after letting out a primal roar in celebration he went searching for his onlooking family in the crowd. Woods hugged his children, mother, and fiance tight in scenes echoing the famous embrace he shared with his father after his first triumph at Augusta as a fresh faced 21 year old in 1997.
Despite his failings and misgivings as a human being it is difficult begrudge him this return to form and fitness after coming through such monumental struggles in terms of his upbringing, personal life, and injury problems.
A man that has given so much of his life to this wonderful past time surely deserves a second chance after such a long time away from the spotlight in terms of tour success.
Encouraged by his African-American father Earl, a talented amateur himself, this mixed race athlete crossed racial divides amongst the hierarchy of the sport. Often denied privileges that were second nature to other golf club members on his rise in the amateurs, he would regularly face racial discrimination as a youngster by his own admission.
With his breakthrough success in the 1997 Masters came a period of domination that shook the game of golf to its very foundation. Adding countless majors and accolades to his resume, some courses even extended their yardage due to his awesome power off the tee, amid fears that players would simply be competing for the runner up spot every tournament. This became known as ‘Tiger Proofing’.
A trailblazer in every sense of the word, his stock would only continue to rise as he created a pathway into the game for ethnic minorities who had once believed that they did not belong in the world of golf. He broke down proverbial closed doors and became one of the most marketable athletes in the world at his unrelenting best, signing various lucrative deals with major companies, such as Nike, Titleist and Gillette.
His name and image had transcended the sport and he became the face of a series of world renowned video games from EA Sports.
Tiger’s flair on the course and marketability had introduced fresh eyes and ears to the game of golf the likes that had not been witnessed ever before in terms of tv ratings and participation, and he can be credited for a rise in popularity of the game.
Tigers dramatic fall from grace began in 2009 after details of his infidelity started to surface in the mainstream media, with Woods himself eventually admitting to multiple extra marital affairs in an open statement to the public.
It seemed that the fruits of success and fame had fuelled the idea that he could do and take whatever he so desired, by his own admission Tiger admitted that he been foolish to think that this attitude was acceptable, this unsavoury episode would cost him his marriage to the mother of his children and he would take a hiatus from the game of golf in order to address these underlying issues.
Sponsorship deals and big money contracts began to the fall to the wayside as his public image took a beating, with many of his partnerships dissolved, including his contract with video game giant EA Sports.
Upon his eventual return Tiger was a mere shell of his former self as his performances continued to wane, which resulted in a clear slide down the world rankings, eventually finding himself outside the top 1000 golfers on the planet, which seemed unfathomable in a world he once ruled.
Four major back surgeries were a huge contributing factor as at times it was clear to see he was in excruciating pain whilst on the course, even withdrawing on occasion mid round, he barely even competed between 2015 and 2018 as a result.
Himself included, many believed that this was the curtain call for Tiger’s career as it seemed that there would be no way back from such adversity and so many years in the wilderness in terms of major tour victories.
This victory at Augusta in 2019 marked the return to prominence of one the greatest golfing ambassadors that ever walked the planet, accused by some of being far too egotistical it cannot be denied what Tiger has brought to the game of golf.
Iconic figures of many sports seem to share that inner self belief that can often be misconstrued as arrogance, and in my opinion housing this mindset is what seems to propel these athletes to such monumental success in their chosen field.
Throughout his career Woods has made record busting second nature, placed behind only Jack Nicklaus for all time major victories, and in terms of total PGA tour wins he sits alongside Sam Snead with a monstrous 82 wins and it is surely only a matter of time before he will stand solo at the peak of the mountain top.
Personal misdemeanours aside, Tiger fully deserves his place alongside the likes of Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and Seve Ballesteros in the pantheon of the sports all time greats.
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It’s what the self proclaimed ‘Gypsy King’ has done throughout his entire existence, and every battle he has faced inside the ropes or in life itself, he has emerged undefeated.
Tyson’s rise to prominence is a story that needs to be heard and is a truly inspirational story that has transcended the world of just Boxing and sport.
His tale began on August 12th 1988, born into Irish travellers weighing only one pound and three months premature, he was given little to no hope of living by Doctors and medical personnel.
He survived and his father John named him after ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, the reigning World Heavyweight Champion at the time.
Fury left school at 11 years old to tarmac roads alongside his brothers and took up amateur boxing at the age of 14. Encouraged by his father a former bare knuckle fighter and professional boxer himself, with his family’s roots also running deep amongst the sport.
As Tyson began to make a name for himself in the fight game it became apparent that people did not take him seriously despite the fact that he had put together a relentless winning streak, dismantling every opponent he had faced.
A shot at glory.
His 26-0 record would eventually lead him to a showdown with Wladimir Klitschko however, who had presided over the division as champion for 10 years straight.
