The Story of Diana Nyad: Another Wonder Woman

Last night I went to the movies with a couple of friends to watch the newly released Wonder Woman starring Gal Gadot. It was perfect! Wonder Woman spoke her mind, stood up to men, fought on the front-line, asked questions, made mistakes, lost battles, won battles, learned from mistakes, experienced failure, was relentless in pursuit of success, cracked jokes, had issues choosing an outfit and was generally everything that a woman can and should be. As a 20-something-year-old woman, I was inspired.

Here we are the following morning and a new story has came to my attention. This is the story of Diana Nyad, the woman who never gave up in pursuit of sporting greatness!

Whether you have a keen interest in sport and sporting achievement or not is truly irrelevant here. This one’s for everyone, and the world should know her story.

Diana Nyad came to the public eye last month following the publication of her award winning book, “Find a Way“. At the end of May this year her book picked up the top prize as the International Biography of the Year, and i’m not surprised; her story is triumphant.

Nyad is a swimmer by trade, and as a teenager the young Diana was introduced to the world of marathon swimming. She broke records; in her first-ever race she broke the women’s 10-mile record completing the feat in 4 hours and 22 minutes. She swam the Bay of Naples, without a wet-suit for some 28-miles!! It wouldn’t be me, but each to their own.

Despite the records Nyad’s dream was always to complete a swim from Cuba to Florida. The water was infested by dangerous sea creatures, including sharks and jelly-fish but she did it anyway. In fact, she did it five times!!

The swimmer made her first attempt as a 28-year old in 1978; she completed the journey at the fifth attempt as a 64-year old in 2013.

The first attempt was halted by strong winds and high swells, and after 42 hours covering 79 miles she was forced to retreat. A devastated Nyad, broken by her failure, never swam another stroke for thirty years.

33 years after her first attempt Nyad vowed, just days before her 62nd birthday, that she would have another go at the 110-mile crossing. She wished to “prove to other 60-year-olds that it is never too late to start your dreams.”

She failed.

Shoulder pain and asthma attacks meant the trip had to be abandoned once again.

This didn’t stop her.

A month later she was back in the water. But 41 hours into her journey the brave Nyad was forced to stop due to severe jellyfish stings.

Another one bites the dust.

Again, it wouldn’t stop her.

2012, the fourth attempt. The furthest she had ever ventured but again jellyfish and storms would stop her from crossing her finish line.

Many people would have stopped at the first hurdle, never mind the fourth, but there she was again; standing on the shores of Cuba ready to find a way.

And she did.

On the 2nd September 2013, Nyad reached the shores of Florida. As she stepped out of the water, exhausted and victorious, she gave the crowd awaiting her arrival a piece of advice:

“Never, ever give up…You’re never too old to chase your dreams”

It’s never too late, you’re never not ready.

Wonder Woman, as genuine as her representation was, doesn’t flip off horseback, knee-slide into Nazi’s and jump from buildings; or maybe she does. Maybe we can. But this Wonder Woman, another one, she swims across the Gulf of Mexico in shark-infested water. She does this five times until she succeeds.

Nyad’s story highlights exactly why sport is so important while simultaneously justifying the ways in which it can lose it’s importance.

It may be pertinent to say that we have become far too obsessed with material gain. Modern sport has become too focused on collecting as many golden nuggets as possible by the end of the quadrennial fair. But this obsession pulls funding from athletes who are trying, just as Nyad did, to achieve a dream. This obsession can be damaging. Not everyone will stand on a podium but everyone has a dream, and you can achieve it.

Nyad did not swim from Havanna to Key West for Olympic Gold, nor did she do so with the support or finance of a billion-dollar training programme. Rather she did it because she wanted to achieve a dream.

Sport is important because it pushes people beyond their limit. It brings out the best and worst human emotions and experiences. Experiences that bring us together. Lessons that we can learn. Losses that we must humbly accept, and victory that we must gratefully receive.

Sport has the ability to do this in a way that few other things in the world are capable of doing.

Similarly, if sport isn’t for you – find your dream, define success and achieve it.

Keep going until you find a way. Just as Nyad did.

Finding a way is universally applied to everyone, in every place, in every creed, in every colour, in every gender.

You keep going, you never give up and you are rewarded with a prize so enormous it can’t be bought. The prize of self-fulfillment. The only thing limiting you is your decision to give up.

It’s never too late, you’re never not ready. Believe in yourself.

ONES TO WATCH

 

01/06/2017 Francesco Totti: The One-Club Man Special

The Fitbaw Weekly

Francesco Totti made his final appearance for Roma on Sunday after 25 years in the capital city. His years of service have been formally recognised by UEFA, who presented the Roman with the UEFA Presidents Award. Totti played in his final game against Genoa coming on as a substitute in a 3-2 victory for Giallorossi. Following his retirement the club announced his induction to the clubs Hall of Fame. After spending a quarter of a century with Roma, he is now considered the most beloved player in the club’s history. For all the money the world could throw at him he never left the city or the clubs side. For 25 years he has been recognised as “the symbol of Rome”.

