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This Sporting Life 29 PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Walsh   
Friday, 17 February 2017

Billy Griffin.jpgTomorrow will mark 50 years since I began covering Workington Reds for Cumbrian Newspapers.

I’m not sure whether the congratulations handed out should really be commiserations given the team’s general record over that period!

The hard times, particularly the relegation from the Football League (1977), have been too many.

Which I suppose is why the limited good times in chronicling the progress of the club are extra special, and have provided some wonderful moments. You savour them all the more.

Promotion from the North Western Trains League by winning the last 14 games in 1999 and grabbing the title was incredible.

The penalty shoot-out win at Borough Park courtesy of Dave Hewson’s dramatic spot-kick to take us up to Conference North.

The FA Trophy win against all the odds down at AFC Wimbledon was another very satisfying day reporting on the Reds.

The outstanding goals are still crystal clear in the memory bank – and one in particular stands out.

Perhaps because it was in my first full season of covering Reds; maybe because it was by one of my favourite players of the time – or more likely because it was against the old enemy, Carlisle United.

Reds had a great record against the Blues in 26 Football League meetings, winning half and drawing a further six.

But by September 1967 our paths had parted considerably – Carlisle would go on to finish 10th in Division Two while we were forced to apply for re-election to Division Four.

Early season, though, in the League Cup Reds were outstanding and a truly superb goal by Billy Griffin wrapped-up a 2-0 win at Bunton Park – possibly the last time we beat the Blues in a competitive match.

The former Sheffield Wednesday forward lifted a free-kick over the Carlisle wall and into the top corner. It’s a common occurrence now with the lighter ball where everyone seems to try it but in those days you didn’t see a lot of them proving successful.

Billy was quite a character and regularly told the tale of when he was with Wednesday and they played World champions Santos at Hillsborough he was up against the legendary Pele.

Santos won 4-2 in front of 50,000 and Billy scored one of the Wednesday goals. Afterwards,  according to Billy, Pele insisted on swapping shirts with our hero.

I’m certain some of his new Reds team-mates didn’t believe him but years later, trawling through internet football sites I found confirmation.

A chap on there was responding to comments about the match and wrote that he and his girlfriend had been baby-sitting for the Griffins when Billy walked in afterwards with Pele’s shirt.

I’m guessing, by the way he told the tale, that Billy is still the proud owner of that shirt – over 50 years on.


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Golf Sixes.pngCricket has moved with the times as the short-form of the game T20 has proved a massive, entertaining money-spinner.

It’s not for the purists, who can easily get wrapped-up in five-day Tests and four day County Championship games when cricket is played as it was presented to the world.

But appealing to a new, younger audience has meant a brasher, louder, quicker hybrid where attention span and adrenalin rush is reduced from days to hours.

Now it seems golf is set to follow the example set by cricket and introduce their own version of T20 – GolfSixes.

The inaugural tournament is being staged the first week-end of May at the Centurion Golf Club, north of London.

It will be six-hole match-play involving 16 two-man national teams playing group stages on the Saturday and knockouts on Sunday.

Canadian Keith Pelley is the driving force behind the new adventure and he has promised music, pyrotechnics and live interviews with the golfers as they play.

That’s to come, but this week-end in Perth, Australia get ready for the first World Super 6 tournament when the European Tour will ditch convention.

Sunday's final day will be a match-play shootout after three rounds of regular stroke-play., It’s all about broadening the base for supporters, making it more attractive to the younger generation.

Golf is regarded as the number one sport for over-45s even though the top 10 rankings are packed with guys in their 20’s, including Australian world number one Jason Day and Northern Ireland's second-ranked Rory McIlroy.

In the sport's traditional markets, fans and participants are ageing and thinning. Australia, in particular, has struggled to attract sponsors and fans to its main tournamnts in recent years, while it’s become a constant battle to halt the decline of people actually playing the game.

It will be a culture shock in Perth with live music, DJs and a specially built 90-metre 'shootout hole' to act as a tie-breaker. Those sort of initiatives won’t go down well with everyone.

For instance a golfer could be nicely clear after three rounds of stroke-play but could be out of contention after just four holes of match-play on the Sunday.

Initially the response from the professionals hasn’t been overwhelming as there is only one player in the world’s current top 12 who is among the 156-strong field.

Even so, given the huge success of T20 in cricket, and the dynamic approach of Pelley and co who are leading the revolution, I think golf might never be the same.


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Guardiola and Arter.pngHands up those who saw the Premier League game on Monday between Bournemouth and Manchester City?

And how many of you wondered why City boss Pep Guardiola singled-out Bournemouth’s Harry Arter for a hug and a word or two after the game.

Arter, who played five games on loan at Carlisle during the 2010/11 season had been one of Bournemouth’s best players but surely Pep wasn’t tapping him up for next season?

No, it was better than that, he was wishing him and his partner all the best for the impending birth of their baby – some 14 months after their daughter had been still-born.

Guardiola wasn’t even in Britain when that happened but had clearly heard all about it and the troll who caused the player and his fiancée so much heartache with his subsequent comments on social media.

That internet horror was Alfie Barker, a player with non-League Hitchen Town, who when his identity was revealed the club immediately terminated his registration.

But Guardiola showed real class in singling out Arter after Monday’s game in a manoeuvre which probably had the Sky cameraman wondering what it was all about.

He appeared to say: "I'm so sorry for what happened. I wish you all the best" which was in fact confirmed by Arter afterwards who described it as an “unbelievable touch.”

It was a decent, human gesture by Guardiola especially as this is going to be a particularly testing few days for the player and fiancé.

At the end of the day Pep will be judged on what he achieves at the Etihad, and that appears to be a longer work in progress than we might have imagined.


But down Bournemouth way, and especially in the Arter household he will be always remembered for those kind, revealing words whatever he achieves with City.

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