A look back in sporting time when Liverpool last won the league title in 1990
A look back in sporting time when Liverpool last won the league title in 1990

When Liverpool last won the league title: What the world of sport looked like back in 1990

Now Liverpool finally get to lift the Premier League trophy, we reflect on how the sporting world shaped up when they were last champions back in 1990.

Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic that has brought normal life to an unprecedented standstill and decimated the global sporting calendar, then Liverpool's players and fans may have finished celebrating their first title in 30 years by now.

The party, however, is still going as they finally get to lift the trophy they sealed last month.

Nevertheless, it's incredible to think that when the Anfield giants clinched their 18th crown back on April 28, 1990, they were nine league titles clear of their then-nearest rivals Everton and Arsenal, while Manchester United were two further back on seven - only to go on and top the standings an incredible 13 times under Sir Alex Ferguson over the next 23 seasons.

But now Jurgen Klopp's side have moved within one of their arch rivals but also fancy their chances of restoring their place as England's most successful club.

Our team of writers have turned the clock back 30 years to reflect on how different the wider sporting landscape looked when Liverpool last ruled the roost, including snooker, darts, golf, boxing, tennis, horse racing, athletics, cricket, formula one, both rugby codes and NFL. If that's not enough nostalgia, at the very bottom is some random trivia away from the sporting world.

INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL: Gazza, Milla and Maradona's tears

For almost every football fan of a certain age, the year 1990 will only ever be known for ‘Italia 90’, one of the most iconic World Cups of modern times – and not just because of Pavarotti belting out Nessun Dorma on the TV coverage. And in the very first game, when Cameroon stunned reigning champions Argentina the stage was set for iconic moment to follow iconic moment – even in that game we had Omam-Biyik’s header and Massing’s foul on Caniggia weaving themselves into the fabric of World Cup history.

And it didn’t stop there – Roger Milla’s scoring (and dancing) lit up the tournament, Carlos Valderrama and Rene Higuita’s hair styles will live long in the memory, while top scorer Toto Schillaci sent the home nation wild with his scoring exploits. Diego Maradona mixed controversy with brilliance again before ending his campaign in tears, Enzo Scifo and Gheorghe Hagi were carving out reputations as number 10 supremos, while David Platt’s late winner against Belgium and Gary Lineker’s penalties against Cameroon dragged England into the semis.

Lineker’s “have a word with him” to Bobby Robson was another often-repeated moment as he reacted to Paul Gascoigne’s tears - which became the symbol of the tournament for England fans after they went on to suffer penalty heartbreak. Italia 90 was a landmark tournament in that regard, as it was the first time the Three Lions got a taste of the spot-kick misery that would become all too familiar down the years in major tournaments.

Take a look at some of the teams competing, namely Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, West Germany and Yugoslavia were all intact before the political and geographical map of Europe was redrawn over the years. Some of the names of the players taking part are now the managers, coaches and pundits of today – but to illustrate the point Roberto Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti both played for Italy and have both then become managers and won Premier League and Champions League titles, while Liverpool waited to be English champions again.

BBC Review of World Cup Italia '90

By Paul Higham (@SportsPaulH)

Other Facts

  • France were eight years away from winning the first of their two World Cups while Spain were 20 years from lifting their first
  • England hadn't been involved in a penalty shoot out before 1990. They've now lost seven out of 10.
  • Maradona's career was just about to nosedive out of control
  • Niall Quinn was also registered as Republic of Ireland’s third-choice goalkeeper for Jack Charlton’s side
  • Iran's Ali Daei was 21 but it wasn't until 1993 when he scored his first of his all-time record of 109 international goals. Cristiano Ronaldo, who was five in 1990, is 10 behind on 99.
  • Lothar Matthaus won the Ballon d'Or

SNOOKER: Hendry's era begins as Ronnie shows childhood promise

1990. Arguably the most significant year in snooker history.

The nineties began with Stephen Hendry becoming the youngest ever winner of the World Championship aged 21, signalling the end of Steve Davis’ reign as king of the green baize and beginning the Scotsman's own occupation of a throne he never looked like relinquishing for the next 10 years.

For Jimmy White, this was his second final defeat - six years after his first to Davis - and by losing the next four, three of which to Hendry, the Whirlwind would typically earn the lifelong moniker 'People's Champion'.

Hendry’s golden run saw him dominate the sport for a decade in a manner not seen before or after, his maiden world title won in 1990 and his seventh and final victory in Sheffield in 1999, snooker fans witnessing a period of unrivalled brilliance in the intervening years.

