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Wharfedale resident fulfils long held ambition to write a book

Robin Snook has made the most of the extra time he had during lockdown by achieving a long held goal, to write a book about great sporting events he attended.

The 57-year-old author from Ben Rhydding has written, I Was There, which, initially planned over 10 years ago, is his very unique personal set of 15 great sporting events that he attended live, between 1976 and 2015.

As a sports lover - he has played cricket for Ben Rhydding and West Riding, hockey for Ben Rhydding and is a member of Ilkley Golf Club - Snook's best events include recollections across a variety of sports including cricket, golf, football, hockey, motor sport and horse racing.

Robin's book has been reviewed by Bill Marshall, a reporter for 38 years with the T&A.

All are memorable, but undoubtedly the most poignant chapter is that of watching from the Midland Road stand as the Bradford City Fire Disaster rapidly unfolded in front of him and his father Brian in May 1985.

Snook, who sometimes had access to areas denied to the general public, does not hand out any spoilers to his readers in his choices, allowing them to join him on the exhilarating journey that takes in the other 14 submissions, all of which are neatly put into context.

Cricket, and indeed Headingley, features prominently, with Geoff Boycott's 100th first-class hundred in the 1977 Test against Australia - where remarkably there was a general perception among the crowd that the obdurate Yorkshireman was going to achieve the difficult feat - and Ian Botham and Bob Willis' miracle of 1981, also against the Aussies.

There is also the Old Trafford Test of the 2005 Ashes series - the greatest drawn Test match ever? - and Joe taking Root in the second Test at Lord's, with Australia the opponents once more, at Lord's in 2013.

Amazingly, Snook drops into the text that, as a 13-year-old, he had been driven to Lord's each day in 1976 - for a three-day coaching course under Yorkshire great Don Wilson, head coach at the Indoor Cricket School and also head coach at Robin's school - by Robin's older sister's boss, none other than veteran travel reporter Judith Chalmers (aka Chalming Judith), star of Wish You Were Here!

Australia also features in a home sense too, with the humiliation in the heat at the WACA in Perth in 2006-07 during Andrew Flintoff's ill-fated spell as England captain - the burden of leading all-rounder and skipper is too much for all but a few to carry - and the 1985 Formula 1 race round a street circuit in Adelaide, when the city fully embraced the seemingly week-long party that accompanied the visit of Keke Rosberg, Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell etc.

There is also one of the greatest last-wicket stands in Test cricket when New Zealand toured Australia in 1985 - a cricketing rivalry that is nearly as strong as the Ashes but is not played anywhere near as often.

If both those chapters are unexpected, then another one slightly out of left field was when Royal Ascot, the Queen and all, descended on York in July 2005 as the Berkshire course was unavailable due to a £185 million refurbishment.

The Bantams are also represented in happier times - a breathless 5-4 Valley Parade victory over Brentford in March 1985 that is rated as City's 11th-greatest match of all time.

There is also Robin's vivid memory of a wonderful 'Supermac' (Malcolm Macdonald) goal, described at the time by commentator Barry Davies, in a fifth-round FA Cup tie at Burnden Park between Bolton Wanderers and Newcastle United.

Snook's golfing recollections from The Open are also strong, taking in Spanish genius Seve Ballesteros and his ability to conjure up magic from the rough in July 1979 at Royal Lytham & St Annes, Tom Watson's quest for the title at Royal Birkdale four years later and the 2015 Open at the home of golf, St Andrews.

Few global events capture the essence of sport as well as the Olympics, however, and Snook was lucky enough, thanks to walking past his local Thomas Cook and seeing an Olympic- package offer, to witness the 2012 London Games in the flesh, taking in a women's bronze-medal volleyball match and the men's Olympic hockey final.

His words bring out how the Games Makers enhanced the occasion for thousands of spectators.

I have to admit that, although I have witnessed many great sporting events in my 38 years as a sports reporter for the Telegraph & Argus (my top three would be Joe Johnson winning the world snooker title at the Crucible in 1986, Calderdale Explorers beating Bradford in a basketball thriller at Halifax, also in the mid-1980s, and Bradford Bulls winning the 2001 Grand Final 37-6 at Old Trafford) the breadth of the events that Snook has witnessed has made me jealous.

It would make for great banter in the pub for those present to name their top three, so I pressed Snook to name his top three, and he did well to narrow it down to four, and in order:

They are: "The Bradford City Fire Disaster for its gravity and reach - everyone knew about it when I went to Canada, Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia a few months later - the first day of the Old Trafford Test in 2005 because it was the greatest Test series of all time, Tom Watson's Open win at Royal Birkdale because it was witnessed from inside the ropes, and the Adelaide Grand Prix - for the craic all week long and the size of the crowd, well in excess of 100,000 and certainly the biggest I have been part of."

Snook spoke with irony when he said: "This is a book about live sport which was written under lockdown when there isn't much live sport about."

Fuelled by boyish enthusiasm, Snook already has his next book in mind - I Wished I Was There.

Writing I Was There has made him realise what great sporting events he has missed over the years so he would welcome your individual recollections of great sporting moments that you have witnessed - either in person or on the TV.

Any thoughts (100 words maximum) on anything from the 1966 World Cup final right up to Ben Stokes' heroics at Headingley in 2019 should be e-mailed to him at detailing the four Ws (When, Where, Who and Why) before March 31, 2021.

*I Was There by JR Snook (cover price £7.99 but £10 including postage and packing), is published by Caboodle Books and can be ordered by contacting the author by e-mail: . First edition signed copies are available.


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