Graeme Hick

Born and raised in Rhodesia, which gained official independence as Zimbabwe in 1980, Graeme Hick was considered promising enough to be selected for the Zimbabwe squad for the 1983 Cricket World Cup at the age of 17, while still at school. He did not play in that tournament, but made his first-class debut for a Young Zimbabwe against Young West Indies at Harare in October that year.

In 1984, Hick joined Worcestershire on a Zimbabwe Cricket Union scholarship and made his first-class debut in Britain in the final County Championship match of the season, against Surrey at Kennington Oval, London. He did not bat in the first innings but, batting at number nine, contributed 82 not out to a total of 327 in the second innings.

Having already played international cricket for Zimbabwe, Hick had to wait the mandatory seven-year qualifying period before being eligible to play Test cricket for England. By the time he made his Test debut, against West Indies at Headingley in June, 1991, he had already made a huge impact in county cricket. Indeed, he came to the crease with 57 first-class centuries to his name, including a County Championship record 405 not out against Somerset at Taunton in May, 1988.

His Test debut, although eagerly-awaited, proved to be an anti-climax. He was caught at the wicket off the bowling of Courtney Walsh for just six in the first innings and clean bowled by Curtley Ambrose for the same score in the second. Of course, Hick went on to enjoy a long, illustrious career during which he scored over 40,000 first-class runs, including 136 centuries, at an average of 52.53. However, his 65 Test matches yielded just 3,383 runs which, while not exactly a paltry total, represents an average of 31.32, or an underachievement when compared to his first-class record as a whole.

Brooklyn Dodgers

Of course, it has a long time – in fact, as long ago as 1957 – since Brooklyn Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles, California, to become Los Angeles Dodgers. The team originally known as Brooklyn Atlantics was founded in 1883 and has won the World Series seven times in its history, in 1955, 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981, 1988 and 2020. However, earlier in its history, Brooklyn Dodgers earned an unwanted, but throughly deserved, reputation as ‘nearly men’ as far as the World Series was concerned.

Under the management of Wilbert ‘Uncle Robbie’ Robinson, Brooklyn Robins, as the team was known as the time, first appeared in the World Series in 1916, losing 4-1 to Boston Red Sox. A 5-2 defeat at the hands of Cleveland Indians followed in 1920 and the Dodgers did not make the World Series again until 1941, by which time Leo ‘Lippy’ Durocher was at the helm. A 4-1 defeat by New York Yankees took the Dodgers record to 0-3 and worse was to follow.

In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers made history by signing the first black player in modern major league baseball, Jackie Robinson. Robinson won the inaugural Rookie of the Year award, but could not prevent a 4-3 defeat by the New York Yankees in the World Series. Indeed, Robinson must have become sick of the sight of New York Yankees, who beat Brooklyn Dodgers three more times in the World Series, winning 4-1 in 1949, 4-3 in 1952 and 4-2 in 1953, before the Dodgers won their inaugural title.

Finally, defending an unenviable 0-7 record, they managed to inflict the Yankees’ first lost in the World Series since 1942 when winning 4-3 at Yankee Stadium in 1955. Ironically, Robinson did not play in the World Series game, having been replaced in the line-up by third baseman Don Hoak.

 

David Bentley

At various stages of his career, former England footballer David Bentley was described as ‘a great talent with a big future’ and, albeit rather optimistically, as the ‘new David Beckham’. However, in a career dogged by a serious gambling addiction and a perceived lack of commitment, particularly as far as the England national team was concerned, Bentley never really fulfilled his potential for club or country. He did win seven senior international caps for England in 2007 and 2008, finishing on the winning side five times, but started just once, in a friendly against Switzerland at Wembley Stadium in February, 2008. In June, 2014, Bentley tearfully announced his retirement from professional football live on Sky Sports, admitting that he ‘fallen out of love with the game’.

Predominantly a right-sided midfielder, Bentley made his one and only Premier League appearance for Arsenal in a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth at Fratton Park in May, 2004. He spent the 2004/05 season on loan at Norwich City, who were relegated from the Premier League on the final day of the season, and the start of 2005/06 season on loan at Blackburn Rovers. After a successful loan spell at Ewood Park, Bentley signed permanently for Blackburn Rovers in January, 2006. He made an immediate impact, scoring a hat-trick in a 4-3 home victory over Manchester United in February, 2006 and went on to score 13 goals in 88 appearances for Blackburn Rovers.

In July, 2008, by which time his England career was nigh on over, Bentley signed for Tottenham Hotspur. He scored just twice in 42 appearances for his new club, but his most memorable contribution was a spectacular, dipping volley from 43 yards in a 4-4 against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in October, 2008. From 2011 onwards, Bentley spent time on loan at Birmingham City, West Ham United, FC Rostov – in the Russian Premier League – and Blackburn Rovers, again, before being released by Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.

Lee Sharpe

Born and bred in Halesowen, West Midlands, Lee Sharpe was just 16 years old when he made his professional debut for Torquay United, in Football League Division Four, but made just 14 appearances for the Seagulls inthe 1987/88 season. He quickly attracted the attention of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and duly joined the Red Devils, for £185,000, in June, 2008.

Unsurprisingly, Sharpe took some time to adjust to life at Old Trafford, but was named PFA Young Player of the Year in 1990/91 and, in an eight-year period, would go on to make 264 appearances in all competitions for Manchester United. He won the Premier League three times, the FA Cup twice, and the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup once apiece, so to label him a ‘nearly man’ may appear, at first glance, unfair.

However, a personality clash with Ferguson – whom Sharpe described as ‘a very scary man at the best of times’ – not to mention a liking for the celebrity lifestyle off the field, led to ‘a few run-ins’ over the years and ultimately led to his sale to Leeds United in 1996. To be fair to Sharpe, injuries and illness did not help his cause and he was shuffled down the pecking order behind Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Denis Irwin but, at the age of 25, his Manchester United career was over. His subsequent career, with Leeds United, Bradford, Portsmouth and, finally, Icelandic club Grindavik, was an anti-climax.

Aged 17 years and 256 days, Sharpe had the distinction of being the youngest player to play for the England Under-21 national team, but he made just eight full appearances for England; the last of them came in a World Cup qualifying match against the Netherlands in Rotterdam in October, 1993