1990 World Snooker Championship Final - Stephen Hendry v Jimmy White

It appeared that 1990 would forever be remembered as being the springboard for success for the best snooker player of all time and while that proved to be the case, it wouldn’t be Hendry who would necessarily end his career with that accolade.

Instead, that honour will arguably go to Ronnie O’Sullivan, a record 19 Triple Crown victories to his name already - albeit two Crucible crowns fewer than Hendry - and the first man past 1000 century breaks.

When did it all start? 1990 of course, with the Rocket making his first TV appearance at the age of just 14 when compiling a typically fluent break of 75 to overpower Steve Ventham with all the style and swagger that would come to define his career.

It was the beginning of 30-year rollercoaster that still shows no sign of stopping and the ‘Rocket’ has been a firm favourite with snooker fans ever since.

14 Years Old Ronnie O'Sullivan vs Steve Ventham

By Richard Mann (@Richard_Mann11)

Other Facts

  • Stephen Hendry won the world, UK and Masters titles in the same season.
  • Steve Davis had won the last of his six world titles by the turn of the decade
  • Ronnie O'Sullivan was just 14 and Judd Trump was one
  • The year marked Alex Higgins' penultimate World Championship

DARTS: A new era yet to begin

“Yes. Yes. Double 12. YEEEESSS, it’s there! Paul Lim! A nine-dart finish!”

It’s impossible to even write those words without smiling, let alone watching it for possibly the 501st time since lockdown began, but not only does this truly joyous moment never get old, it also came in a defining era when many leading stars were soon to take darts in a new direction.

By the time Paul Lim hit his iconic perfect leg in 1990, the World Championship had become the only event people could watch on TV despite the likes of Eric Bristow, John Lowe and Bobby George making the sport so popular in the early-to-mid 1980s and discontent among the players was rife.

A 29-year-old Phil Taylor would seal his first of 16 world titles with a thumping 6-1 victory over the late, great Crafty Cockney, who had celebrated the last of his five in 1986, while the Power’s second came in the greatest Lakeside final of all time against Mike Gregory two years later.

Darts World Championship 1990 Final Taylor vs Bristow

Taylor, Bristow, Lowe and 1991 winner Dennis Priestly were among the initial 16 players who broke away after the 1993 World Championship and later that year would manage to stage the first ‘rival’ edition televised by Sky Sports. The rest, as they say, is history.

As far as the general standards in 1990 are concerned, Taylor showed an early glimpse of his mastery with the only ton-plus average of the tournament in the semi-finals (100.80) and he followed that up with a mark of 97 in the final, with Bristow’s 93 being the 10th above 90.

Meanwhile, Lim’s nine-dart stunner in round two was the second televised perfect leg in history – six years after Lowe pocketed a record £102,000 for the first – but the fact his own £52,000 prize has only been surpassed once since when Phil Taylor scooped £100k in 2002 is purely a reflection on how the mesmerising quality of play has increased to match the otherwise bulging prize pots in the PDC.

By Chris Hammer (@ChrisHammer180)

Other Facts

  • Phil Taylor’s £24,000 prize money was the lowest received for a BDO world champion until Wayne Warren this year!
  • Paul Lim's nine-darter is still the only one hit in BDO World Championship history but there have been nine in the PDC version, all coming since 2009. Lim's perfect leg was the second on TV while the following 54 were all hit after 2000.
  • Five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld was a year away from competing in his first Lakeside while the dashing Steve Beaton would begin his astonishing record of 30 consecutive world championship appearances - in either code - 12 months after that.
  • Michael van Gerwen had yet to have his first birthday, but rumour has it his first words of "one hundred and eighty" had already been uttered - albeit in Dutch.
  • The iconic News of the World Championship, which first began in 1927 and became first nationally televised darts event in 1972, came to an end in 1990. Bobby George, Eric Bristow and Mike Gregory were among an elite group of seven two-time winners although the event did make a special reappearance on Sky Sports in 1997. Guess who won.

GOLF: Teenage Tiger starting to roar

Golf in 1990 was a sport still some years from the revolution led by Tiger Woods, a 14-year-old creating all sorts of buzz – not least in an interview with Trans World Sport.

14-Year-Old Tiger Woods on Trans World Sport | Trans World Sport

Nick Faldo won the Masters for a second time - and via a play-off for the second year in a row - while he added his second of three Open Championships for good measure in July.

Sir Nick Faldo's greatest shots - 1990 Open Championship

It was a big year for the women’s game, too, with the very first Solheim Cup going the way of the United States.