25 years (28 counting his youth career), 786 appearances and 307 goals. They don’t make them like that anymore.

Here are some of my favourite one-club men, including a list…

View original post 1,171 more words

In the Heat of Lisbon.

Simpson, Craig, McNeil, Clark, Gemmell, Murdoch, Auld, Johnstone, Lennox, Wallace and Chalmers.

These were the first Scottish men to lift the European Cup. Every player in that Lisbon Lion side came from within a 30 mile radius of Glasgow City centre.

John Fallon was an unused sub. John Hughes, Joe McBride, Willie O’Neill, Charlie Gallagher (Ireland) and Jim Brogan never made the squad. At the time Celtic did not wear shirt numbers, in fact they were sewn onto their small shorts. A second goalkeeper was the only substitute you were allowed at the time. Players didn’t listen to music through their headphones. They didn’t take selfies on their phone. They didn’t communicate via whatsapp, snapchat, or facebook messenger. They told jokes, and sang songs. The pulled practical jokes and lived a stone’s throw away from their supporters who laid awake in anticipation over the road from the team hotel the Palacio in Estoril.

Celtic flew to Lisbon as clear underdogs. The European Cup was the preserve of Latin clubs, such as Real Madrid, Benfica and of course Inter Milan and AC Milan, who had both lifted the trophy prior to 67’.

That night in Lisbon on the 25th May 1967, Celtic annihilated Inter Milan by a single goal. They did it playing football, “pure, beautiful, inventive football”. This is what Jock Stein had to say about his Bhoys after the famous victory. Prior to the game Scotland’s greatest ever manager played game’s with Helenio Herrera, who was considered to be the greatest leader in the game at the time. Two days prior to the final Jock named his team. He brought the press in, laid his cards on the table and shared what would be his European Cup winning team. The big man said, “I am now going to tell him how Celtic will be the first team to bring the European Cup back to Britain, but it will not help him in any manner, shape or form: we are going to attack as we have never attacked before,”. And attack them they did.

The Italians were cocky. They altered their training time so they could sit and watch the Glasgow bhoys. In an interview in 2007 captain Billy McNeil, Stevie Chalmers and Bobby Lennox all stated the advantage and boost that gave the players. It made them more determined, as the Italians laughed and mocked the green and white. Big Jock was aware they were watching and told his team to “muck about”. Bobby Lennox recalled that Jock had them “playing in different positions”. Lennox played left-back, Gemmell was up top and McNeil was put on the side-lines. Jock was cunning, and the cat and mouse tactics had begun. The big man played on Inters’ over-confident.

Jock didn’t allow the players to use the hotel pool, insisting that his players stay out of the sun. They were to wear clothing at all times, as to avoid getting sunburn. And Jock made sure that this time around the players would keep themselves to themselves; they wouldn’t mingle with fans, as they usually did, and they weren’t given the freedom to do as they pleased. Not this time. Nonetheless the players were happy with their preparations, and felt very relaxed.

The night before the game the Bhoys were invited for dinner at the house of Brodie Lennox. The players watched England play Spain on the telly and later that night they walked back to their hotel. John Clark remembers Celtic trainer Neil Mochan leading the team astray, insisting he knew a short cut. But it ended with the players climbing over a fence as they reached a dead-end. Could you imagine Real Madrid or Juventus players doing that in two weeks time the night before their big-game in Cardiff? I don’t think so.

The day of the game just happened to be a Holy Day of Obligation, so the players and the fans made their way to mass on the morning of the final. Jock Stein himself asked Father Bertie O’Reagan to lead the mass for his players, it was important to them. I can imagine the droves of Celtic supporters saying their prayers and dropping some extra money in the charity boxes, in the hope it would help their team succeed. The locals enjoyed the travelling supports religious ways, with many fans saying it won the locals over.

Jock lead the team talk back at the Hotel before they left for the Estadio Nacional. He told his players, “they had the chance to make history.” On the way to the stadium Bobby Lennox was sure the driver got a little bit lost, but noted that the Bhoys couldn’t give a jot as they continued singing songs at the back of the bus.

Billy McNeil recalls seeing the “magnificent” Inter Milan team in the tunnel in their “inspiring” blue and black kit. Jimmy Johnstone did the same, turning to his pal Bertie Auld he said “Look at them, wee man, they’re like film stars!” to which Bertie replied “Aye, but can they play?” Their admiration lasted only seconds when out of nowhere Bertie Auld began to sing “The Celtic Song”.

“For it’s a grand old team to play for. For it’s a grand old team to see.”

Everyone in green and white standing in the tunnel at the Estadio Nacional joined in. The expression on the Inter players’ faces was a right picture.

