Barnsley's Sporting heroes

PUBLISHED: 18:33 14 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:59 20 February 2013

Barnsley's Sporting heroes

Barnsley's Sporting heroes

It's the people who make a place special rather than its buildings, particularly in the South Yorkshire mining town

There is a lot of talk these days about the London 2012 Olympic Games. We have a feature this month about Yorkshire businesses which have won hefty contracts to help build the Olympic Park in East London.

But just yesterday I picked up a book called Barnsleys Best, a tribute to the towns elite sportsmen and women and I realised then how great a contribution this South Yorkshire community has made to the world of sport.

Of course Dickie Birds name jumps to mind but so does that of football hero Mick McCarthy who has written the foreward to this book edited by sports writer Nathan Hemmingham. But there are many more sporting names from Barnsley who have helped pave the way for ambitious players in all fields of sport.

These are people the town should be proud of, says Hemmingham. They have scaled their great heights not by chance but by sheer ability and hard work. It is fascinating to learn what each individual has had to sacrifice and what obstacles they have had to overcome.

In some cases it is a heart-warming tale of sadness and setbacks; others will fill you with pride for what they have achieved. There is a common theme that runs consistent with all our heroes. Not only have they all sacrificed so much to get to the top but they have also shown tremendous courage in the face of adversity.

Most have also suffered the cruellest of bad luck in terms of injuries and all have had to ride the emotional rollercoaster. He adds that these people have flown the flag nationally and internationally for Barnsley and have acted as great ambassadors for the town. Yet, he adds, Barnsleys best have never really got the recognition they deserved outside of the town boundaries. The hope is this book will put paid to that. There is a lot to be proud of about Barnsley, their sportsmen and women are just one.

Hemminghams list of sporting super heroes includes former World Cup captain Mick McCarthy now manager of Wolves, who describes how football became his life.

He says in his foreward: I would play it every day. My dad used to play with us in the house. We used to play in the living room and would make one of those soft balls out of wool and two pieces of cardboard. We had curtains down to the floor which we used as nets and we would drive our mother mad, God love her.

He adds: We would play in the street, busting fences, busting windows. It was football all the time. We would walk to church and take a football, kicking it into a waste bin, kicking it through a gap, playing one-touch, playing two-touch, all kinds of different games.

McCarthy says he would love to manage Barnsley. Danny Wilson did a fantastic job there and it is a job I would love to do, I really would. Twice I was nearly offered the job. The first was just a conversation and it did not happen. The second time I went to speak to John Dennis, but various circumstances meant it did not happen. It was perhaps for the best. You would have to do better than Danny Wilson, because what he achieved was amazing.

To do it and to make a success of it would just be fabulous but if it did not work out, or if I got Barnsley promoted and then moved on, either way, would taint that special feeling and I would not want to do that.

Barnsleys Best A Tribute to the Towns Best Sportsmen and Women by Nathan Hemmingham is published by Pen & Sword Books Ltd, Barnsley. Price 10.99

Barnsley and England footballer
Tommy Taylor

His talent was the ability to head a ball better than anyone else in his era. With such grace and poise, he would hang in the air for what seemed like an eternity before connecting with immense power.

Worlds fastest woman and Olympic medallist
Dorothy Hyman with her great rival Wilmer Rudolf at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Everybody wanted to look at my medals and mum and dad would take them to family and friends. People would even knock on the door and ask to have a look and mum would get them all out and go through each one with them. They were both really proud of me. Dorothy Hyman.

British and English Welterweight champion
Chris Saunders with Coach Brendan Ingle and Prince Naseem Hamed

I was British Champion and no one can take that away from me. But if I regret anything it would be what I did after winning the British title. I should have knuckled down. Brendan said I could have been World Champion but I still went all over the world and gained so much confidence and experience in life because of it. The best day of my life was winning that title. - Chris Saunders.

Englands leading one-day wicket taker Darren Gough, the Dazzler.
The secret to his success with the ball and one of the main reasons he claimed countless victims over the years was his ability to bowl reverse swing. No England bowler had previously mastered the art, yet Gough introduced a whole new way of taking wickets.

Yorkshire and England cricketer Martyn Moxon
Batting was my strength. Over the years it developed and my game improved. I had patience and was able to concentrate for long periods. I had decent technique and I always backed myself to stay in. I would like to class myself as someone who was brave against the quicks. Martyn Moxon

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Yorkshire Life

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