It was, as we look back now, the night before the dawn of a new era; here, players of all shapes and sizes, of varying skills, competed for the biggest prizes in the sport – all while dressed in clothing so loose fitting you’d have been able to fit Tom Kite and Brad Faxon inside a small quarter-zip. The notion of golf as a sport for the athlete had not quite cottoned on.

1990 was also the year of unification when it comes to the size of the ball. Believe it or not, until this point in history, the R&A and the USGA could not come to an agreement as to a universal size, with the so-called ‘British’ ball smaller than the 1.68-inch diameter of its American equivalent. Thirty years on and the ball is back in the spotlight as debates rage as to the future of the sport and the potential for bifurcation.

Over those three decades, the sport has changed. Now, power is king, and the best players in the sport get rich quickly. And it’s all thanks to one young kid from California, who when asked just what set him apart was able even at 14 to hit the nail on the head, just as he’s since proven capable of hitting an iron to his target.

“My competitiveness – when you have to make a putt, you make a putt.”

By Ben Coley (@BenColeyGolf)

Other Facts

  • Hale Irwin became the oldest ever US Open winner aged 45
  • Apart from Nick Faldo, only one other different Englishman has won a golf major since 1990 - Danny Willet in the 2016 Masters.
  • Rory McIlroy was just one year old, and seven years away from doing this...
Rory McIlroy aged eight performing an incredible trick shot

CRICKET: A majestic start for the little master

In the summer of 1990 English cricket fans caught their first sight of a 17-year-old from Mumbai of whom big things were already being predicted both in India and further afield, someone who would go on to become one of the greatest to ever play the game.

A fresh-faced young man by the name Sachin Tendulkar had made his Test debut against Pakistan a few months earlier and having stood up to the might of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram with both courage and skill, he was selected for his first tour of England already carrying the heavy weight of expectation on his young shoulders.

A promising start to the Test series at Lord’s confirmed that Tendulkar was indeed a rich talent and within a matter of days the ‘Little Master’ had his maiden Test century, a match-saving unbeaten 119 at Old Trafford following a classy hand of 68 in the first innings.

It wasn't quite the highest score of the series, mind, with England captain Graham Gooch scoring a monumental 333 at Lord's before following it up with 123 in the second innings.

Nevertheless, in Tendulkar a star was born and a couple of years later he returned to these shores to continue his love affair with England, setting up temporary home across the Pennines in Yorkshire where he quickly etched his name into the history books of the club.

Tendulkar would end his career in India in 2013 with exactly 100 international centuries to his name, a colossal achievement, but it was back in the summer of 1990, in England, that his incredible journey really started to take flight.

Sachin Tendulkar's First EVER hundred At 17 Years Old | England v India 1990 - Highlights

By Richard Mann

Other Facts

  • England were three years into an 18-year wait to regain the Ashes. They would lose the 1990-91 series Down Under 3-0.
  • Graham Gooch's 333 against India in 1990 remains the highest post-war innings by an England cricketer. No once since Gooch has managed a triple century.
  • Middlesex were county champions, Lancashire won both the NatWest Trophy and Benson and Hedges Cups while Derbyshire were Sunday League winners. Remember that competition?

TENNIS: Federer’s idols create a memorable Wimbledon Trilogy

“Becker was first my idol until some of my friends said, ‘Why Becker? Edberg is cooler’,” recalled Roger Federer. “Is he? Okay, I'll be Edberg.”

If you’d said a 22-year-old Boris Becker had already won his last Wimbledon by the time 1990 ticked over, you’d have got a similar reaction to anyone who prophesied Liverpool’s title drought.

By winning his first as a prodigious teenager in 1985 - becoming the first unseeded Wimbledon champion in the process – Becker began a love affair with SW19 that would also see him lift the trophy 12 months later and for a third occasion in 1989.

The German youngster exacted revenge on Stefan Edberg in the latter of those for the defeat he suffered in the 1988 final and duo would again face off in 1990 to complete their remarkable Wimbledon trilogy in quite some style.

1990 Golden Moment - Edberg v Becker

Becker lost the opening two sets 6-2 but courageously battled back by taking the third and fourth 6-3 as he threatened to become the first player since 1927 to win a Wimbledon title from such a deficit.

His comeback, however, would prove to be in vain as the 24-year-old Swede clinched a gripping decider 6-4 to win his second Wimbledon and his fourth of six career Grand Slams having also landed the Australian Open (’85, ’87) before going on to add two US Open titles (‘91, ’92).

Despite two further final defeats in the 1990s to Michael Stich and Pete Sampras, Becker went on to add a pair of Australian Open titles of his own (’91, ’96) to take his Grand Slam tally to six, which also included the 1989 US Open, but he’d finally get a measure of revenge over Edberg at Wimbledon some 24 years later in true storybook fashion.

