There are no apologies for rah-rah-rahing about Spurs again. After all, even the legendary Double team didn’t reach the final of the European Cup (am pretty sure they lost to Benfica in the semis and I think there were a couple of dodgy refereeing decisions….!) That was in the days when you had to win your league to qualify (none of this finishing 4th stuff) and every round bar the final was a two-off – home and away – so you could make an argument for it being tougher to win than it is now.
Anyway, we’re in the final for the first time, against Liverpool, whose European pedigree is second to hardly anyone and they’re overwhelming favourites. Am I bovvered? Yes, of course I am. We arrived in Madrid on Wednesday night but Liverpool, who lost to Real Madrid in the final in Kiev last year, aren’t pitching up until tonight (Friday) because their manager Jurgen Klopp reckoned they’d gone too early last year. And their players are still hurting from that defeat; they don’t want to lose again.
I’m trying to banish the images of me being gracious through gritted teeth as I accept the condolences of ecstatic Liverpool fans as the Spurs players lie splayed out all over the pitch just like the Manchester City and Ajax players who couldn’t believe we’d sneaked past them on the sainted away goals rule. (I confess I usually feel sorry for the losers because they’ve given it everything and still come up short.) Beautiful game or not, I’ll settle for a ghastly, dull match (unlikely, given the nature of the two teams) and an outrageously lucky 1-nil win. A repeat of the FA Cup final between Leeds (at the peak of their powers) and Dad’s Sunderland, the underdogs of all underdogs, who scored early and held on to win by that single goal, would do nicely.
Trouble is, I know we’re good enough to win but can we make that big jump from BBUs (brave but unavailings) to champions?It’s the US Women’s Open Championship at the Country Club of Charleston in South Carolina this week and it’s a pity that the biggest event in women’s golf seems to have passed a lot of people by, even people who should know better. Hank Haney, a coach of some note, who has a radio show that purports to be about golf, got himself into a lot of trouble earlier this week with some crass, unfunny, frankly obnoxious comments on the subject of the Women’s Open. Was he sexist? Was he racist? You know what? What he was was a pillock, a prat, a disgrace.
Read the transcript of the exchange with his co-presenter and what stands out is the utter ignorance. This is a man of golf, supposedly and he did himself no favours at all. He was, above all, unprepared and unprofessional.
It’s the US Women’s Open this week, he was prompted. Oh. Is it? Where’s it on? And it got worse. Haney knew that Michelle Wie wasn’t playing because of a wrist injury but he hadn’t a clue who was playing, apart from a load of Koreans. At best, for a broadcaster who should have a bit of a notion as to what’s going on, that’s just lazy. At worst, well, it oozed contempt. Not your finest few minutes Hank but perhaps your most destructive.
The irrepressible Alfredsson (see photo), who should have won at least one US Women’s Open (I won’t dwell on Crooked Stick in 1993; suffice it to say that, writing for The Times, I didn’t mention Lauri Merten, the champion, once until she’d won….We all learn.) Anyway, the Swede who has always made sure that golf is never dull when she’s around, apparently strode into the press room (or media centre) in North Carolina the other week and asked, “Where’s the wine?” Come on Alfie, don’t you remember that it’s the winner who provides the champagne? Haven’t you heard of Tony Lema? What’s the Swedish for mean streak?
Scheduling is always difficult and this week the women are up against Jack’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, featuring Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, to name just a few of golf’s biggest draws. Probably not quite as bad as the year the USGA (United States Golf Association) managed to put the US Women’s Open up against the 2000 Open Championship at St Andrews. Not their finest decision; it still makes my blood boil and my jaw drop. There was only one game of golf in the world that week.
It’s hard to believe but it’s ten years since Maureen and I spent an unforgettable, unrepeatable week at the Memorial, Jack Nicklaus’s tournament in Ohio. The players honoured that week were JoAnne Carner and Jack Burke and Dai was one of the journalists honoured, so off we went for the golfing week of our lives. At lunch on the first day Barbara Nicklaus and Tom Watson came up and introduced themselves – we managed to stop gawping at the thought that we might not know who they were and croak hello. Turned out we were in the hotel room next to Tiger, who won with a late charge. We had breakfast with Padraig Harrington, drinks and chats with JoAnne Carner, our photo taken with Jack and Barbara; it was that sort of week. Never to be repeated.
The (very) happy snap with our hosts is not reproduced here because Maureen is very unhappy that she was snapped in her tattiest old sun top, having been dragged off the golf course where she was watching Jose Maria Olazabal, content that all official duties were done.
Never one to turn down a chance to spout, I made an acceptance speech – four minutes max I was told and hard though it may be for my friends to believe, four minutes max it was. Mo and I have never been so spoiled and we knew that we never would be again.