Sporting glory will never be mine but winning is not always all it's cracked up to be /Sue Plunkett

I've never really been a football fan.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 3:45 pm
It took Sue Plunkett 50 years before she made her first visit to Turf Moor, even though she grew up in the shadow of the stadium

It took me 50 years before I ventured to watch my first Burnley game at Turf Moor even though I grew up within five minutes of the ground.

My dad was more of a cricket fan and I loved watching England play on our old black and white TV set. I was also quite an expert on horse racing thanks to our elderly next door neighbours who used to look after me as a toddler while my parents were at work. Lester Piggott was my favourite jockey.

When I finally did venture onto the hallowed turf, well, I absolutely loved it! I was caught up in the excitement of what turned out to be a thrilling match when Burnley beat Crystal Palace 3-1.

I leapt to my feet with the crowd and cheered each goal, I was glued to the pitch and even though I know little or nothing about the rules I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

And I felt quite sad that I was so late to the party too. I finally understood the passion and excitement the game ignited.

I spent 14 years married to an ardent Liverpool fan who was also a scouser. He was also a sports editor so our lives revolved around the 'beautiful game.'

Imagine if I had been a football fan then? We may never have got divorced!

The looks he used to throw me when his beloved Reds lost and I would say 'well it's only a game.'

Perhaps I never liked football and sport because I was never a sporty child. The thought of competing in any games scared me, if I'm honest perhaps I was afraid of losing?

For whatever reason I was never a competitor until I was compelled to take part in a school swimming gala. It was decades ago but I remember the excitement of the day so clearly as dozens of us took part in the event at the now demolished Gannow Baths in Burnley.

I was competing in a race where you jumped into the pool, swam a length, got out the other side then plunged back in for another length.

I think we had to do about five and, as we got to the final one, I was doing ok. Then I saw the girl in the next lane was crying and struggling to get out of the pool.

Stood on the side I reached down and helped her out as my classmates jeered and shouted 'Noooooo' from the sidelines.

We jumped back into the water and I came third and she was fourth. So no glory for either of us.

My classmates couldn't understand my actions and I felt a bit downcast, until the headteacher came striding up to me to say he had never seen such great sportsmanship.

I didn't really understand what he meant at the time as I had just done what I thought was the right thing.

Yes it's fantastic to win, but not at any cost. That would be such a hollow victory.

There are plenty of fine examples of sportsmanship in the profession but one of my favourites is when Ohio track star and 1600 metre champion Meghan Vogel was competing in the 3200m state championship with junior Arden McMath in 2012

Just a few metres away from the the finish line, McMath suffered cramp in her thigh and had difficulty standing let alone running. Vogel, who was behind her for the better part of the race, refused to over-take her injured opponent. Vogel went to her aid, carrying the fallen runner to the end of the track, where she guided her across the finish line -- ahead of herself.

The crowd gave them both a standing ovation and the story made headlines around the world.

It still gives me goose bumps to this day. Sportsmanship at its very best.