Federer, who had previously revealed that the Becker-Edberg rivalry inspired him to play tennis as a child, recruited the Swedish legend as coach for two seasons in 2014 while Becker was already in Novak Djokovic’s corner.

The pair subsequently met in back-to-back Wimbledon finals as their own great rivalry reached another level, but on both occasions the coolest duo were melted.

By Chris Hammer

Other Facts

  • Ivan Lendl won the last of his eight Grand Slams at the Australian Open, Andres Gomez became the only ever Grand Slam winner from Ecuador by winning the French Open and a 19-year-old Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi to win his first of 14 majors at the US Open.
  • At the age of 34, Martina Navratilova won the last of her 18 Grand Slam titles by triumphing at Wimbledon for the ninth time – an SW19 record that stands today.
Martina Navratilova vs Zina Garrison: Wimbledon Final 1990
  • Steffi Graf won her ninth of 22 Grand Slams at the Australian Open, Monica Seles opened her account at the French Open and Gabriela Sabatini clinched her only major success at the US Open.
  • Jeremy Bates was Britain’s best player but a second-round exit at Wimbledon characterised home hopes until Andy Murray arrived on the scene around 20 years later.
  • Roger Federer will no doubt have been the best nine-year-old in the world in 1990 and just two years later he’d make his ‘debut’ on the ATP Tour…as a ball boy at the Swiss Indoors.
  • Rafael Nadal may have been just turned four in the summer of 1990 but his uncle Toni – a former tennis professional - had already spotted his talent and started to create a monster despite his initial interest in football. At school, messy play probably involved making a clay crown.
  • A nine-year-old Serena Williams and her older sibling Venus moved with the family from California to Florida in 1990 purely so they could attend the tennis academy of Rick Macci. He’s since said of the first meeting: "Usually after five minutes I can tell if there is something special. We're hitting balls, and I'm going, 'These girls aren't that good.'” How things can change.
  • Maria Sharapova, meanwhile, had yet to hit a tennis ball.

BOXING: Buster stuns the boxing world

In the glorious history of great sporting upsets, boxing produced one of the most famous ever way back in February 1990, when the formidable Mike Tyson made his way to the ring inside the Tokyo Dome.

Boasting a fearsome unbeaten record of 37-0 with 33 knockouts, including a fifth-round stoppage of Frank Bruno exactly 12 months earlier, a 24-year-old Iron Mike couldn’t have been a much hotter favourite to win his 11th straight title fight since 1986 and retain the WBA, WBC and IBF belts for the seventh successive bout.

It was supposed to be another quick, routine defence, serving merely as a preparation for a potential mega fight with Evander Holyfield, while challenger Buster Douglas arrived in Japan priced at 42/1 to pull off the unthinkable.

Aged 30, the ‘no hoper’ had previously lost four of his 34 fights in a far from sparkling career but he was also dealing with the tragic death of his mother Lula Pearl, who died suddenly just 23 days before the fight.

Douglas, though, was fearless from the opening bell and despite being sent to the canvas in the eighth round, he used his significant height and reach advantages to outbox the champion before a brutal onslaught in the 10th left a beaten Tyson on the floor, awkwardly scrambling to get his mouthpiece back in place.

Buster Douglas shocks the world with 10th-round KO of Mike Tyson | ESPN Archives

If that was a jaw-dropping way to start the year, then Chris Eubank’s WBO middleweight title clash with Nigel Benn was a breathtaking way to end it.

An intense domestic rivalry had bubbled away outside of the ring for around three years before they finally got it on inside of it, with Benn hoping to defend the belt he’d taken from Doug DeWitt back in April and retained against Iran Barkley four months later.

The unbeaten, cocky Eubank was a marginal underdog despite winning five previous fights in 1990 but there was hardly anything to split the pair after seven gruelling rounds of a thriller that had already lived up to the hype and more.

The Dark Destroyer sent his arch-rival to the canvas in round eight but back came Eubank in the next with a relentless barrage that forced referee Richard Steele to bring an all-time epic to an end.

Nigel Benn vs Chris Eubank: WBO World Middleweight Championship

It’s no wonder that a rematch three years later brought in an estimated global TV audience of 500 million as Benn and Eubank put their respective WBC and WBO Super titles on the line at Old Trafford, although this would, of course, end in a draw. An amazing story for another day...

