SPORTING MEMORIES

First published in Sport Archives

5 YEARS AGO SAM Allardyce announced he would not speak to BBC Radio Five Live in a furious response to his Bolton team being labelled “ugly” by controversial commentator Alan Green.

The unprecedented boycott followed Green’s on-air comments during Wanderers’ 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the Reebok in which he launched a scathing attack on Big Sam’s playing style.

The criticism provoked a a wave of protests from Wanderers fans, including letters to the Bolton Evening News. Many called for Bolton supporters to boycott Green’s commentaries, and Allardyce endorsed the stance when he said he was withdrawing co-operation with Five Live – a move he was confident would be supported by his chairman Phil Gartside.

“I know what the public outcry had been,” he said. “I will not be speaking to Five Live and I’m sure the chairman will back me 100 per cent.”

The boycott had an immediate impact when Allardyce refused to speak to the Five Live’s representative at a press conference ahead of Wanderers’ FA Cup tie at Watford, then withdrew from a forum broadcast by the station in which he was due to appear with referees’ supremo Keith Hackett.

Green, regarded as the BBC’s most opinionated commentator, had been critical of Wanderers on previous occasions, but his comments during the Liverpool match commentary, and post-match when he hosted the Six-O-Six phone-in, enraged Bolton fans and club insiders.

He repeatedly described Wanderers’ style as “ugly” and said he would never pay to watch them.

Allardyce was initially reluctant to discuss his boycott of Green – an Anfield regular – saying: “I thought he was a Liverpool fan. The comments that he makes don’t really deserve me talking about them and I wouldn’t want to encourage the BBC to keep him employed. It just keeps the bubble growing.”

The Reebok boss was quick to stress, however, that he blamed rival managers for stoking the criticism of his team.

Liverpool’s Rafa Benitez was the latest high-profile manager to pour scorn on Allardyce’s playing style when he accused former Reds striker El-Hadji Diouf of diving and complained about the way the Bolton defenders dealt with his striker, Peter Crouch.

“We accept criticism,” Allardyce acknowledged, “and tend to use it as a positive to fuel our aggression and our adrenaline to continue to win football matches.

“I am extremely disappointed with those individuals who make excuses for their own inabilities to achieve results against a club as small in resources as ours.”

The Bolton boss was also angered by fresh speculation linking him with a move to Newcastle United, where Graeme Souness was still in charge.

“I don’t like having my name linked to a club where another manager is in a job,” he fumed.

“It’s unfair on me, unfair on Graeme Souness and just adds to the pressures.”

Paul Fletcher, the former Wanderers centre-forward who played a key role in the development of the Reebok Stadium, was appointed managing director of Coventry City with a mission to guide the Sky Blues from the Championship to the Premiership by 2010.

25 YEARS AGO ARCTIC weather conditions decimated the sporting calendar, forcing the postponement of a raft of FA Cup third round ties.

Wanderers, already out of the cup, had a free weekend but still managed to get some action in – courtesy of the Burnden Park undersoil heating.

Manager Phil Neal, desperate to get some valuable game time for first team squad players who were coming back from injuries, switched an A team fixture against Stockport from the nearby Greyhound Stadium to Burnden and gave runouts to the likes of Sam Allardyce and Jimmy Phillips. The match ended 1-1 with George Oghani and Wayne Entwistle arguing over who scored.

The fourth round draw threw up some interesting ties with Manchester United, whose third-round clash with Rochdale was frozen off, handed a trip to Sunderland, while Manchester City, who beat Walsall 3-1, landed an all-First Division duel with Watford.

Bolton’s Tony Knowles was one of a number of big-name casualties on a weekend of shocks and controversy in the Mercantile Credit Snooker Classic at Warrington.

Sun-tanned Knowles, just back from a pre-tournament holiday in the Canary Islands, was thrashed by 200-1 outsider Rex Williams.

And world champion Dennis Taylor lost a 3-1 lead before going out to Alex Higgins, who attracted nationwide attention after picking up a black eye in between sessions at the Spectrum Arena.

Higgins, who beat Taylor 5-4, explained how he had suffered the injuries, including a bruised back, in a riding accident.

“I was thrown from a horse and kicked,” he said.

50YEARS AGO WANDERERS scraped through the third round of the FA Cup with a 1-0 win at Hull City – but their performance and their superiority over the lower division club was worth more than a narrow victory.

Keeper Eddie Hopkinson only had two shots to save in the entire game and the goal Dennis Stevens scored just before half time was one of a number of chances the Bolton attack created on their way to a fourth-round tie against Blackburn Rovers.

The threat of a national players’ strike was in the balance with Third and Fourth Division clubs, who held just four votes between them and were meeting in London, set to make all the difference.

The League were due to make concessions to the players who were demanding the scrapping of the maximum wage restrictions. They were prepared to offer a £30 maximum wage for the next two years, after which the maximum would be abolished; contracts to last three years rather than one; an increase in signing-on fees; and testimonial matches for players with eight years service with one club.

Ann Haydon, one of the world’s greatest players of table tennis and lawn tennis who had been undecided over which sport to focus on, appeared to have made her choice. And it was lawn tennis that won.

Back from a successful American tour during which she beat Wimbledon champion Maria Bueno and the USA number one Darlene Hart, she made it clear she was preparing for another globe-trotting trip.

“The atmosphere in lawn tennis is marvellous,” Haydon said. “It’s all I could wish for. I could not hope to see so much while playing table tennis.”

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