Thursday 23 November 2017

Consigning the crystal ball to the scrapheap

Dave Devereux

Claudio Ranieri's Leicester City have made a mockery of Premier League predictions
Claudio Ranieri's Leicester City have made a mockery of Premier League predictions

A dim-witted Decca Records executive rejected The Beatles in 1962 saying, 'We don't like your boys' sound. Groups are out. Four-piece groups with guitars, particularly, are finished'.

Now as far as downright dumb predictions for the future go, that's pretty much as bad as it gets, although my own recent failings would have Nostradamus turning in his grave and I think my crystal ball should be consigned to the scrapheap alongside Michael Owen's pace.

When looking ahead to the current Premier League campaign I bullishly forecast: 'Despite not really strengthening their squad, Chelsea will again canter to the title' as well as declaring 'Leicester City will be heading south as Claudio Ranieri will find it tough to replicate the harshly-sacked Nigel Pearson's Houdini act'.

Four months down the line and Leicester are top of the pile having already amassed almost enough points to avoid relegation, while Chelsea are struggling more than a cross-channel swimmer after a feed of beer and kebabs. Sure what would I know?

In my defence, I wasn't alone in my misguided beliefs before a ball was kicked at the start of the season and there's been a hell of a lot worse predictions than mine made in sporting realms.

The first one that springs to mind is Alan Hansen's much-quoted 'you won't win anything with kids' jibe when a youthful Manchester United lost 3-1 to Aston Villa on the opening day of the season in 1995.

The Red Devils, with Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Neville brothers in their ranks, went on to win the double, clinching the league title on the final day of the season after clawing back Newcastle's seemingly insurmountable twelve-point lead.

Pelé may have been one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen but when it comes to looking into the future his attempts are more Sunday pub league than Champions League.

In 1977 the Brazilian legend boldly envisaged that 'an African nation will win the World Cup before the year 2000', but almost four decades later the finest exponents from the continent have yet to get past the quarter-final stage.

Whether it be as a manager or as a bumbling pundit, Kevin Keegan has always been liable to make a gaffe or two, although admittedly commentator Brian Moore did put him in an impossible situation in this instance.

When David Batty stepped up to take a penalty for England in the shoot-out against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, Moore excitedly asked 'Do you back him to score - quickly, yes or no?' to which Keegan predictably replied 'Yes'.

Wrong answer Kevin!

Dreadful prophecies aren't just reserved for the football fields, however, and it's not only commentators and writers who get it badly wrong but also the sports stars themselves.

Boxers are famous for sticking their chests out and making boastful claims but few could match the sheer unfounded arrogance of Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952.

Walcott, who was 38 when he attempted to defend his world heavyweight boxing title against Rocky Marciano, said 'If I can't beat this bum, take my name off the record books'.

He looked like he could walk the walk, as well as talk the talk, when he knocked the challenger down in the first round and he appeared to be on his way to victory until the final round when he was pummelled by a Marciano right hook.

Marciano turned out to be a far cry from a bum, winning the re-match with a first round knock-out, and with a 49-0 record he remains the only unbeaten heavyweight champion.

The most outlandish claim definitely came from tennis player Bobby Riggs when he practically shouted from the rooftops 'Women can't beat me'. Riggs was a decent player in his day, winning three Grand Slam singles titles in the '30s and '40s, but his comeback certainly tarnished his reputation.

At the age of 55, looking to earn a few handy quid, he challenged professional women to matches, but found out that he had bitten off more than he could chew when he took on one of the true greats of the game, Billie Jean King, in the 'Battle of the Sexes' in 1973.

Riggs believed he would win just because he was a man but in front of 30,472 spectators at the Houston Astro Dome he was firmly put in his place.

Poor football predictions are one thing, but questioning a woman's ability - that's just sheer madness.

Wexford People

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