By Chris Hammer

Other Facts

  • Evander Holyfield would take all of Douglas' belts in October of 1990 via a third-round knockout.
  • One of Britain’s five boxers to hold world titles during 1990 - Dennis Andries – regained his WBC light heavyweight title by defeating Australia’s Jeff Harding in Melbourne before successfully defending it on home soil against Sergio Daniel Merani.
  • Britain’s IBF world flyweight king Dave McAuley would retain his title twice against Louis Curtis and Rodolfo Blanco.
  • Glenn McCrory lost IBF cruiserweight title to Jeff Lampkin in Gateshead while Lloyd Honeyghan was unable to win the WBA welterweight title against Mark Breland
  • A 20-year-old Wayne McCulloch showed his rich promise in 1990 by becoming Commonwealth champion at flyweight. ‘Pocket Rocket’ would go on to become WBC bantamweight king from 1995 to 1997 and was never knocked down in a career that ended in 2008.

CLUB FOOTBALL: Liverpool on top as Fergie clings onto his job

Liverpool won their 18th First Division title - and eighth in 15 seasons - with two games to spare following a 2-1 victory at home to QPR and considering they finished nine points clear, it would have seemed inconceivable at the time to say a 19th wouldn't follow for 30 years.

CHAMPIONS | Liverpool 2-1 QPR | 1989/90 | FL Classics

The Reds did, however, miss out on a coveted double when they were stunned by Crystal Palace in the semi-finals of the FA Cup – and back then the FA Cup really was a trophy worth winning.

Liverpool had previously battered the Eagles 9-0 that season but were beaten 4-3 in extra time at Villa Park – yes back in the time when the FA Cup semis were staged on neutral grounds not Wembley. The game was almost eclipsed on the same day up at Maine Road as Oldham threatened to put Manchester United out in what turned out to be a 3-3 draw, with United winning the replay.

The FA Cup final also ended in a 3-3 draw in what was a vintage year for the famous old trophy, with the replay nowhere near as entertaining as Lee Martin scored the only goal of the game for Man Utd. The FA Cup this year though had even more significant ramifications as it was the year Mark Robins’ third round goal that reportedly saved the job of a certain Alex Ferguson – who went on to have a decent career at Old Trafford. Palace also fielded the last all-English starting XI seen in the FA Cup final.

1990 FA Cup Final - Crystal Palace v Manchester United | From The Archive

Away from the FA Cup, Kenny Dalglish retired from playing at the age of 39 after his final season as Liverpool player-manager (remember them!) while Match of the Day host Gary Lineker was top scorer in the league with 25 goals and John Barnes won the Player of the Year and Soccer Saturday pundit Matt Le Tissier won the Young Player of the Year. It was a year when Second Division Oldham Athletic did wonders to make the FA Cup semi-final and League Cup final (beaten by Forest) with Andy Ritchie banging in 28 goals and a certain Frankie Bunn scored six in one game against Scarborough.

Leeds were promoted as Division Two champions and celebrated by splashing out £1m each on both Gary McAllister and John Lukic, and in what were to be pivotal moves for the years to come, Manchester United paid Oldham £625,000 to sign Denis Irwin and Brian Clough brought a young Irishman named Roy Keane to Nottingham Forest from Cobh Ramblers for just £10,000.

As for the European scene, English clubs were in the final season of their five-year ban due to the Heysel disaster while the European Cup was still two years away from being rebranded as the Champions League.

Italy dominated by winning all three competitions, with Milan lifting the European Cup, Sampdoria winning the Cup Winners' Cup and Juventus triumphing over Fiorentina in the UEFA Cup.

By Paul Higham

Other Facts

  • Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol Rovers and Exeter won the league titles.
  • The famous Class of '92 – David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes – who would provide the backbone to Manchester United's astonishing success as Liverpool waited for another title, were still rising through the youth ranks.
  • Paulo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta lifted their second of five European Cups with Milan. Only Francisco Gento has won it more times.
  • Future Chelsea legend Gianluca Vialli, boasting a full head of hair, scored an extra-time brace as Sampdoria won the Cup Winners' Cup against Anderlecht.
  • Lionel Messi was just three years old and Cristiano Ronaldo was five.
Gianluca Villa scores twice as Sampdoria beat Anderlecht

HORSE RACING JUMPS: Desert Orchid stunned in history-making shock

The longest-priced winner in Cheltenham Gold Cup history took top spot on March 15 1990, with Norton’s Coin springing a 100/1 shocker for Welsh dairy farming trainer Sirrell Griffiths.

The odds-on favourite that year was the brilliant Desert Orchid who could manage only third.

