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Buddy Golly! The miracle baby with no heartbeat goes home

2 Feb

Buddy leaves hospital...all 2 kilos of him

BUDDY John Harry Holmes entered this world silently on December 14, 2011 – and it was three minutes before he drew his first breath.
My daughter Hayley’s third child arrived 12 weeks early and weighed less than a kilo. For those first terrifying moments of his life, he also had no heartbeat. How times change!

On Wednesday this week, the little mite left hospital with his mum and dad, the intrusive array of tubes that had decorated and invaded his little body for weeks all long gone.
For the first week of his life, it was touch-and-go for Buddy. Dragged out of Hayley’s womb by Caesarean section, he survived because of her intuition that something was amiss with the 28-week embryo.
A scan revealed that the waters surrounding Buddy had all leaked away – and medics ordered an immediate emergency delivery.
Hayley and her partner  Steve Holmes learned later that the baby would have died within two hours had he been left in the womb.
As it was, he survived not only those first breathless, heart-stopping moments, but also being half-strangled by his umbilical cord.
For a week, he remained in an incubator in Intensive Care, listed as ‘critical’.
Then the miracle of life kicked in big time. And when he left hospital this week, Buddy’s birthweight had more than doubled to 4lb 7oz.

So tiny...that's Buddy, not dad

In seven weeks, the wizened mini-alien had transitioned into a chubby little boy – albeit still only the size of a man’s shoe.
Hayley and Steve had named him seconds after he was born, fearing he would not survive.
Instead, he has become a picture of health, so pardon this column’s nepotism as the family drink a toast to the little one’s future.
Mine’s a Bud, by the way.

TEN scrummy rugby tales that prove sport can be a real laugh

13 Jan

During  more than three decades in Fleet Street, I heard more 0ffbeat tales about sports celebrities than I care to remember – many of them first-hand from colleagues who witnessed the event. These 10 anecdotes are just a few  of the funnies I picked up from rugby players and journalists  (both union and league). And whilst I suspect one or two of the anecdotes  may be apocryphal, does it really matter as long as they tickle the laughter buds?

DON’T CALL US: During their 1978 tour of Australia, the great Welsh team of that era tried all sorts of devious methods to get freebie phone calls through to their wives and loved ones back home. The players resorted to tricks like asking restaurant proprietors if they could use the phone – and then calling the other side of the world when the proprietor thought they were ringing a local number. Prop forward Charlie Faulkner – a not-so-bright member of the legendary Pontypool front row – opted for a different tactic at the reception that followed the first Test match in Brisbane. He picked up the house phone, got through to the hotel switchboard and barked out his home number in

Charlie Faulkner got his lines crossed

Newport. ‘’To whom do I charge the call?’’ asked the operator. ‘’Err…Mr Dawes. John Dawes,’’ mumbled Charlie, figuring he could get the tour coach to pick up the tab. ‘’Please remain by the phone for a moment, Mr Dawes, and I’ll call you back,’’ came the reply. Charlie replaced the receiver and got back to the business of drowning his sorrows after a rare defeat. By the time the call came through a few minutes later, he was in another world. ‘’Ullo,’’ said Charlie. ‘’I have a call to South Wales for Mr John Dawes,’’ confirmed the operator. Charlie took a quick look around. ‘’He’s not here,’’ he barked – and hung up.

GUMETH THE HOUR: Cliff Morgan, the rugby maestro who later became a commentator and eventually head of BBC TV sport, vividly recalls his first broadcasting experience. Wales had just beaten Ireland 14-3 in Dublin on their way to the Triple Crown and Grand Slam when BBC radio commentator Sammy Walker asked the great man what he remembered about the match. ‘’My father losing his teeth,’’ said Cliff. ‘’When Ken Jones scored our second try, dad was so excited that his dentures flew out of his mouth into the crowd and he hasn’t seen them since.’’ Some years later, Morgan was recounting the tale to Tony O’Reilly, who played 29 times for his country before becoming a mega-rich international businessman and head of the Heinz empire. O’Reilly, who was renowned for his great wit, feigned surprise at the news. ‘’Your father’s, were they?’’ he said. ‘’That’s amazing. I know the guy in Cork who’s still wearing them.’’ On another occasion, O’Reilly had to make a brief trip to a Dublin hospital after being involved in a minor traffic accident. With medical treatment in Ireland charged on a sliding scale according to income, the nurse who was filling in the details on his behalf asked: ‘’Mr O’Reilly, do you earn more than 10,000 punts (pounds)?’’ Quipped Tony: ‘’Now that depends on whether you are talking about the hour or the day.’’

HEADS WE WIN: Wales coach Clive Rowlands was giving his customary pre-match talk before an all-important international at Cardiff Arms Park. As usual, the players were locked into Room 338 at the nearby Angel Hotel – and the emotive Rowlands was pounding them with reasons why they had to grind the opposition into the dust. By the time he had finished working on their emotions, the wound-up stars were ready to die for their country – literally. ‘’What are you going to do?’’ Rowlands bellowed as the electric atmosphere reached fever pitch. ‘’WIN!’’ yelled the players. ‘’What are we going to do?’’ echoed Clive. ‘’Win, win …WIN!’’ It was all too much for second-row forward Geoff Wheel. The big man from Swansea worked himself into a frenzy and, screaming ‘’Kill, KILL!‘’, he charged at the door to Room 338 – and butted a hole clean through it.