The Italians were very defensive. They’re man marking was exquisite but they didn’t account for Jock’s Lions who kept them busy all game. Tommy Gemmell, Celtic’s left-back had six or seven shots early on. The forwards were taking their defenders into silly areas making it possible for Gemmell and Craig to burst forward and attack. The game plan certainly had Inter on the ropes, but what Celtic didn’t want was to lose an early goal considering the Italians catenaccio style of play. The Hoops went a goal down when Jim Craig fouled Cappellini in the box and Mazzola converted the penalty just six-minutes into the game. Inter didn’t make much of an attempt to double their lead, they truly thought that one goal would be enough. This allowed Celtic to continue their siege on Giuliano Sarti’s goal. Auld hit the woodwork, Johnstone’s header was saved, Gemmell hit the woodwork, his free-kick saved by Sarti and the Hoops were even denied a penalty.

Ironically, the keeper Sarti was marked by Stein as Inter’s weak link. But the guy was having a blinder. He had to right enough, because Inter couldn’t get out of their own box. It was 9-men behind the ball, the bus was parked and Celtic was probing.

The second half begun; the two Celtic full-backs, Gemmell and Craig, had got up the park at the same time, this should never have happened. Craig passed to Tommy and like a bullet being fired from a gun the ball was in the back of the net. The equaliser was scored and everyone knew Celtic were going to become European Champions. The belief was there, the hunger was evident. Inter had no chance. A thunderous strike from 25 yards out; it was unstoppable. The Estadio Nacional erupted!

Sarti was helpless, there were five minutes left to play when Chalmers poked in Murdoch’s drive. It was 2-1, and Celtic were about to become the first British European Champions. Stevie Chalmers notes that this is a move Stein made him practice at least three times a week. Lennox concurred stating: “Stevie must have done that a thousand times in training – the ball came through and he pushed it in the corner of the net.”

CELTIC WERE CHAMPIONS OF EUROPE.

After the final whistle supporters flooded the field. They ripped grass from the pitch, took players boots and jerseys, the claw marks on Billy McNeil’s neck was one of the most unsavoury souvenir’s the captain received. The pitch invasion meant that the European Champions could not be presented with the trophy on the pitch. Instead, captain Billy McNeil was ushered around the stadium, protected by armed guards, to received the trophy on top of a podium in the stand. It remains to this day to be one of the most iconic images in sport. In fact I am looking at it right now as it hangs from my wall in work.

This incredible feat, this extraordinary journey was courageously done by local Glasgow men. When you consider the magnitude of it, it really is enough to bring a tear to your eye. Look at the squad and you’ll know it almost certainly should not have happened. Jock Stein was fortune enough to be asked back to Celtic Park in 1965, following a dismissal from his job as Celtic youth and reserve coach. Stein was dismissed on the grounds that he was a Protestant and therefore would not go further in his position at the club. Imagine? The match winner, Stevie Chalmers, almost died in his early 20s. He was given three weeks to live following his tuberculosis-meningitis diagnosis. Bobby Lennox may never have become a footballer, at all, had he not got over his shyness as a child. As a young man he was embarrassed to play in front of his peers.

The team were back in Glasgow the following day. Supporters turned up at the airport to celebrate their European triumph. The Hoops sang “Hail, Hail” with the supporters as they left Glasgow airport. Over 65,000 supporters greeted their heroes on the stands and terraces at Celtic Park. The team were taken around Glasgow on the back of a lorry and were waved, cheered and celebrated by the people of Glasgow. The city belonged to Celtic.

They were the greatest team in Europe. Jock Stein’s Celtic entered five competitions that season, and won all five. Two weeks after the final Celtic were invited to play against Real Madrid for Di Stefano’s testimonial. Real had won the European Cup in 1966, and were bumping their gums about how they were the still the best team in Europe. So for good measure we beat them as well. Bobby Lennox scored the goal in front of 135,000 at the Santiago Bernabeu. After that, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Glasgow Celtic was the best team in Europe.

the best nicknames in football.

United, City, County, Rovers, Wanderers.

All of the above offer the run of the mill; nicknames which fail to tell the story of the proud community of football fanatics who support their respective clubs.

Few nicknames offer an insight into the behind the club badge. Of those that do, here are some of the best in Britain:

AYR UNITED

Founded: 1910 (106 years old)

Ground: Somerset Park (10,185)

League: Scottish Championship (currently 9th)

Nickname: The Honest Men

Ayr United’s nickname is taken from the famous Scottish poem ‘Tam o’Shanter’ written by Scottish bard and Ayrshire born, Robert Burns. Scotland’s national poet wrote a sweet anecdote to his native town in which he described the town as a haven of “honest men” and “bonnie lasses”. The poem, published in 1791, described the life of a man named Tam, who visits the local pub with friends and gets himself in a rather drunken state. Meanwhile Tam’s wife sits at home in anger at her husband’s immoral behavior. One night Tam rides back on his horse, Meg, and a stormy night it was. On his journey home Tam notices a glow from the local haunted church, and peeks through the window to see witches and warlocks dancing. There is even mention of the devil playing bagpipes. I think Rabbie Burns may also have been a bit pickled when he wrote his beloved poem. Long story short, Tam gets himself in a bit of bother and finds himself fleeing from the haunted creatures. The horse loses a tail, and Ayr United find some inspiration. The Honest Men stuck, and what a fine nickname it is.