The story of Norton's Coin

Fans’ favourite Dessie was having his sixth start of the 1989/90 campaign at the Cheltenham Festival and although suffering a surprise defeat in the big one, he turned out just a month later with a typically swashbuckling performance to win the Irish Grand National under the welter burden of 12 stone.

He was the even-money favourite in the Easter feature at Fairyhouse.

They simply don’t make them like Dessie any more.

By Matt Brocklebank

Other Facts

  • Mr. Frisk won the Grand National in a record-breaking time of eight minutes and 47.80 seconds that still stands to this day. It was 14.10 seconds faster than Red Rum in 1973 but perhaps more impressively, the current course is 342 yards shorter than it was in 1990.
  • Richard Dunwoody won his second and last Champion Hurdle on board Kribensis
  • Sir AP McCoy was still just 15 and four years away from riding his first of 4,348 jumps wins of a remarkable career.

RUGBY UNION: Scots on top

In 1990 we were still at the Five, rather than Six, Nations stage and Scotland were being crowned champions.

They hosted England in their final crunch game with the winner taking the Grand Slam title after they'd both won their previous three matches. Never before had such a prize rested on the final fixture.

It was the Scots that came out on top, with a Tony Stanger try giving the hosts a 13-7 victory over Will Carling’s men. That day, Scott Hastings played at outside centre for the Scots; fast forward to 2020 and his fly-half son Adam was facing England at Murrayfield in their 13-6 Six Nations defeat.

In those 30 years Scotland have only gone on to win the tournament on one further occasion, in 1999.

The sport is unrecognisable from 1990, experiencing major life-changing events including turning professional in 1995; the Five Nations becoming the Six in 2000 with the introduction of Italy; England going on to win one World Cup and lose in another three finals; substitutions, the sin bin and the TMO; and Wales, Ireland and France have all built brand new homes.

1990 Scotland 13-7 England Five Nations Rugby Union

By Gareth Jones (@MattBrocklebank)

Other Facts

  • There had only been one Rugby World Cup by 1990, with New Zealand winning the inaugural edition in 1987
  • The late great Jonah Lomu was still just 15 and four years away from making his game-changing impact in the sport
  • Sir Clive Woodward's hung up his boots in 1990 after a five-year stint with Australian side Manly and then began his coaching career back in the UK with Henley.

RUGBY LEAGUE: Stewart breaks British hearts

The 1990 Ashes Series was one that will long linger in the memory. There were iconic moments galore, not least Hull winger Paul Eastwood’s two-try heroics at Wembley that inspired a 19-12 victory for the home side in the opening clash.

Onto Old Trafford and one of the great rugby league matches. Great Britain had history within their grasp. They hadn’t won a series against the old enemy for 20 years but with three minutes remaining and the scores locked together in front of a capacity crowd, they were camped on the visitors’ line.

Great Brittan Vs Australia: Heartbreaking for Britain but what a try

The Kangaroos were struggling to even get out of their own 20 metres when, on the fourth tackle, Ricky Stewart sold a dummy and set sail. He fended off the chasing pack long enough to find Mal Meninga on his shoulder and the giant centre thundered to the line to break British hearts.

The decider at Elland Road lacked the same drama. Try as they might, another sell-out crowd couldn’t inspire the home side to more heroics and a professional and ruthless display from Australia earned them a 14-0 win and the trophy headed home on Qantas.

It was a case of what might have been but for that one moment of magic from Stewart when his side needed it most.

By Dave Ord (@DaveOrd)


  • In the pre-Super League era, which began in 1996, Wigan won the old Championship title for the first of seven seasons in a row during the 1989-90 campaign.
  • Wigan also won the Challenge Cup for the third season in a row in 1990 and there'd win it for five more successive years too, completing six doubles in the process.
  • The great Ellery Hanley was coming towards the end of his time with Wigan, where he won three titles, four Challenge Cups and a World Club Championship while he scored 189 tries in 202 games.
  • Martin Offiah, who would go on to have his own scintillating spell at Wigan, was playing for Widnes.
  • Leigh Salford and Barrow were relegated and were replaced by Hull KR, Rochdale and Oldham

HORSE RACING FLAT: Dayjur delight

Back in 1990 the world’s fastest racehorse was scorching the turf up and down the land – the mighty Dayjur.

You wouldn’t have thought it when he finished seventh in the seven furlong European Free Handicap at Newmarket on his seasonal reappearance, but a drop in trip and change in tactics did wonders for him.

He announced his arrival on the sprinting scene in the Temple Stakes at Haydock before he flew to victory in the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot in June.

His career-defining performance was still to come, though, at York, where he bolted up by four lengths in the Nunthorpe in a course record time of 56.16 seconds.