A FATE WORSE THAN BREATH: After four years in the England team, veteran prop Paul Rendall had seen it all. So it was only natural he should want to put new boy Paul Ackford’s mind at ease as they prepared to face Australia at Twickenham. ’’Don’t worry,’’ Rendall assured police inspector Ackford in the changing room before the match. ’’The game will fly by. You’ll find the first half seems like three minutes and the second half four minutes.’’ England went on to produce a dazzling performance and were within five minutes of a memorable victory when Ackford staggered up to Rendall during an injury stoppage. ‘’You’re a f***ing liar!’’ gasped the 6ft 6in second row. ‘’I’ve been out here for four-and-a-half hours and the game’s still not over.‘’

LATE MOMENTS IN SPORT: The British Lions were given a fearful runaround by the Orange Free State outside half during a particularly traumatic 1980 tour match. In the end, Lions centre Ray Gravell could stand no more. As the South African danger man made yet another break, the Welsh tough guy hit him with a fearful tackle long after he had parted with the ball. The referee angrily called the Llanelli star over and proceeded to dish out the severest of reprimands. ‘’That was the latest tackle I’ve ever seen!’’ he stormed. Replied wisecracking Gravell: ‘’Sorry ref, I got there as quickly as I could.’’

STICKY WAGER: It certainly wasn’t the weather that took York Rugby League coach Bill Reilly and Aussie scout Arthur Clues to Batley. The Mount Pleasant ground was anything but pleasant as the wind howled, the rain sheeted down – and the teams made a forlorn attempt to play rugby in a mudbath. With scarcely a minute left to play, neither side had scored a single point. Then Batley, playing up the hill and into the gale, won a penalty way out on the touchline. As their fullback lined up an ambitious pot at goal, Yorkshireman Reilly turned to Clues and wagered: ‘’I bet you a dollar he kicks it.’’ ‘’You’re on,’’ replied Clues. The kicker squelched through his run-up, only to slip in the quagmire at the moment of contact – and the ball trickled just a few inches forward as he plunged onto his back in the mud. ‘’I told you he’d kick it,’’ said Reilly, holding out his hand for his winnings.

ARMS AND THE MAN: There was no question of injured Tommy Martin making his own way off the field. The Leigh and Great Britain second row needed a stretcher after taking a bad knock on his ankle – but the one and only St John Ambulance stretcher was already occupied by another player. As Martin lay writhing on the ground and the fans bayed for the action to restart, desperate officials grabbed an office chair from the clubhouse and dashed on to the pitch with it. Martin was lifted gingerly into the seat, and with one embarrassed committee man either side, the chair was hoisted into the air by its arms. With the crowd roaring their approval, Martin was steered tentatively towards the dressing room . Five seconds later, there was a huge crack and the committee men were left holding a chair arm each as the seat and legs tipped Martin out – straight onto his damaged ankle.

GRIN AT THE DEEP END: To celebrate Leigh’s feat in avoiding relegation, coach Tom Grainey took his strugglers on holiday to Majorca. Some months later, his assistant Colin Clarke was reflecting on the break in the changing room at Hilton Park. ‘’Remember it, lads?’’ he mused. ‘’All that sun and San Miguel…and old Grainey up on the top diving board doing a double somersault with pike?’’ With that, prop forward Derek Pyke chirped up: ‘’Hey, it weren’t me. I were out on a training run.’’

WIGAN’S BIG ‘UN: The groupie girl outside Wigan’s Riverside Club eyed up the town’s new Rugby League hero – and liked what she saw. ‘’Hiya, big boy,’’ she said to burly South African Nick Du Toit, her eyes settling on the most personal part of the 6ft 3in forward’s anatomy. ‘’Tell me, are you built in proportion all over?’’ ‘’Listen, lady,’’ replied Du Toit in his clipped Afrikaans tones. ‘’If I was built in proportion, I’d be 12 foot ten!’’

AN ED FULL OF NOTHING: Tough-guy Eddie Szymala was in the wars again. And after the beefy but intellectually-challenged Barrow forward broke his jaw in a match against Oldham, coach Frank Foster was quick to pay tribute to the wounded hero. ‘’Eddie doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear,’’ Foster told the assembled press. ‘’Mind you, there are a million other words he doesn’t know the meaning of, either.’’

