St. Valentine’s Day is upon us once again. It’s a time for love, romance and annoyingly overpriced set menus at high street chain restaurants. While the world’s thoughts turn to affairs of the heart, we still very much remain focused on the world of sport here at Rileys. But that world’s not without its doe-eyed fluffiness too, y’know.
True love is about two people finding each other and building a relationship based on respect, trust and companionship. When a pair of humans come together and commit to one another, it can be a thing of real beauty (blimey, we should write greetings cards, eh?). And perfect partnerships are the cornerstones of many a true sporting triumph too. After all, two heads are better than one, aren’t they? Especially on a double-headed coin.
Anyway, to celebrate February 14th, we thought we’d bring you our top five sporting partnerships. Two people who were all the better for finding each other. These are true love stories, right here…
Lou Gehrig & Babe Ruth
When people think of baseball, it doesn’t take them long before their minds wander to the greats of the sport. And top of that list? Babe Ruth. Not far behind him? His New York Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig, a man whose name would sadly come to be synonymous with the fatal neurological disease that would go on to claim his life. But back in the day (that day was in 1927), the two together were truly a force to be reckoned with. The older Ruth was a mentor to Gehrig and their partnership on the field blossomed. Even after they fell out due to a daft row that kicked off after Lou’s mum criticised Ruth’s adopted daughter’s attire one day. Mums, eh? So EMBARRASSING.
Jane Torvill & Christopher Dean
The course of true love, much like the A329M, never did run smooth. But while that pesky stretch of motorway connecting the satellite towns of Berkshire to the M4 remains bumpy to this day, the fractious relationship between ice skaters Christopher Dean and Jane Torvill has been nicely paved over. The two had their disagreements and Dean’s often bully boy tactics were hard to take at times for the sensitive Torvill. But the two achieved great success that – by themselves – they never would’ve managed.
The two of them won numerous competitions together, including the British, European and World Championships. But it was the 1984 Winter Olympics where they took the world by storm, breaking figure skating records. How? Well, by earning the maximum 6.0 scores from every single judge. Which isn’t bad, is it?
Ferenc Puskas & Alfredo di Stefano
When we think of the modern-day Real Madrid sides, we think of individual greats. Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, David Beckham, Raul… But back in the fifties and sixties, it was all about the remarkable strike partnership forged when a Hungarian and an Argentinian met and decided to form a deadly force. Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo di Stefano were unstoppable together in the legendary white shirts of Real. Puskas scored 157 goals across eight seasons, while his pal was just as prolific with 216 in his eleven years at the club.
The duo’s crowning glory? One fateful night in 1960 at Hampden Park. It was the European Cup final and Madrid were fighting it out with Eintract Frankfurt. The result? Comprehensive. Alfredo bagged a hat trick. His pal? He went one better and scored four…
Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal
Hey, look. Both of these dudes are great in their own right, don’t get us wrong. Shaq’s the man and always will be. And, regardless of what happened in his personal life and what you think of the man, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players to have ever graced the court. But when they played together at the LA Lakers? It was just crazy. They dominated the sport like no other partnership. Sure, they may not have always loved each other. True, at times they merely tolerated each other for the same of the their careers… But what a duo they made nonetheless.
They both joined in 1996 and brought instant success, securing the Lakers’ first NBA Championships in fourteen years. A few years later the pair helped their side win three straight NBA titles, from 2000 to 2002. Pivotal.
Brian Clough & Peter Taylor
We thought we’d save the best – and perhaps sweetest – for last. Brian Clough was a bit of an enigma. A true Marmite character, anyone who remembers him (or has read or seen The Damned United) will know all about his odd personality. But while so many players, other managers, pundits and fans couldn’t stand the abrasive and unique character that was Brian Clough, one man never argued with his strange ways – Clough’s number two, Peter Taylor. A quiet and avuncular man, Taylor was the Yang to Clough’s Yin. And a vital part of how Clough achieved success in the game.
The pair worked together first at Hartlepool, then at Derby County and latterly at Nottingham Forest. They even tasted European Cup success a couple of times. Something beyond the two of their wildest dreams. And it was all down to their pairing and partnership. And, yes, their love. *sniff*
How romantic, eh? Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!