“Auld Ayr, wham ne’er a town surpasses, for honest men and bonnie lasses”

What happened in 1910?

  1. Old Trafford opened (First game ended in a 4 – 3 defeat to Liverpool)
  2. Frenchman, Louis Paulhan completes London to Manchester air race in under 24 hours
  3. Terra Nova sets sail on Arctic expedition
  4. The Fowler Match, considered to be “the greatest cricket match of all time”, took place at Lord’s between Eton and Harrow
  5. 300 suffragettes clashed with police outside British parliament over Conciliation Bill

 

BURY FC

Founded: 1885 (131 years old)

Ground: Gigg Lane (11,840)

League: English League One (currently 20th)

Nickname: The Shakers

The Shakers, a truly unique and fantastic nickname! The name was coined back in 1892 by the then Chairman, J T Ingham. Prior to the Lancashire Cup Final in 1892, against what would be tough opposition in Everton, the Chairman put full faith in his team to come up trumps and defeat somewhat better opposition with this rather sharp remark:

“We shall shake ‘em, in fact, we are the Shakers’

Bury would go on to win the competition, after the Chairman’s rousing team-talk. The name stuck, and the Shakers would go on to Shake it Up in the 1900 and 1903 FA Cup final, were they won the famous old tournament on both occasions beating Southampton and Derby County respectively.

Vincit Omnia Industria or “work conquers all”.

PS. We love your nickname Bury FC!

What happened in 1885?

  1. Women were permitted to take the University of Oxford entrance exams for the first time
  2. We witnessed the largest margin of victory in a professional football match. Arbroath led Bon Accord by 36 goals to nil (it was 15 – 0 at half time)
  3. 29 kilometres away Dundee Harps were playing against Aberdeen Rovers in the Scottish Cup. The referee noted 37 goals but the club secretary suggested a miscount and noted 35 goals instead. The official score was recorded as 35 – 0.
  4. Millwall FC is founded (The Lions)
  5. The first flush toilet is demonstrated by Frederick Humpherson
  6. The first Dictionary of National Biography is published

 

COWDENBEATH FC

Founded: 1881 (135 years old)

Ground: Central Park (4,309)

League: Scottish League Two (currently 10th)

Nickname: The Blue Brazil

Another classic football nickname. There are a couple of fan theories as to why Cowdenbeath are called the Blue Brazil. One of the more obvious reasons is that their home jerseys are indeed blue. A popular theory is that the name provides a heavy dose of irony towards a football team that has never found much success. It has also been suggested that the name arose due to the club’s financial plight during the 80’s which was humorously compared to that of Brazil’s national debt. There is also a rather long winded story on fan website, http://www.thebluebrazil.co.uk, which suggests three Brazilians illegally played for Cowdenbeath on the last game of the season against Dunfermline in which Cowdenbeath won the game 11 – 1 with the three Brazilians claiming all the goals. The fan forum goes concludes, “The Cowdenbeath community hailed these 3 lads as heroes and as they didn’t know their names they were christened ‘The Blue Brazilians’.” It is rumorued that the Rio Trio left Scotland to play football in their native Brazil for then champions, Santos.

Have a read. (http://www.cowdenbeath.free-online.co.uk/fanzine/bluebrzl.htm)

So who knows!? But it is one of the best nicknames in football.

 

What happened in 1881?

  1. Andrew Watson of Queens Park Football Club captains Scotland to a 6 – 1 victory over England. He was the world’s first mixed race international association player. (Scottish/British Guianese background)
  2. Old Carthusians defeat the Old Etonians 3 – 0 in the FA Cup final at the Oval. This would be the last time the FA Cup was played between amateurs.
  3. The Natural History Museum opened in London
  4. Godalming, Surrey becomes the first town to have its streets lit by electric light
  5. Alexander Fleming was born

 

DUNDEE UNITED FC

Founded: 1909 (107 years old)

Ground: Tannadice (14,223)

League: Scottish Championship (currently 1st)

Nickname(s): The Arabs (The Tangerines and The Terrors)

Not a particularly exciting or thrilling nickname, however it is rather intriguing. Like Cowdenbeath there are rather a few fan theories. Again, one such theory provides a heavy dose of irony with many believing that, like Arsenal, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain who are funded by United Arab Emirates, that the Tangerines have come into a bit of money. Of course, not true but rather amusing. Another theory comes from a fan story that dates back to the 1962/63 season. According to legend this season offered a particularly cold winter and thus many matches were cancelled. The club attempted to thaw the ice with a tar-burning truck. Unfortunately, the truck caused damage to the grass and so to allow play to continue the club had no choice but to pour sand onto the field. The use of the sand and the desert like look it gave the ground was therefore the reason behind the unique nickname.