From Liverpool to Leeds: Ten hilarious football tales

3 Jan

During my 30-plus  years working for national newspapers in the UK, I heard more 0ffbeat tales about sports celebrities than I care to remember – many of them first-hand from colleagues who were there at the time. You’ll find links to a whole series of anecdotes on the Home Page of  this website – but here are a few tasters to get your laughter buds baying for more. And yes, I do suspect one or two of the stories may be apocryphal. But who cares as long as they make people smile…

LATE NIGHT EXTRA: Legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was fuming on the night several of his superstars arrived back at their Belgian hotel 45 minutes later than the boss. ”Where do you lot think you’ve been?’’ blazed Shanks as international quartet Ron Yeats, Ian St John, Roger Hunt and Ian Callaghan returned from a drinking session well after the boss’s midnight curfew. ”That’s it!’’ he ranted at Yeats, St John and Hunt. ”You’ll never play for Liverpool again – and you can forget about international football as well. You’re finished!.’’ Then, turning to his blue-eyed boy Callaghan, he added: ”And I’m going to tell your missus about you.”

DON’T CRY FOR LEE: Manager Gordon Lee wanted a word with his Newcastle chairman Stan Seymour. He marched into the club chief’s office, only to be told by a secretary: ‘’Mr Seymour is not available. He’s gone to see Evita.’’ Lee retorted: ‘’I don’t think so. He wouldn’t go and watch a foreign player without telling me first.’’ When Lee moved on to manage Everton, the Merseyside media soon discovered his geographical knowledge matched his familiarity with Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. After a dismal showing in a home Cup Winners’ Cup leg against Standard Liege, defiant Gordon looked ahead to the return in Belgium and rapped: ‘’Just wait until we get them in Standard!’’

EMMY AWARD: Hard-man Tommy Smith had two pet hates in football – Leeds United’s Allan Clarke and his own skipper at Liverpool, Emlyn Hughes. And not necessarily in that order. When Hughes clashed with Clarke in a goalmouth melee and old squeaky voice Emlyn found himself on the deck with blood pouring from his nose, Smithy showed himself in his true colours. ”Maybe that Clarke’s not such a bad bloke after all,” muttered Tom the compassionate.

With manager Jock Stein in hospital, Celtic No.2 Sean Fallon was dealing with press enquiries at Parkhead. When one reporter phoned to enquire about an injury to Scotland full-back Danny McGrain, Irishman Fallon admitted: ‘’I don’t think he’ll make Saturday’s game. He’s suffering from a Grain stroin.’’

GENTLE-MAN JIM: It threatened to be a bloody battle. Spurs and Burnley had fought out a particularly vicious FA Cup stalemate – and the replay promised to be even more physical. The teams were kicking in before the game when Jimmy Greaves, who was never noted for his ball-winning ability, approached his equally timid-tackling opposite number Jimmy McIlroy. ‘’Hey Jim, why don’t we mark each other?,’’ said goal-king Greavsie. ‘’Then neither of us will get hurt.’’

TOM AND JURY: Tommy Docherty was always the first person to poke fun at himself – as with his version of the

Tommy Docherty: Success as a failure

infamous court case in which he was accused of perjury – and acquitted. ‘’I admitted to the judge I’d lied on oath, but he didn’t believe me,’’  is one of the one-time Manchester United boss’s classic quips. Tongue-in-cheek Tom is also particularly proud of his dubious achievement as manager of Rotherham United. ‘‘I promised the chairman I’d get them out of the Second Division (now the Championship) and I did,’’ he recalls. ‘’I took them into the Third.’’

EIRE RAID WARNING: League of Ireland champions Shamrock Rovers were convinced they had the answer to mighty Honved of Hungary in the European Cup, The lads from Dublin trailed 2-0 from the away leg, but on the eve of the return manager Jim McLaughlin unveiled a unique plan for beating the magnificent Magyars. ‘’We’ll be concentrating on all-out attack…mixed with caution,’’ he insisted. No prizes for guessing who won the tie 5-1 on aggregate.

BETTER BY CALF: England legend Nat Lofthouse reckons he was frightened of his own Bolton teammates in his playing days. Well, two of them anyway. Full-backs Roy Hartle and Tommy Banks had such a fearsome reputation that striker Lofthouse maintained: ‘’When they were playing behind me I used to put shin guards on the back of my calves.’’

THE BALD TRUTH: Rival Midlands bosses Ron Atkinson and Jim Smith decided to travel together to a dinner they were both attending. Their teams had been having mixed fortunes, with Atkinson’s West Brom near the top of the old First Division (the Premier League’s predecessor) and Smith’s Birmingham seemingly heading for relegation. They pulled their vehicle into a multi-storey car park near the function venue, left it on the top deck, and got into the lift. Big Ron turned to the Bald Eagle and quipped: ‘’You’d better press the button because it’s you who’s going down.’’

NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY: Peter Withe’s whip-round was apparently for the driver taking the Aston Villa players to their pre-season friendly in Dusseldorf. But the man behind the steering wheel didn’t get a pfennig. Withe invested the money in an inflatable rubber sex doll, which was duly named Doris and went on to become part of Villa folklore. The obliging lady was adorned with the number 12 on her back – and the name of newlywed Colin Gibson’s wife across her torso. She was then left in a suitably compromising position in Gibson’s room at the team hotel. Gibbo was not amused – and poor Doris proved no match for him or the pair of scissors with which he cut her to shreds.