The build up to the bout was somewhat unorthodox, much like Fury himself, as he continued to act as court jester in press conferences, with Boxing purists and analysts alike giving the man who came from nothing barely a chance against the Ukranian giant.
With the fight taking place in Dusseldorf, Germany, he would be stepping into the Lion’s Den for the chance to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming World Heavyweight Champion.
The following 12 rounds from Fury was a masterclass on how to hit and not be hit as he outclassed Klitschko from the off and throughout, his ability to switch styles and nimble footwork totally bamboozling the defending champion.
Crowned as the new World Heavyweight Champion and capturing every belt in the division, Tyson had scaled the mountain that few ever believed he could.
The Gypsy from Morecambe was the new face of the Boxing world.
The price of success.
It soon became apparent that Tyson’s triumph would ultimately lead to his downfall, as he sat on his recently acquired throne he began to ponder what was next…? had the pinnacle of his career been reached…?
What followed became well documented in the media as Tyson had to relinquish all of his hard earned titles after testing positive for cocaine and being declared medically unfit by Doctors to fight.
Fury began to gain vast amounts of weight due to his excessive lifestyle and depressive episodes, a comeback seemed unlikely as he publicly announced he was diagnosed as bi-polar and at times didn’t want to live anymore.
However, as we entered 2018 Fury boldly stated that he would be making a comeback to the ring and was set on reclaiming the World Heavyweight Championship’s that he had never lost, the eye of the tiger had returned.
Shedding a monumental 10 stone in the run up to his return bout with Sefer Seferi, Fury cut a lean and mean figure as he picked up the win in his hometown of Manchester.
Another win against Francesco Pianeta followed with talk amongst the fight industry that a bout against The ‘Bronzed Bomber’ Deontay Wilder was on the horizon.
In an era where big match ups seem to take an age to negotiate, Fury quickly put pen to paper on the fight and both sides agreed to the bout taking place in the December of that year, with Tyson once again stepping into the backyard of his adversary at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles.
Both men were undefeated going into the match up with Fury once again labelled as the underdog against the knockout artist Wilder.
Despite his two and a half years in the wilderness Fury controlled large portions of the fight, outboxing his opponent throughout with superior handwork and left right combinations.
With a win on points looming, it was Wilder who unleashed a devastating left right combination of his own in the final round, dropping Fury to the canvas in stunning fashion.
The arena and fans at home held their breath as it seemed that Tyson’s journey had ground to a shuddering halt.
As the referee began the count to 10, Tyson inexplicably began to rise to his feet in its latter stages, an iconic moment that seemed to symbolise his rise from the ashes.
A seismic return from the depths of depression and addiction that had taken hold of his life over the last number of years, an inspiration to anyone that feels like there is no way back from the brink.
Remarkably he closed out the fight on the offensive and as the final bell rang both men embraced in the ring. The match declared a draw with each combatant preserving their undefeated streaks.
Tyson was however widely recognised as the true victor amongst most pundits and fight fans.
With the first confrontation between them ending in such controversial fashion it was a only a matter of time before a rematch would take place to settle the ongoing dispute of who was truly the superior fighter.
The fight would take place on February 22nd 2020 at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, with Fury once again being given little hope against the explosive power of Wilder.
Fury’s stunning performance and systematic destruction of his adversary proved otherwise, as Wilder’s corner threw in the towel halfway through the 7th round to save him from a comprehensive and painful defeat. Which had seen him bleeding from the ear and placed on his backside twice already.
The Gypsy King’s redemption had come full circle as he was crowned the WBC Heavyweight Champion of the world without a blemish on his record.
His rise from obscurity to World Heavyweight Champion and subsequent fall from grace would have made a extraordinary story in its own right, yet it seems unfathomable that he has returned more charismatic and stronger than ever despite his underlying issues. As such his second Championship victory is rightly lauded as one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history.
No stranger to publicity on the other side of the ropes, Fury has courted controversy on many occasion with his outspoken views on religion and sexuality bringing much criticism in the past.
However his popularity has soared as he has proved to be a champion inside and outside of the ring, supporting mental health charities and addiction welfare groups after donating the entirety of his purse from his 1st match up with Deontay Wilder, which amounted to a staggering £7 million.
Currently an ambassador for Frank Bruno’s mental health charity, the once maligned Gypsy King has turned public perception on its head with his generosity and willingness to open up in regards to his own difficulties that he has faced with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness throughout the tenure of his life.
Raised awareness of such crucial issues has inspired countless others to come forward, to not face their problems alone, and that in itself may be his biggest victory of all.
The Premier League is widely recognised as the one of the finest and most competitive leagues on the planet and has been the home of some extraordinary talent since its inception in 1992.
Today the task is to craft the ultimate team from the superstars of the game that have provided us with so much excitement and fond memories over the past 28 years.
An attack minded 3-4-3 formation forms the basis of the team and to dispel any controversy each selection is no longer active in the Premier League today.
Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel
The towering Dane arrived at Manchester United in 1991 as a virtual unknown and left as a club legend, captaining the club to the unprecented treble in 1999 in what would be his final act for the Red Devils.
Widely lauded as possibly the greatest Goalkeeper to ever grace the game, he was an intimidating and imposing figure for any opponent he came up against, and at times looked unbeatable with his shovel like hands and trademark star shaped spread saving United on countless occasions.
His talents were not restricted to his own penalty box either, his torpedo like long throws being the launchpad for many a counter attack, and if United were in dire straits you would often see him creating havoc in the opposition area for any late corners, most famously in the European Cup final of 1999, leading to Teddy Sheringham scrambling home a precious stoppage time equaliser.
Often seen barking out orders on the pitch to his back four in front of him, Schmeichel was an uncompromising leader who demanded the best from his team mates and was the foundation for United’s all conquering team of the 1990’s.
Defender: Tony Adams
Known as ‘Mr Arsenal’, Adams spent the entirety of his playing career at the Gunners and captained his side to league titles in three different decades.
A commanding presence at the heart of the Arsenal defence, he earned full international honours as he participated in 3 major tournaments for England.
Openly battling gambling addiction and alcoholism throughout the tenure of his career, his desire for success in the game never waivered, his commitment and courage on the pitch earned him the adulation of his peers and the fans.
His crowning glory came in 1998 as Adams strolled through an Everton backline and drilled home the final goal of the season, wrapping up the Gunners first Premier League title in front of the Highbury faithful, a ground he had called home his entire career.
This moment was later encapsulated by the club, as a monument of the image above was later constructed outside the Emirates stadium to honour Adams outstanding contribution to the club.
Defender: Stuart Pearce
This former electrician was known as a fearless, no nonsense defender, who wore his heart on his sleeve everytime he set foot on a football pitch, ferocious in the tackle and the owner of a blockbusting left foot, he found the back of the net 99 times in his career, often from 12 yards or free kicks.
His all action and courageous approach to the game didn’t go unnoticed and he was dubbed “Psycho” by fans and players alike.
Pearce’s career spanned four different Premier League clubs, however it was his time at Nottingham Forest where his committed and dogged displays gained national recognition, earning him a starting postion at both World Cup Italia 90 and Euro 96 for England.
It was these two tournaments that seemed to define the career and character of the man.
Having been the villain of Italia 90 after missing a crucial penalty in the semi final against West Germany, he openly wept on the pitch as England were agonisingly sent home empty handed.
England and Pearce later found themselves in similar terrirtory against Spain in the quarter finals of the European Championships in 1996.
Penalties were to decide England’s fate yet again and as a nation held its breath, up stepped Pearce to exorcise his demons.
Unflinched, he slammed home his penalty, and as the crowd erupted so did Pearce as he punched the air like a Wildman with tears in his eyes in celebration, a true display of guts and bravery that epitomised his career.
Truly an iconic moment that would be forever etched in the memory of a nation.
One of the finest left backs England had ever produced he was capped 78 times by his country and was club Captain of Nottingham Forest for 12 years.
Defender: Vincent Kompany
It seemed that Manchester City had lived in the shadows of arch rivals United ever since both clubs had been in existence, but in 2008 the tides began to shift towards the blue side of the city via a multi million pound takeover by Sheik Mansoor.
A young 22 year old Vincent Kompany was to be one of their first signings under this new regime and whilst multiple players seemed to come and go, Kompany remained a City stalwart for 11 years, bowing out in his final season with yet another Premier League winners medal hung around his neck.
Despite being hampered by a series of injuries throughout his tenure at the Etihad, Kompany’s desire to be the best never waivered, time after time he admirably fought back from the brink of despair to regain his place back in the heart of the City defence.
City were a different proposition with the Belgian leading them into battle on the pitch, his leadership seemed to push the team onto another level and when he wasn’t present his absence was clear to see.
Kompany also had a goal or two in his locker and more often than not he seemed to produce at vital moments when his team needed him the most.
His goal against Leicester City in the closing stages of the 2018/19 season will live long in the memory, with the game locked at 0-0 with 10 minutes to play, it was vital that City picked up 3 points from this fixture with Liverpool snapping at their heels in second place in the league.
Kompany picked up the ball and headed towards goal and unleashed a 30 yard thunderbolt that left Kasper Schmeichel clutching at thin air, as the ball rippled into the net the Ethiad stadium erupted, yet again he had set the example for his team mates and it was fitting that the he would deliver a season defining moment when his team had their backs against the wall.
The Belgian can now be found plying his trade back in his home land at FC Anderlecht, which is where his story began.
Midfielder: Gareth Bale
The Welsh wizard began life in the Premier League at Tottenham Hotspur, signed initially as a left back, Bale’s start to life at White Hart Lane was both rocky and uninspiring.
