2020 - a memorable year for sport? Well, we can dream...
Now then, everyone: how was your New Year? A quiet one this time around?
Never mind – some of us are getting a little too old for party festivities anyway. So, with a pin-sharp New Year’s Eve outside, and a cosy blazing fire inside, this sports reporter found himself curled up with his favourite tipple (freshly ground coffee, since you ask) and the mind drifted back – to the 2020 that might have been….
Eastbourne Borough’s remarkable transformation continued under Danny Bloor. The financial crisis of Autumn 2019 had left the club’s very survival in doubt, but Bloor’s powers of motivation turned the Sports from relegation candidates to play-off challengers.
Victory in the final league game, at Hampton and Richmond, squeezed Borough into seventh place, and a narrow play-off defeat at Slough Town. “Promotion might have been a step too soon,” reflected Bloor, “but make no mistake, we will get stronger from here!”
And the season finished in triumph on May Bank Holiday, with a 4-2 Senior Cup Final victory over Albion’s Under-23s at the Amex.
Meanwhile, in both directions along the coast, there were triple celebrations. Hastings United and Worthing each clinched the title in their respective Isthmian divisions, while locally John Lambert’s Town were crowned Southern Combination champions. What a season!
On a personal note, after an April family break in Nice to mark a special birthday, I was delighted to line the Strand on a bright Sunday morning to cheer on my daughter completing the London Marathon. As it happened, my very sporty next door neighbours were running it too.
Nationally, many sports enjoyed a great summer season during the long weeks of warm dry weather. The 2020 Euros saw Gareth Southgate’s England finally claim a major title – all the sweeter for overcoming old rival Germany in the Wembley final. Further afield, what a show Tokyo gave us! Finest Olympics since London 2012!
And here at home, the Eastbourne Tennis Week simply shone. The weather, the setting, the milling crowds, and the stunning matches. No-one who was on Centre Court on that Saturday afternoon will ever forget: our own Jo Konta – having defeated top seed Ash Barty in the semi-final – edging a nail-biting final against US wunderkind Coco Gauff.
The sporting action still tumbled out, nationally and locally. An August highlight was the sight of a packed Saffrons, revelling in that grand Sussex victory over Kent, on their way to the One Day title. And – again a personal moment – my little pilgrimage to watch Gloucester City the club I’ve supported for over 60 years, finally returning in triumph to their new ground after losing the old one to flooding more than 13 years earlier.
Week by week, sport seemed to enrich our lives. From the Borough to the Premier League, from the kids’ coaching to the Park Runs, my fireside musings were simply a cascade of happy, glowing 2020 memories. And then Mrs A nudged me, and I woke up….
Dream on, everyone. It may have been nicer in Nice, but Easyjet cancelled our flights. Hastings, Worthing and Eastbourne Town saw their seasons maddeningly frozen. The Senior Cup Final was cancelled, together with Saffrons cricket and Devonshire Park tennis. And my beloved Gloucester City did return home – behind closed doors.
Humankind, said the poet TS Eliot, cannot bear too much reality. Well, the reality was grim, but we can’t rewrite it. What we can still cherish, though, are the little triumphs, the achievements against the odds, the determination not to be defeated.
No, my daughter couldn’t run her London Marathon – but she ran one in October instead, on an empty Wimbledon Common (and she coaxed the family into jogging along with her!). And my next door neighbours did complete the Marathon on April 26th – by running 384 times around their own garden! Take a bow, Liz, Sue and Fin!
The Wretched Virus did not defeat us. Captain Sir Tom was walking for England, and so was Tony Hudgell, that brave little double amputee. Sport is just one facet of our lives, and we missed so much of it – but it did cling on, and as life returns, it will be back all the stronger. However high the challenge, we can climb higher.