However, I’m not so sure how accurate or, indeed, true that story is. Maybe take that with a pinch of salt.

What happened in 1909?

  1. The National Old Age Pension scheme came into force
  2. The first film in colour was shown using Kinemacolor at the Palace Theatre in London
  3. The department store Selfridge’s was opened in London
  4. Manchester united won the FA Cup for the first time (Beat Bristol Rovers 1 – 0 at Crystal Palace)
  5. Matt Busby was born

 

SOME WORTHY MENTIONS

  • Peterborough United – The Posh
  • Hartlepool United – The Monkey Hangers
  • Everton FC – The Toffees
  • Clyde FC – The Bully Wee

 

European Glory: Steven Gerrard’s Retirement (Part 4)

The comeback to end all comebacks and Steven Gerrard, Captain Fantastic, was at the centre of it all!

No-one in football will ever forget that night in Istanbul. The Turkish capital was the site of mission impossible. Liverpool were trailing and Gerrard, leading by example, brought his team back to life to lift the European Cup for his boyhood club. It will go down in football folklore as one of the greatest European finals, and one of the most memorable comebacks in sport history.

On the 25th May 2005, Steven Gerrard and his team mates faced the biggest challenge of their careers. A first 45 minutes of football dominated by AC Milan, left Liverpool trailing by 3 goals to nil (3 – 0) at half-time.

Most of the Liverpool players went into the second half looking to salvage some pride and spare further embarrassment. But one player wasn’t ready to give up just yet. Steven Gerrard was the source of inspiration which led to European Glory, and Liverpool’s fifth European title.

On the 54th minute of the match, Gerrard leaped into the air and fired in a header from a Riise cross. His celebration; a war cry to the travelling Kop. NEVER SAY DIE!

56th minute, Smicer beats Dida with a long-range effort. One more goal, and it’s all tied up with time to spare.

60th minute; the equalizer. Gerrard is fouled by Gennaro Gattuso. Xavi Alonso from the penalty spot; a Dida save, a follow up shot, GOAL!

Over 6 minutes Liverpool, led by Steven Gerrard, had transformed an embarrassing European Final defeat into a real, nail biting contest. One which would be decided in a penalty shoot-out.

It went to the wire. Liverpool had scored 3 of the 4 penalties taken; Milan had only scored 2. The pressure lay with Ukrainian International Andriy Shevchenko. Only Jerzy Dudek stood in his way; and that he did! A penalty save from the Pole, and Liverpool were European Champions once more! 3 – 2 winners in the shoot-out. Mission Impossible: complete!

After an unbelievable European final, Gerrard had his hands on old Big Ears!

A humble player, Gerrard has always recognised the work of his team mates, his manager in Rafael Benitez and the Liverpool supporters for the victory in Istanbul. Gerrard himself has stated that his header, and Liverpool’s first goal, would not have been scored had Didi Hamman still been on the bench and if Riise hadn’t crossed the ball.

Winning the European Cup was a personal landmark for Gerrard. In doing so, he became the second youngest captain to lift the European Cup, aged 24. The youngest is, Frenchman, Didier Deschamps who won the European Cup in 1993 with Marseille.

His heroics on the night, brought unforgettable glory to his boyhood team. It will never be forgotten by the Liverpool faithful or neutral fans alike.

Steven Gerrard was the embodiment of the Kop on that magical night in Istanbul, and his legend will forever be engraved in football folklore.

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Great Rivalries: the North-West Derby (Part 3)

Not your typical Derby, but surely this great rivalry is the most anticipated clash in English football. The two clubs are the most successful English teams in both domestic and European competition and between then they have won 38 league titles, 8 European Cups, 3 UEFA Cups, 4 UEFA Super Cups, 19 FA Cups, 12 League Cups, 1 FIFA Club World Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 36 FA Community Shields.

Gerrard has travelled the 32 miles, along the M62, on 35 occasions to face his old enemy.  He has won 13, drawn 2 and lost 19 times against the Red Devils of Manchester. Gerrard shares the mantle as the top scorer in the North-West Derby with George Wall and Sandy Turnbull (both of Manchester United), and has scored 9 goals in this fierce rivalry.

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Gerrard’s most famous victories over Manchester United include the League Cup Final win in 2003, where Stevie scored the opening goal and Liverpool lifted the trophy winning 2 – 0 at the Millennium Stadium. Also included in the list of famous victories over Man U is the 4 – 1 thrashing at Old Trafford in 2009. Again, Gerrard was amongst the scorers that day. Some of you may remember Gerrard racing towards the corner flag, kissing the Liverpool badge then kissing the camera in celebration after hammering the ball into the net from the penalty spot to put Liverpool ahead in the first 45 after trailing a goal behind. Gerrard cheekily revisited the camera kissing celebration in 2014, when he scored two goals from two penalties winning the game 3 – 0 at Old Trafford.