Seemingly overawed by top flight football and hampered by injury he remarkably did not participate in a victory for his club for over two years.
Soon after Bale broke his supposed ‘jinx’ and overcoming various aches and pains, the youngster began to find his feet and confidence under the guidance of his manager Harry Redknapp, who was adamant he was destined for the top.
Pushed forward onto the left side of midfield, he was freed from his defensive shackles and duly became a world star, thanks to his barnstorming performances in the Champions League against elite level teams such as Internazionale and AC Milan.
Bale called North London his home for six years and left for Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2013, it came as no surprise as he was pure box office each and every week.
His ability to electrify and wow a crowd was a sight to behold, raw pace and power allowing him to conjure up some fantastic goals during his spell at Spurs.
A proud Welshman, he is the lynchpin of his national team and carries the burden of a nations expectations admirably on his shoulders, leading Wales to major tournament qualification twice under his captaincy and he is the holder of the record number of goals for his country with 33.
A mesmerising performer who could destroy defenders at will, his departure to Spain was a true loss to the Premier League.
Midfielder: Matt Le Tissier
This Guernsey born maestro was voted Southampton’s greatest ever player and it is not difficult to see why.
Le Tissier in his pomp was a sight to behold, his balance and grace with the ball at his feet was second to none, he found space when there wasn’t any, crafted goals from nothing, and struck some of the most elegant goals the premier league has ever witnessed.
Penalty taking was also his responsibility and he holds the remarkable record of successfully converting 47 out of 48 spot kicks.
His talent knew no bounds, ‘Le God’ could muster a goal from anywhere, free kicks, a volley, a lob, or beating 3 to 4 men at a time, he had everything in his locker, a real pleasure to watch every week.
Despite overtures from other clubs he stayed loyal to the Saints throughout the entirety of his career, netting 209 times.
His record of just 8 England caps still baffles fans and pundits alike to this day.
Midfielder: Paul Scholes
Regarded by many of his fellow professionals as the greatest midfielder of his generation, Scholes spent the entirety of his career at Manchester United after being promoted to the first team ranks from the much heralded class of 92.
After beginning his career as a striker he was moved into central midfield by his manager Sir Alex Ferguson where he formed a formidable partnership with Roy Keane, becoming an absolutely integral part of Manchester United’s success.
Scholes creativity and eye for the killer final pass became his trademark, along with his ability to keep possession of the ball under pressure and dictate the flow of a game.
He also boasted a healthy strike rate for both Manchester United and England, often seen arriving on cue at the edge of the penalty area for another valuable contribution to the scoresheet.
Often under utilised by England however, he was regularly shunted out of position to accommodate other players, most were simply not in the same class as the ginger genius.
Seemingly disenchanted by this treatment, he retired relatively early from England duty to focus on his club career where he racked up over 700 appearances for Manchester United and won 11 Premier League titles.
Midfielder: Cristiano Ronaldo
Perhaps the greatest footballer of all time, Ronaldo left the Premier League behind just as he was arriving at the peak of his powers, departing for Real Madrid in then a world record transfer for a footballer at £80 million.
However, it was here in England where he forged his reputation under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson for 6 years.
Signed as a fresh faced 18 year old, he was handed the famous number 7 jersey at Old Trafford and with that came the weight of expectation on his young shoulders.
Unfazed, Cristiano performed admirably in his debut season, yet he was often labelled a show pony by opposition fans and became an easy terrace target, even more so after he arrived home from the World Cup in 2006 as public enemy number one, after playing an integral role in getting Wayne Rooney dismissed in the quarter finals of the tournament, leading to Englands exit.
This incident and subsequent fan backlash seemed to inspire the Portuguese winger, his performances getting stronger game by game, an end product to his artistry was finally coming to the fore, which was mirrored by his vastly improved goals and assists record.
The boy had become a man both physically and mentally, a powerful and imposing physique coupled with lightning pace and the ability to score from almost anywhere on the pitch made him a truly frightening opponent.
Not only was he the owner of an outrageous skill set that allowed him to tease and torment his opponents, he was also remarkably strong in the air with a leap an NBA basketball player would be proud of.
His record breaking haul of 42 goals from midfield in 2008 enabled him to finally capture the Ballon D’or trophy for the worlds greatest footballer, an honour he had personally coveted for so long.
Departing in 2009, Cristiano left with 3 premier League titles, an FA cup Winners medal, and a European Cup under his belt.
This was only the beginning for this once in a lifetime athlete.
Striker: Didier Drogba
One of Jose Mourinho’s first signings in his first spell at Chelsea in 2004, Drogba arrived from Marseille with a £24 million price tag around his neck, this seemed to weighed heavy on the Ivorian, labelled a cheat and a diver as he struggled to find form early on in his Premier League career.