1990 Nunthorpe Stakes

That record stood for 29 years until Battaash, last summer, in the same famous Sheikh Hamdan silks, broke 56 seconds on the Knavesmire for the first time thanks to a brilliant Nunthorpe in 55.90.

Unlike Battaash, though, Dayjur had more winning to come 30 years ago. He won the Sprint Cup at Haydock, the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp and then bowed out with a Breeders’ Cup second after dramatically jumping a shadow in the dying strides of the race.

Back in 1990, Dayjur was the fastest thing on four legs. And he set the benchmark which would last for three decades.

By Ben Linfoot (@BenLinfoot)

Other Facts

  • Frankie Dettori won his first three Group One races in the UK (Fillies Mile, Queen Anne Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes) in 1990 at the age of 19 and also became the first teenager since Lester Piggott to ride 100 winners in a season.
  • The late, great Pat Eddery won his third and final Derby with victory on Quest For Fame

ATHLETICS: Britain hails the sprint king

Great Britain may not have a rich history of sprinting success but turn the clock back to 1990 and Linford Christie was at the forefront of a rare golden era.

Two years after taking silver behind Carl Lewis in the “dirtiest race in history” at the Seoul Olympics, Christie kicked off the year by powering to his first of two 100m Commonwealth Games titles for England and when pulling on the Team GB vest later that summer he won his second European crown, with John Regis taking bronze.

1990 European Athletics Championships Men's 100m final

The reverse result happened in the 200m while there were plenty of other podium-topping performances in the sprints thanks to Colin Jackson (110m hurdles), Roger Black (400m), Kriss Akabusi (400m hurdles) and the 4x400m squad, although surprisingly the 4x100m quartet made do with silver.

Of these legendary athletes who all etched their names in folklore for numerous other achievements – who can forget Tokyo 1991 for starters - only Christie would go on to become an individual Olympic champion as he emulated Allan Wells (1980) and Harold Abrahams (1924) at Barcelona ’92 aged 32 before following that up with a world title 12 months later in a national record of 9.87 seconds.

Christie, who managed a third 100m European title and a second Commonwealth crown in 1994, remains the only British athlete to win individual golds in all four major championships available while his 24 international track medals – indoor and outdoor - is more than any other from these shores.

By Chris Hammer

Other Facts

  • Steve Backley and Tessa Sanderson completed the javelin double for England at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.
  • Backley won the first of his four successive European titles in 1990 and although he’d never win a world or Olympic gold, the strength of javelin throwing in the continent made these successes almost as impressive.
  • A 23-year-old Sally Gunnell burst onto the scene with a brace of Commonwealth Games golds in the 400m hurdles and the 4x400m replay.

FORMULA ONE: Senna wins amidst controversy

The late, great Ayrton Senna was at the height of his incredible powers in 1990 although his second of three Formula One titles came in highly controversial circumstances.

Widely regarded as the most naturally gifted driver of all time, the Brazilian would only be able to dazzle fans of the sport for just three more full seasons before his tragic death while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix but, as much as it’s a cliché to say it, his legend still lives on.

Although Michael Schumacher, who won the first of his record seven crowns in 94, will be remembered as the most technically complete champion, those who watched this particular era of the sports will unanimously agree that nobody has ever driven from their heart with as much heart-racing flair, skill and passion as Senna.

This was typified throughout the first 13 races of what turned out to be a controversial 1990 season, as the enigmatic Brazilian won six of them, including his second of six Monaco Grand Prix victories, while he finished on the podium on five other occasions to open up an 18-point lead over his great rival Alain Prost.

But when the Frenchman responded by winning in Spain, where Senna failed to finish, the lead was cut to just nine.

With two races to go, the season headed to the scene of where the pair controversially crashed in the previous year – Suzuka – and unless you’re young, have no interest in Formula One or haven’t seen the film, you’ll know what happened next.

SENNA - Exclusive Clip ('90 Japanese Grand Prix)

Senna collided into Prost at the first corner, taking them both out and mathematically sealing the title in the process.

"What he did was disgusting. He is a man without value," fumed Prost, who almost quit the sport at that point.

A year later, Senna came clean and admitted it was deliberate.