Gerrard had some great days, and some terrific goals against Manchester United. Unfortunately, his last game against the Red Devils was tainted by his sending off, after only 38 seconds on the field. Gerrard replaced Adam Lallana at half time, and after moments on the field he was sent down the tunnel for stamping on, Manchester midfielder, Andre Herrera who had lunged in on Gerrard to win the ball. Not a good day for Captain Fantastic.

His first game against his bitter rivals didn’t end with much success either. Liverpool lost 3 – 2 on September 11th 1999 at Anfield against their bitter rivals. Gerrard had to wait over a year to get his first victory over Man Utd. In December 2000 Liverpool walked away as 1 – 0 winners at Old Trafford. He would have to wait a couple more months to score his first North-West Derby goal. On 31st March 2001 Gerrard got his just rewards and scored a long-range screamer at Anfield, when Liverpool bet the Red Devils 2 – 0.

 

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Gerrard had a passion for these games. They meant everything to his city, and to his family. Although he cannot boast the greatest success against his rivals, he always has fantastic memories of getting one over on them on several occasions. Gerrard perfectly summed up his passion for the North-West Derby in his autobiography:

“From Huyton to Melwood to Anfield, for more than twenty-six years, I had always felt compelled to show fire towards United. They were the enemy. You never rolled over against United. If they got one over you, you fought back. You went in harder, with just a little more crunch, just to let them know it really was personal. They did the same to us.” (Steven Gerrard, 2015)

There was rarely a dull moment in these fixtures and it will be weird not seeing the famous number 8 feature in future North-West Derbies, but we can always recall the best of the action and the man at the centre of it all….Steven Gerrard.

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Steven Gerrard’s Retirement (Part 2): The Merseyside Derby

In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Gerrard stated that his hat-trick against Everton marking his 400th Premier League appearance was his favourite Anfield memory.

Gerrard had a real talent of terrorizing the Blues. In fact, he has scored 10 goals in the Merseyside Derby making him 4th in the list of all time Merseyside Derby goal scorers:

  1. Ian Rush (Liverpool) – 25
  2. Dixie Dean (Everton)- 19
  3. Alex Young (Everton) – 12
  4. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) – 10

Arguably Gerrard’s most controversial Merseyside Derby was his sending off on 27th September 1999 at Anfield. Kevin Campbell, the Everton striker, had put the Blues ahead by scoring past Dutch keeper Sander Westerveld in the Kop end. Westerveld had gotten himself into more trouble in the second half exchanging blows with Everton striker, and Scouse boy, Francis Jeffers. Both players were naturally sent off in a complete moment of madness. Steven Gerrard completed the hattrick of red cards on the day. The red mist came over him and after only 47 seconds on the field he was sent off.

Steven recalled the incident in his autobiography. He described his disappointment at being left out of the starting XI and explained his game plan:

“just belt one of them. Fucking belt a Bluenose. Let Gerard (Houllier) know he is not dropping me for another derby. Ever.”

He shortly admitted that he was “a red card waiting to happen”. His temper had gotten the better of him, and instant regret followed when he ran up the tunnel. This wouldn’t be Stevie G’s last red card, nor would it be his quickest. A bit more on that in the next edition.

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The Merseyside Derby hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Stevie. In fact, it’s been rather successful.

Gerrard got off to a winning start in his first Merseyside Derby. On April 3rd 1999, The Reds eventually ran out as 3 – 2 winners at Anfield. On September 15, 2001 Gerrard finally got his name on the score sheet. He scored the equalizer as the Reds came back from being a goal down at Goodison to win the game 3 – 1. He made sure the Evertonians would remember the name for years to come as he celebrated his first Derby goal by pointing to the name on the back. Not the first time he’s done that against rival teams.

Gerrard picked up his first Merseyside Derby hat-trick on 13th March 2012. His hat-trick was the first in the Merseyside derby since Ian Rush at Goodison Park in 1982, and the first hat-trick at Anfield since 1935 when Fred Howe put four past Everton. Only four Liverpool players have managed the feat, and now 77 years on Gerrard joined the exclusive club. (Harry Chambers in 1922, Dick Forshaw in 1925, Harold Barton in 1933, Fred Howe 1935, Steven Gerrard 2012)

Gerrard’s derby delight was a sickening blow for Everton, and manager Davie Moyes, as it was the manager’s 10th season in charge of the Blues. His third goal, rattled in at the Kop End, was Liverpool’s 300th against their rivals in all competitions. This was the performance that the Reds were hoping for. Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager on the day, had suffered a bad run of games. Liverpool were at crisis point, so who would step up and prove the doubters wrong but Captain Fantastic himself, Stevie G.

In Gerrard’s book, ‘Steven Gerrard: My Story’, he admits that “every Merseyside Derby generated fear in me”. Gerrard had a fear of losing against the Blues, especially at Anfield. He had only lost to Everton once at home (Anfield), and that was in 1999 after the sending off incident previosuly discussed.