Eventually finding his feet and confidence, Drogba gradually changed those perceptions, as a lone frontman he became a goal scoring monster who chewed up defenders and spat them out.
His physical prowess and devastating finishing ability propelled Chelsea to a golden era in their history, many of his 157 goals arriving in momentous matches and occasions.
It was therefore fitting that it was the man himself who would dispatch the match winning penalty against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League Final in his last outing for the club.
Drogba had bowed out of Stamford Bridge with a fairytale ending as Chelsea Sealed their one and only European Cup in their history and he was later voted their best player of all time.
Striker: Thierry Henry
Arriving at Arsenal in 1999 from Juventus, Henry had yet to truly reach his full potential despite a big money move to the Serie A giants after a successful World Cup campaign in 1998 with his home nation France.
Signed by his fellow countryman Arsene Wenger For £11 million, he was promptly placed into the unfamiliar position of central striker, it proved to be a stroke of genius by Wenger as he flourished in his new found role and became one of the most feared strikers in the game for the next eight years that he spent at Arsenal.
Possessing a truly frightening turn of pace with an eye for the spectacular, he became a unstoppable force and was simply unplayable on his day, seemingly running teams ragged by himself each and every week.
His remarkable talent led Arsenal to two league titles and two FA Cup titles during his stay at the club, with the unprecedented 2004 campaign being amongst those honours, as Arsenal went the entire league campaign unbeaten, earning the tag of the invincibles.
Henry himself was a huge contributing factor, his insatiable appetite for goals and success drove him on to become the clubs leading all time goal scorer, finding the back of the net 228 times in his illustrious career at Arsenal.
The Frenchman’s place in Arsenal folklore is cemented permanently after a statue in his honour was commissioned at the Emirates Stadium.
Quite simply one of the most sensational players to have ever graced these shores, it seemed criminal that he was never crowned world player of the year by FIFA.
Striker: Alan Shearer
The leading Premier League marksman of all time, this man stands alone at the top of the goalscoring mountain with 260 goals to his name, a model of consistency throughout his playing career.
Beginning his club career at Southampton, it wasn’t long before his powerful and impressive performances began to catch the eye of other top flight sides and he was soon snapped up by Blackburn Rovers for £3.6 million.
It was here where he was a part of a title winning team for the only time in his career, firing Blackburn Rovers to the Premier League crown in 1995, his stonking record of 112 goals in 138 games promptly earned him a switch to his hometown club Newcastle United, where he remained until his retirement from the game. becoming The Magpies and the Premier leagues greatest ever striker.
known as Mr dependable throughout his international and club career, his game was built on aggression and an ability to hold his own in a physical battle with any opposing defenders, a lethal finisher with both his head and feet, Shearer was simply a goal machine.
Gaining 62 caps for England until his retirement from international duty in the year 2000, he struck 30 times and led the line admirably as captain.
A man who was seemingly unmotivated by money and championships, Shearer happily lived out his childhood dream simply playing for his hometown club, and he was adored on Tyneside by the fans in equal Measure.
Eventually Jackie Milburn’s long standing club record of 200 goals was eclipsed by him and Shearer retired with a astounding haul of 206 goals for Newcastle United in all competitions.
This is my ultimate team compiled from being a follower of the beautiful game for the past 30 years, thus attempting to condense such a huge pool of talent into a outfit of 11 players was both an enjoyable and arduous task.
I firmly believe that this starting line up with its combined talents would be all conquering, yet I also realise that everyone will have their own opinion on the subject and that is one of the greatest aspects of the game we love.
Therefore I ask the question…..Who would make it into your ultimate team?!
Feel free to leave any comments down below and I look forward to hearing from any readers on the matter.
Welcome along to All Elite Wrestling’s Bash at the Beach, emanating from the Watsco Centre, Miami Beach, Florida.
We are off to sizzling start as a fatal four way match to determine the number one contenders to SCU’s Tag Team Titles is set to open the show.
The Young Bucks vs Best Friends vs Santana/Ortiz vs Kenny Omega/Hangman AdamPage.
Nick Jackson of the Young Bucks and Trent of Best Friends got the action underway, trading counter for counter and quick fire reversals, setting the tone for a frenetic match up featuring 4 of the premiere tag teams in AEW.
Proud and Powerful eventually took charge with a cannonball dive from Ortiz and a textbook top rope Senton from Santana taking out the other contenders, Trent eventually recovered and found himself on the top turnbuckle accompanied by the oldest of the Jackson brothers, Matt.
A fist fight ensued with Trent gaining the upper hand and delivering a huge superplex on Matt to the outside landing on the other combatants.
As the bout continued it began to spill over into a wild wrestling brawl, Kenny Omega entering the fray, cleaning house with countless Snap Dragon suplexes.