By Chris Hammer

Other Facts

  • Alain Prost eventually bounced back from this disappointment by winning 1993 title to move one ahead of Ayrton Senna in the all-time list
  • Nigel Mansell announced he would retire from Grand Prix races at the end of the 1990 season. He changed his mind and finished second in 1991 before finally landing his first title in 1992.
  • Ayrton Senna still holds the record for the most consecutive victories at the same Grand Prix, winning in Monaco in
    1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993
  • He also holds the record for the most consecutive pole positions - managing it nine times in a row from the 1988 Spanish Grand Prix to the 1989 USA Grand Prix
Ayrton Senna: Monaco Grand Prix 1990

NFL: 49ers batter Broncos as Brady still dreams

Such is the way the NFL works, the Super Bowl in January 1990 ended the 1989 season with the San Francisco 49ers thumping the Denver Broncos 55-10 in New Orleans with Joe Montana the MVP of that game on his way to becoming one of the legends of the sport.

Radio announce Jack Buck called that game, and in a nice twist his son Joe is now calling Super Bowls for a living on TV. Denver quarterback John Elway has gone on to be the GM of the team these days and has guided them to a Super Bowl himself.

Joe Montana became an NFL legend
Joe Montana became an NFL legend

In 1990 there were just 28 teams in three divisions, and not the 32 in eight divisions we see today – and between then and now there were a huge number of relocations, name changes and new expansion teams being introduced a league that was almost always evolving over the next couple of decades. The Raiders were still in Los Angeles before moving to Oakland, the Rams were also in LA before moving to St Louis, and back to LA!

The Houston Oilers were still in existence before they moved to become the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns were still the original Browns before they packed up and moved to Baltimore to become the Ravens, who went on to win two Super Bowls. The Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers were also introduced in later years.

Also, somewhere in California, a young 13-year-old Tom Brady was only dreaming of paying in the NFL – still a decade away from being drafted by the New England Patriots and then going on to be arguably the greatest player to ever grace the game.

By Paul Higham

What else was going on away from sport in 1990?

  • Margaret Thatcher celebrated her 11th anniversary as Prime Minister in May 1990 but by October she was ousted, with John Major taking her place.
  • George H. W. Bush was the President of the United States
  • The Simpsons is broadcast in the United Kingdom for the first time by Sky
  • There were 17 number one singles in the UK throughout 1990 - the first of which being Band Aid II. The others included Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O'Connor, World In Motion by New Order, Sacrifice by Elton John, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini by Timmy Mallett, Unchained Melody by The Righteous Brothers, Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice and Saviour's Day by Cliff Richard
  • Mr. Bean, starring Rowan Atkinson, makes its first appearance on ITV.
  • Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles makes its debut on BBC1
  • The film of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the big Box Office hit in April 1990, along with Pretty Woman
  • Driving Miss Daisy won Best Picture at the Oscars, with Jessica Tandy winning Best Actress for her portrayal as Daisy Werthan
  • Daniel Day-Lewis won best Actor at the Oscars for his role as Christy Brown in My Left Foot
  • Ghost, Home Alone, Dick Tracy, Die Hard 2 and Another 48 Hours would be big hits later in the year
  • MasterChef also began in 1990, presented by Lloyd Grossman
  • Nelson Mandela was released from prison and received a hero's reception the world over
  • Emmerdale is born on ITV, airing at 1900 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • The Gulf War began in August 1990 and would end in February 1991
  • The Cold War, which ended in 1991, drew closer to its 1991 conclusion when the two German states and the Four Powers sign the Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany in Moscow. This paved the way for German reunification.
  • Great Britain's Emma finished 6th with 87 points in Eurovision despite her song "Give a Little Love Back to the World" being among the favourites.
  • Legendary author Roald Dahl dies at the age of 74
  • 'Classic' British comedies - depending on your taste - 'Keeping Up Appearances' and 'Waiting For God' began in 1990
  • The Strangeways prison riots took place in Manchester
  • Sky Movies is encrypted and becomes Sky's first pay channel.
  • Quantum Leap makes its British television debut on BBC2.
  • WrestleMania is broadcast for the first time by Sky. The winner of the Main Event was The Ultimate Warrior, who defeated Hulk Hogan.
  • Debut of ITV's Stars in Their Eyes
  • The two ends of the service tunnel of the Channel Tunnel are joined together
  • British actress Emma Watson was born in 1990...as was 'actor' Joey Essex
  • In Eastenders, Cathy Beale looked older than her son Ian while the Mitchell brothers appear for the first time along with sister Sam.
  • As well as the aforementioned Beales - Sharon Watts was the only other Eastenders character who'd appeared in every year since 1985 and is still in it to this very day.
  • Coronation Street was approaching its 30th anniversary so ITV screened a repeat of the first ever episode.
  • This meant Ken Barlow - the only character still alive and living on the street since episode one in 1960 - would be seen would by the 1990s audience looking rather young.
  • David Platt and Rosie Webster made their Corrie debuts in 1990...albeit as newborn babies in December.

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