Gerrard also has a great respect for his city rivals. He has often thanked the club for their support with the Hillsborough Inquest, and their charitable giving towards the Hillsborough Family Support Group. In his biography he wrote:

“It was easy to speak sincerely of my gratitude to Everton in regard to Hillsborough; their compassion had been sincere. We were united in grief and a desire for justice. Hillsborough, and the families of every single fan we lost, will always matter far more than the next derby.”

On 28th January 2014, the Reds recorded their biggest Premier League win over Everton winning 4 – 0 at Anfield. This was Liverpool’s biggest Merseyside Derby win at Anfield since 1972, and their biggest in the derby since 1982. Steven Gerrard got himself on the score sheet that day beating Everton centre back Alcaraz to the ball with a header in the box, after a Luis Suarez corner.

In Gerrard’s final season he looked set to steal the headlines. On 27th September 2014, in what was Gerrard’s final Merseyside Derby at Anfield, the captain found himself on the score sheet once more. His second half free-kick soared into the top corner past American International Tim Howard, only to be cancelled out by one of the best Premier League strikes of the season. Phil Jagielka’s incredible volley, described by Roberto Martinez as perhaps “the best strike I’ve ever seen”, stole the show from Gerrard who was minutes away from grabbing the headlines for scoring the winner in his final derby day at Anfield.

Gerrard didn’t get a victory in his last Merseyside Derby and had to settle for a rather drab nil-nil draw but he had some terrific moments in the Merseyside Derby, and no group of fans is more delighted about his retirement than the Evertonians. For many seasons, he was the symbol of their inadequacy. He was the suppressor of Goodison, always keeping the friendly neighbours in their place below the might of his Liverpool.

Nathalie Boy de la Tour creates history as the first woman President of the LFP — My Heart Beats Football

France loves making history when it comes to electing ‘the first woman’. Corinne Diacre was named the first female coach in France last year when she took charge of Ligue 2 team, Clermont Foot. Now, we have another first lady. Nathalie Boy de la Tour was elected president of the French Professional League (LFP) today […]

via Nathalie Boy de la Tour creates history as the first woman President of the LFP — My Heart Beats Football

Steven Gerrard’s Retirement

So, today’s the day. 24th November, 2016. Steven Gerrard, Captain Fantastic, retires from football.

Gerrard spent 17 years at Liverpool, making 710 appearances, scoring 186 goals and winning 9 trophies for the Reds. He ranks fourth in the table for most capped England players with 114 appearances.

The testimonies and career highlights have been all over social media, and we can do nothing but reminisce a fantastic career in football, as one of the greatest leaders on and off the field and one of the best, if not the best, midfielders of the last century retires from the game. 

No one will forget that Steven Gerrard FA Cup final against West Ham or his sizzling, “yaaa beauty!”  strike against Olympiakos in the Champions League or indeed his hattrick against Everton in 2012 or the famous comeback in the Champions League final which resulted in the young skipper lifting old big ears for Liverpool’s fifth European Cup success.

There are many phenomenal moments in Stevie’s career, but also some rather car crash episodes. The slip against Chelsea is his most recent catastrophic error which cost Liverpool a long awaited premier league trophy. His 47 second red card also springs to mind in the epilogue of Stevie’s worst moments. But there can be no doubt that the positives far out way the negatives.

A wonderful player and ‘the last of the dinosaurs’ with a style of football embodied by Wimbledon’s crazy gang, it is with a heavy heart that we must say goodbye to Stevie G.

Here is the first installment of our five-part special which pays homage to one of the best midfielders we have ever seen. A player who symbolized the old blood and thunder style of the British game, someone who time and time again came up with the goods. An iconic figure of the 21st Century, and one of the most decorated sports men who ever lived.

Premier League great, and Liverpool Legend….Steven Gerrard.

gerrard2_2167086k-everton-hatrick-jamie-carragher

 The Beginning

Steven Gerrard started his Liverpool career against Blackburn Rovers, on 29th November 1998, replacing Norwegian right back Vegard Heggem.          (Liverpool won 2 – 0 on the day)

French man, Gerard Houllier would be the one to give Stevie G his chance. Gerrard once described Houllier as “one of the nicest men in football”. He has cited the French man as a source of calmness on the day of his debut.

Gerrard didn’t see much action that day however he has since recalled a “safe touch” on the ball, a pass or two and a terrible cross that almost “sailed over the Centenary Stand”. Paul Ince was least delighted with Gerrard after this incident. gerrard-ince210104

In the early stages of his career, the young Gerrard was given the tough task of filling in for injured skipper Jamie Redknapp. In his first season as a red, Gerrard made 13 appearances but has admitted that he struggled out of position and was plagued by nerves.

A special moment for Gerrard was his first Liverpool goal. On 5th December 1999 against Sheffield Wednesday at Anfield Stevie went on a mazy run, he takes it past two then slots the ball into the bottom left hand corner before running to the fans and sliding on his stomach to celebrate what would be the first of many. Liverpool eventually won the game 4 – 1.