An 8 man tag team suplex was under construction in the ring soon after, with both sides at stalemate in the scrum, all unable to lift the other.
Freshly squeezed Orange Cassidy made his trademark nonchalant arrival to the roar of the capacity Watsco Centre, and was the difference maker as he turned the 8 man suplex to 9…..in the favour of his stablemates The Best Friends.
Eventually it was Kenny Omega and Hangman Adam Page who would chalk up the win and go on to face SCU next week for the championships, the pinfall coming after a devastating V-trigger knee and Buckshot Lariat combination on Chuck Taylor of the Best Friends.
Cody answers MJF.
Next up the American Nightmare Cody Rhodes is set to answer the stipulations requested by Maxwell Jacob Friedman if they are to meet at the next AEW Pay-Per-View Revolution.
Cody accepted each of the conditions laid out, not being able to touch MJF until Revolution, 10 lashes on live tv, and the 3rd being having to face MJF’s henchman Wardlow inside the confines of a steel cage.
I for one am looking forward to AEW’S maiden steel cage match and finally seeing what Wardlow is capable of inside the square circle, as I am admittedly unfamiliar with his work, however Im sure that Cody will deliver on the big stage as he inevitably has since his departure from the WWE.
The date has been set for February 19th at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
The Nightmare Collective vs Kris Statlander/Shida.
A slow paced match began eventually pick up steam with Statlander hitting a stiff looking roundhouse kick to Brandi Rhodes followed by a falcon arrow in the centre of the ring for a close near fall.
Rhodes partner Mel entered the fray and was proving to a dominant factor in this showdown, her sheer size and raw power was on display as she hit a catatonic slam on Statlander for a 2 count.
It was Mel who eventually took the clean pin fall however, when Kris Statlander blasted her with the devastating Big Bang Theory Piledriver for the win.
For a womens division that has been lacking since its inception on October 2nd, it seems that the fans have really taken to Statlander since her debut, and her imminent showdown with the Japanese native Riho for the title should be one to look forward to.
Sammy Guevara vs Jon Moxley.
The Spanish God Sammy Guevara was out first to determine a spot in the number one contenders match next week, which would decide who would be the next challenger to Chris Jericho’s World Heavyweight Championship.
Fan favourite Moxley arrived in the sports car he had acquired from the Inner Circle after double crossing them last week.
Moxley had been running roughshod over the competiton in AEW in recent weeks and was expected by many to cruise to a convincing victory, it was not to be the case however as Guevara controlled large portions of the match, delivering solid offense aerially and on the mat.
A corkscrew plancha over the top rope and a springboard cutter by Sammy, Moxley was struggling to cope with the quicker more agile opponent and out of desperation attempted to plant Guevara with the avalanche Paradigm Shift, the move used to dispatch Darby Allin weeks before in an excellent match up.
Sammy countered this into a sublime Spanish fly from the top turnbuckle followed by a firemans carry face crusher for a VERY close three count.
Unable to put Moxley down, Guevara then headed up top for the moonsault press but it was once to the well too often, as Moxley caught him on the way down locking in the rear naked choke for the submission victory.
Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle made their presence felt post match and Jericho violently attacked Moxley’s eye with a spike fashioned from his jacket, leaving him laying, softened up for the main event next week where Moxley will take on the winner of tonights main event of Pac vs Darby Allin.
The Butcher and The Blade, MJF vs DDP, Dustin Rhodes, QT Marshall.
Six man tag action is up next with the eagerly anticipated return of the original peoples champion, the master of the Diamond Cutter, Diamond Dallas Page.
DDP started the match eager to lock up with MJF who backed away from the confrontation in predictable fashion, leaving The Natural Dustin Rhodes and QT Marshall to bring the fight to The Butcher and The Blade.
As the battle broke down DDP eventually got the hot tag from Dustin, drilling The Butcher with the patented Diamond Cutter.
Rhodes hit a destroyer on MJF soon after, setting up another Diamond Cutter from the 63 years young Page, to the delight of the Miami crowd.
Not yet finished, the former x3 WCW World Heavyweight Champion Page headed up to the top rope and connected with a cross body block to the outside on his opponents, back in the ring however, the slippery MJF rolled up QT for the quick fire pin.
This match was great fun, watching DDP glide around the ring so graciously at his age was a real treat and an inspiration, proof that age is but a number.
Pac vs Darby Allin.
In the main event of the evening its the second spot in the number one contenders match that is on the line, The ‘Bastard’ Pac a vastly experienced 13 year veteran taking on the enigmatic youngster Darby Allin.
Darby’s unorthodox style came to the fore early on with two missile like shoulder blocks through the middle ropes to the outside leaving their mark on Pac.
Pac began to turn the tide and began to focus on the lower back of his smaller more lightweight adversary, a wicked powerbomb on the steel steps nearly giving him the count out victory.
Allin began to rally and nearly forced a count out victory of his own after taking out Pac with his signature Coffin Drop from the top to the floor below.
As this battle headed towards its conclusion it was Pac who would continue the assault on the lower back of his opponent with a brutal sit out powerbomb leaving Darby laying in perfect position for the Black Arrow finisher.
Pac climbed up to the top turnbuckle and crashed down onto Darby’s spine with the scintillating Black Arrow.
Clinching the win via pinfall, he seals his spot against Jon Moxley next week.
As Pac revelled in his victory, clearly in the belief that Jericho’s attack on Moxley would leave him no opponent next week, he declared himself the automatic number one contender.
The unhinged Moxley appeared on the stage however, still nursing his eye injury suffered at the hands of the Pain Maker Chris Jericho earlier on in the night, declaring he would indeed be on the Jericho cruise next week for AEW Dynamite and would fight Pac even if he had one eye, was blind or was even half dead.
All in all I found this to be an enjoyable edition of Dynamite to watch from bell to bell.
I like the way that AEW continues to add meaning and build relevance to the championship titles within the company, giving the product a more sports like and legitimate feel.
The forthcoming AEW Dynamite broadcast from the Rock ‘N’ Rager Jericho Cruise ship next week should provide a truly unique backdrop for the show, and as a wrestling fan I like to experience fresh and innovative ideas, as I believe it will only serve to make AEW a true viable alternative wrestling show to the WWE.
Competition can only raise the standards across the industry which is something we as fans need to be excited about!
Alexander Chapman Ferguson was appointed manager of Manchester United on November 6th 1986. Inheriting a historic club on the wane toiling with mediocrity, he was tasked with turning its fortunes around.
It’s only major success coming in a previous era, lifting two league titles under Sir Matt Busby in the 1960’s culminating with the 1968 European Cup success against Benfica, capturing the nations hearts after the tragedy of the Munich air disaster.
He would take Manchester United on an epic era of unrivalled triumph and excitement for 27 years, this magnificent team and club was built in the image of the great man himself, the never say die attitude, the will to win, the desire to overcome with your back against the wall.
His success would not come instantaneous however, his first trophy not arriving until 1990 securing the FA cup against Crystal Palace, this heralded the start of a chapter that fans of the club will remember for the rest of their lives, and to be perfectly honest we were spoilt rotten!
The Cup Winners Cup duly followed in 1991 with a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the final, my earliest footballing memory.
I was 7 years old at the time but I’ll never forget that night in Rotterdam, watching the drama unfold out on the pitch, captivated by the electric atmosphere and the sheer theatre as Mark Hughes fired in the tie clinching goal from an acute angle, the wild celebrations as captain fantastic Bryan Robson held the trophy aloft.
I was hooked on the beautiful game, Manchester United were my team.
Ferguson famously declared that he would “knock Liverpool off their perch” and 13 Premier League titles later he delivered on that prophecy, with some of the most enthralling and captivating football the game has ever seen, you could guarantee drama every time United were in action.
The comeback kings, the team that would never surrender, if United were 3-0 down with 10 minutes to go it was always still possible, streaming forwards like the red arrows until the death, no matter the opposition.
Who could forget the greatest comeback of all?
The Champions League Final of 1999, trailing 1-0 in the 90th minute against Bayern Munich at a sun kissed Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer snatching two late strikes at the death, capturing the historic treble.
Manchester United were box office every week under Sir Alex, seemingly doing the impossible time after time, so many moments and so many fantastic players had come through the doors at Carrington, Peter Schmeichel, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and maybe the greatest of all time to lace up a pair of boots…..Cristiano Ronaldo.
The youth system was second to none, the great man presiding over the development of the class of 92, six players who would rise to prominence in the game and become some of the most decorated and gifted footballers of that generation.
Class of 92 Pictured below: Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes.
As the years rolled by and the league titles began to accumulate, it was a 2nd European Cup that Sir Alex craved on his CV, and in 2008 he delivered, with a victory over Chelsea in the first ever European Cup Final contested by two English teams.
As in the now tradition of the club, it came down to a nail biting finale on penalties, Edwin Van Der Sar saving Nicolas Anelka’s spot kick amongst the pouring rain in Moscow, handing United their 3rd European Cup trophy.
Back to back losses in the 2010 and 2011 finals followed, to a Barcelona team led by the incomparable Lionel Messi, who themselves may have had a claim to be the finest team of all time at that period in history.
The aforementioned triumph in 2008 was to be Sir Alex’s and United’s last, a thought hard to fathom in 2020 such as has been the clubs fall from grace since his departure in 2013, where he brought down the curtain on his astonishing career at United with a 13th Premier league title, again this being the clubs last.
It’s difficult to know where to begin with the clubs woes since his exit, every managerial appointment seemingly more disappointing than the last, David Moyes an abject failure with Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho both delivering trophies in their reigns, but never the Premier League title or the European Cup, trophies that a club of this stature and history should be fighting for on a regular basis.
Each of them never truly grasped and embraced the spirit and values of the club that Sir Alex had manifested over his long and prestigious leadership, throwing our attacking principles to the wayside in order to justify the means, trophies were delivered, but at the cost of what made this club truly unique and loved around the globe.
Vast amounts of money has been squandered on mediocre players that have failed to deliver at the Theatre of Dreams, Radamel Falcao, Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Fred, Paul Pogba the list goes on.
All household names in their own right and have proved themselves to be big game players at other clubs, so why has the failure been consistent at United? I would lay the blame at a negative managerial approach and the vast amounts of money that is awash within the game today.
Big money contracts get signed and players come and go for obscene amounts of money, once a player earns £500,000 a week where does his motivation come from…?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer now has the keys to the castle and inherits the same problems mentioned above, he has an unenviable task of trying to bring back the glory days to our club, but players of his irk and desire are of a by-gone era.
How much would Eric Cantona have been worth in the modern game? bought for a now modest looking £1 million at the time by Sir Alex, he was the catalyst that propelled the club to their 1st league title in 27 years, a genius with the ball at his feet and a true joy to watch.
Defenders like Steve Bruce, solid as a rock at the heart of the defence and would run through brick walls for the team.
Box to box midfielders like Roy Keane, a true leader who never gave in, fought for every blade of grass on the pitch and failed to ever settle for second best.
Goal scoring machines like Cristiano Ronaldo, developing himself physically and technically on a daily basis until he became the greatest player on the planet.
The club seems to be in an eternal malaise with not only player recruitment being truly abysmal but a real lack of young talent coming through the ranks with Marcus Rashford being the only player to have truly broken through and I firmly believe he will become a truly world class player, whilst Jesse Lingard has seemingly gone into reverse over the past two years.
Rashford aside, the well has seemingly run dry, with this generation evidently more interested in the commercial aspects of the game rather than football itself, lacking in the basic fundamentals that will take you to the upper echelons of the sport…..hard work, commitment, and desire.
Sadly I feel Manchester United will be a long time in the wilderness, with the likes of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City seemingly light years ahead on and off the pitch in terms of leadership, recruitment, and playing style.
If this trend continues at the club its hard to wonder where it will end, a slide into irrelevancy beckons.
However, I feel that this isn’t just an exclusive Manchester United issue with the ridiculous amounts of money awash within the game taking it away from the man in the street to be enjoyed, ticket prices always rising and multiple subscription services needed to just watch a game.
The premier league has become a relentless money making juggernaut that cannot be stopped and that along the way has created the era of the modern day footballer, which I can no longer personally get behind.
Could the colourful Peter Wright finally topple the neon green machine Michael Van Gerwen….?
That was the question on everybody’s lips in this highly anticipated World Championship final.
Wright had astonishingly failed to beat MVG in 10 previous finals with Snakebite agonisingly missing six match darts in this years premier league final still fresh in the memory.
Snakebite vowed in pre-match interviews that he wouldn’t make the same mistake in this showdown, boasting far superior stats in every aspect to Van Gerwen on his run to a 2nd World Championship final.
MVG a x3 World Champion himself, was competing in his 4th final and was looking to defend his title for the very 1st time.
Wright got the party started by racing into a 2-0 lead on sets, leaving MVG trailing heading into the break, unfamiliar territory for the Dutchman who had not fallen behind since the opening round of the tournament…the break seemingly came at a good time for MVG who made brisk work of the following two sets, tieing the match at 2-2.
Wright had to stem the tide and soon began to pull away from his rival, by racing back into a 5-2 lead with his dead-eye finishing coming to the fore…..the question was beginning to linger however, could snakebite finally land the big one, the elusive World Championship title that he had coveted for so many years?
With the fans at home and the raucous Alexandra Palace crowd cheering him on, Wright remained the picture of calm, despite Van Gerwen clawing back a set to make it 6-3 and missing double 12 for a magical nine-dart leg.
The Scotsman’s moment of glory awaited with double 10 standing between him and immortality and this time he did not waiver, planting his 3rd dart into the double bed, sending the Alexandra palace into scenes of jubilation and Wright himself breaking down on stage.
His dream of being a World Champion had been realised at the ripe old age of 49, the second oldest man ever to claim the trophy and the £500,000 jackpot.
You would surely be hard pressed to find a more popular winner in recent years as Wright invited his family onto the stage to help him celebrate, as the tears rolled down his cheeks whilst he held the trophy aloft.
As such an entertaining and ground breaking Championship came to a close, it was Peter Wright, the former tyre-fitter and van driver, who had finally scaled the mountain, his name forever etched on the magnificent Sid Waddell trophy.