At this time, Gerrard had to watch on as the rivalry between Alex Ferguson (Manchester United) and Arsene Wenger (Arsenal) grew in intensity. Both teams fought tenaciously over the league, but it was Manchester United who enjoyed most of the spoils. In Gerrard’s debut season, he watched on as the Red Devils completed a unique treble by winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, in that famous victory in Barcelona.

Gerard had to bide his time, and his first trophy came in February 2001 beating Birmingham City 5 – 4 on penalties, after a 1 – 1 draw, in the Football League Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. A couple of months later in May, Gerrard would again lift silverware. This time he lifted the FA Cup after beating Arsenal 2 – 1 over the 90 minutes. Again, the stage of Gerrard’s silverware success was the Millennium Stadium in Wales. Michael Owen, a great friend of Gerrard’s, was awarded man of the match after his 2 goals in the last 10 minutes of the match sealed the deal, and brought the trophy back to Anfield. Four days after lifting the FA Cup, Gerrard would play in his first European Final….but we’ll get to that a bit later.

The early stages were bitter sweet for Gerrard. He had very few starts, relatively few appearances and a Merseyside derby to forget however there were glimmers of hope and his silverware success offered a glimpse of what was to come.

END OF PART ONE.

The Football Memories Project

 

 

Yesterday afternoon I visited the Football Memories exhibition at Hamilton Central Library. The project is coordinated by the Scottish Football Museum, Sports Heritage Scotland and Alzheimer’s Scotland who are working together to create a network of football memories which will help to fight the battle against dementia.

The Football Memories project was set up in 2008, and utilizes group discussions, still images, memorabilia, and short film clips about football to stimulate recall in people with Alzheimer’s. These group discussions are led by trained volunteers who spend time with dementia sufferers who have long admired the game of football. The volunteers share images, stories, and memorabilia from former players and favourite teams in the hope of triggering personal memories. The workshops aren’t exclusive to dementia sufferers, rather they are open to all, particularly those who may be lonely or isolated.

The project comes to life through its incredible volunteer work force and through the Football Memories website. The online source offers a comprehensive database of unique and personal stories from fans around the world. The long-term goal of the project is to eventually collate a book which gives access to an entire spectrum of personal, and inspired memories.

The volunteers coordinating the Football Memories clinics really put on a show! They have great enthusiasm and some fantastic stories to tell. The story telling is really something, and is great fun for any football fan. Whether you’re a Bully wee or a Hibee, there is something for everyone.

There are currently over 130 Memories groups in Scotland, and there is great access to these groups through social media. The Football Memories Scotland Facebook page is full of information, including contact details and website information, and gives an insight into some of the work that will be looked at within the group discussions.

Memories, of course, form a crucial part of our being. They allow us to perform behaviours, and communicate with loved ones. The purpose of the Football Memories project is to encourage those with dementia, or indeed any one suffering with some degree of memory recall, to boost self-confidence, morale, and self-esteem.

There is sadly no cure for dementia but the Football Memories clinics stimulate emotive feelings and memories, most of which are a reminder of happier, or indeed more youthful times in the sufferer’s life. Carers, and sufferers alike, have noted the positive impact the project has had on dementia sufferers, notably in their self-confidence and communication. Football Memories has offered the chance for people to re-connect with their healthy and happy mind, and in doing so has allowed the sufferer to re-connect with their family and friends who care for and love them.

I spent the afternoon browsing the memorabilia on show and as I walked around the room I found that the objects on display had a profound effect on me.  In my early twenties, addicted to technology, I found myself not looking down at my phone but rather I was engaged in a full-on football discussion with a gentleman who had attended the European Cup final at Hampden in 1960 between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt. Real Madrid won 7 – 3 in front of 127,000 spectators at our own national stadium. He even recalled being at both semi-final home and away legs when Rangers were beaten 12 – 4 on aggregate by the German side.  Now if I was hooked knowing maybe only one o1960_european_cup_finalr two of the Real Madrid players, you can imagine what someone with dementia might gain from having such an inspired conversation. The volunteer, a big Rangers fan, I believe his name was Billy (no joke!), was great fun and was telling story after story after story!

The Football Memories project is fun, informative, rich, enlightened, and pure dead brilliant! It really is for everyone. At its core, the principle of the project is to share and record some of the greatest football stories that have been experienced through the lives of dedicated football fans. To sit, listen and relax whilst engaged in a memory group or to talk, share and recall whilst in a memory group is truly a wonderful experience, it’s no wonder I walked out that room today feeling ten feet tall.

A marvelous project, coordinated by fantastic volunteers.

Please get involved. Join a group. Lead a group. Simply come along and listen, I promise you it is so worth the journey.

 

You can follow Football Memories on Twitter @FblMemories and on Facebook @FootballMemoriesScotland.

Please like, follow and share this tremendous project.

 

 

Reference

http://www.footballmemories.org.uk/content/get_involved/

https://www.facebook.com/pg/footballmemories/about/?ref=page_internal

https://twitter.com/FblMemories

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnkuDpUYodI