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Coe and Ovett’s riveting Russian rivalry… 40 years ago the British adversaries locked horns

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coe and ovetts riveting russian rivalry 40 years ago the british adversaries locked horns

They don’t see so much of each other now, those two old boys. Never did, truth be told. But they know they will be together for ever, their names locked in one of sport’s eternal dances. Ovett and Coe. Coe and Ovett. The order always mattered.

Which is why one of them is chuckling about a story. About a rare evening when they did sit at a table and, even in jest, couldn’t quite give a yard to the other.

‘Occasionally our paths will cross,’ begins the younger man. And obviously the speaker is Sebastian, now Lord Coe, who is 63 and the president of World Athletics. Steve Ovett, one year the elder, doesn’t care for attention and was never fussed about this sort of chat. Sportsmail sent a message to him in Australia, where he has lived for three decades, and the wait for a reply is into its seventh week.

Sebastian Coe (centre) and Steve Ovett (left) had a fierce rivalry at the 1980 Moscow Games

Sebastian Coe (centre) and Steve Ovett (left) had a fierce rivalry at the 1980 Moscow Games

Sebastian Coe (centre) and Steve Ovett (left) had a fierce rivalry at the 1980 Moscow Games

But Coe is on good form and so he takes us back into his memories. In time he will talk about Moscow and swastikas and the day, 40 years ago on Sunday, that he ‘ran like a c***’ in the Olympic 800m final. He also will talk about taunts from Daley Thompson, a remarkable redemption in the 1500m and the way it was. But before that he recalls his chance reunion in 2006 and a dynamic that will probably never change.

‘It was at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games,’ Coe says. 

‘Steve was doing commentary work and asked if I would sit with his son Freddie (who was 12 at the time) while he was doing his final stint. Afterwards the three of us had supper.

Now president of World Athletics, Coe said he sometimes crosses paths with his former rival

Now president of World Athletics, Coe said he sometimes crosses paths with his former rival

Now president of World Athletics, Coe said he sometimes crosses paths with his former rival

‘We were chatting about the build-up to Moscow and in a rare moment of candour I said that on Christmas Day 1979 I’d done a 13-mile uphill run from the Peak District into Sheffield. It was a wintry scene.

‘I told him that I got back, had my Christmas lunch, sat down for the 800th screening of The Dam Busters and I remembered feeling uneasy. I sat there thinking, “I bet he’s out training again”. So compulsively I went upstairs, put my kit on, ran another five miles.

‘I told Steve that story in Australia. And he laughed and said, “Did you only go out twice that day?”’

It was one of the most extra-ordinary rivalries that sport has known and that 800m final, on July 26, 1980, was the most astonishing day within it. If it has a challenger, then it would be the 1500m final six days later.

Coe was the clear favourite for the 800m and the hottest ticket in athletics, after setting world records in the 800m, 1500m and mile across 41 days in 1979. Ovett was 11-4 to win the 1500m, at which he was unbeaten for three years and shared the world record with Coe. He had also reclaimed the mark for the mile.

For two men with such similarities, their differences made a frenzied narrative. Coe was painted as the university kid of Sheffield, a clean-cut, slightly flash, middle-class star who obsessed on details; Ovett was the moodier, introverted son of a market trader from Brighton, a grafter fronting up to privilege.

The runners themselves — friends? No, nothing approaching that until retirement. Enemies? Not quite that, either.

Coe captures the grey area well: ‘We both knew that to come home with anything we were probably going to have to demolish 10 years of unremitting slog in each other’s lives.’

That they had only previously raced twice, at the 1972 English Schools Cross Country Championships and the 1978 Europeans, made it all the more intriguing as Coe, 23, and Ovett, 24, boarded their flight to Moscow for the Olympics. What played out on that plane itself was an amusing snapshot of the situation.

The two runners competed in the 800m and 1500m with each coming away with a gold medal

The two runners competed in the 800m and 1500m with each coming away with a gold medal

The two runners competed in the 800m and 1500m with each coming away with a gold medal

‘I got on to the plane late and realised there was only one seat left and it was next to Steve,’ Coe says. ‘A couple of team officials realised somebody at British Airways thought this was very amusing and before I’d made it a further two rows down, another seat was miraculously found.

‘When we got there the British Olympic Association had managed to put us in virtually different wings and floors. The first time I actually saw him was when we travelled to the race.’

Coe, who had avoided Ovett through two heats, has long described the 800m final as the ‘worst race of my life’, a storm of tactical errors, championship inexperience and nerves.

In regard of the latter, he had already been through significant psychological turmoil building up to a Games that had been widely boycotted owing to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was opposed to British participation; Coe was noisily in favour.

‘I was doing a degree in history and economics at the time and I did actually sit down and try to make a sensible judgment about what was right,’ he says. ‘Not everybody thought it was the right judgment — I did end up with a swastika being painted on my garage. It was a difficult time.’

Coe said he was desperate not to feel the same heartache after losing the 800m final

Coe said he was desperate not to feel the same heartache after losing the 800m final

Coe said he was desperate not to feel the same heartache after losing the 800m final

Who knows how the months of anxiety about Britain’s participation contributed to the wider anxieties that helped Coe blow the race of his life. What is indisputable is that he was struggling badly by the day of his big showdown with Ovett.

‘Normally I can sleep through anything,’ Coe says. ‘The world can be crashing around my feet, as occasionally it does, and I still sleep. That was the only time in the lead-up to a race and certainly post-Moscow that I’ve ever had a problem sleeping.

‘I also remember sitting with my father (Peter, his coach) in the village having breakfast the following day. I was putting milk on my corn flakes and I dropped the jug. I felt very out of synch with myself and I guess that summed up for me the difference between my experience of mostly one-day meets and an Olympic Games.’

With journalists listening, Peter Coe told his son after the 800m final that he ‘ran like a c***’. This appalled a few, though not the recipient, who agreed.

He tends to buy into the idea that the East German runners teamed up to force him wide, which in turn saw him last with barely 200m to go, but he knows the fault was his own. Ovett met the same traffic, read the danger early, and used his elbows to get through off the final bend, crossing in 1min 45.4sec. Coe kicked from fourth to silver at the death and finished half a second back. With a personal best two seconds better than the field, it was a disaster for Coe and the aftermath was quite something.

He was heavily criticised in the media and found the going no easier in his own bedroom, which he shared with two gold medallists, Daley Thompson and Allan Wells, as well as Brendan Foster.

‘The following morning I was buried in bed,’ he says. ‘I said something lame to Daley like, “What’s the weather out there?” And as he ripped open the curtains he said, “It looks a bit silver”. It was the Daley Thompson school of psychotherapy.’

Coe roomed with Daley Thompson (left) who gave him some tough love after his defeat

Coe roomed with Daley Thompson (left) who gave him some tough love after his defeat

Coe roomed with Daley Thompson (left) who gave him some tough love after his defeat

His late father was more measured in the coming days. Coe says that to his ‘dying day’ Coe Snr regretted having not broached the subject of his son’s pre-800m nerves for fear of compounding the problem. Ahead of the 1500m, he sat with his son and said: ‘This is up to you, you’re in the shape of your life, you don’t become a bad athlete overnight.’

From the paralysis of nerves, Coe was riding on his anger, and says: ‘I know it sounds odd but it didn’t matter that I’d lost to Steve.

‘The only thing that drove me for those days between the 800m and the 1500m was I never wanted to feel like that again. I was prepared to die with blood in my boots in the stadium for the 1500m.’

The two runners were kept apart ahead of their races which intensified the competition

The two runners were kept apart ahead of their races which intensified the competition

The two runners were kept apart ahead of their races which intensified the competition

On the warm-up track, prior to that rematch, Steve Cram, then in the early throes of his own rise, has previously noted how the roles had reversed from the first race. He observed Ovett nervously asking his coach Harry Wilson over and again where Coe was standing. Coe, for his part, just paced. When Ovett approached Coe to make conversation, the latter just grunted.

From there, for the second thrilling time, the man expected to win ended up losing. Coe, arms outstretched, took gold in 3:38.4. Ovett was third.

In his autobiography, Ovett recalled a conversation that played out in the dope-testing room: ‘I passed him (Coe) a drink and he said, “So you got silver then?” “No, I got bronze,” I replied. “Oh good”. Those two words told me more about the man than the race did.’

The shame for those involved in the era is that they raced only seven times in 20 years.

After Moscow, they would go twice more in the 1984 Olympics — when Coe got 800m silver and 1500m gold and Ovett faded in both — and for a final time in Birmingham in 1989. Coe won that last duel and Ovett was in tears at the close.

Maybe the sport needed to do more to bring them together. Maybe the scarcity was part of the rivalry’s beauty, with two immense talents kept apart except for the days that mattered most, and snatching records off each other in the gaps. Indeed, a year after those 1980 Games, Coe and Ovett traded the mile record three times in nine days, each time in the absence of the other.

That was them. Always together, always apart, always the benchmark for sport at its best. Coe-Ovett. Ovett-Coe. An order that meant everything and nothing.

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Can you guess the Football League’s new longest serving manager? Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola feature

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can you guess the football leagues new longest serving manager jurgen klopp pep guardiola feature

Harrogate Town’s victory over Notts County in the National League play-off final secured their place in the Football League for the first time in the club’s history, a landmark day for the Yorkshire club.

The Sulphurites’ win at Wembley also saw their boss, Simon Weaver, gatecrash a group of managers who have enjoyed positive tenures at their clubs over the past few seasons. 

Weaver, 42, is now the longest-serving manager in the Football League, elevating himself to the top of a list of excellent names at impressive clubs. 

Harrogate Town's promotion to League Two sees their manager join a list of illustrious names

Harrogate Town's promotion to League Two sees their manager join a list of illustrious names

Harrogate Town’s promotion to League Two sees their manager join a list of illustrious names

The win makes manager Simon Weaver the longest-serving manager in the Football League

The win makes manager Simon Weaver the longest-serving manager in the Football League

The win makes manager Simon Weaver the longest-serving manager in the Football League

THE FOOTBALL LEAGUE’S LONGEST-SERVING MANAGERS
Name Club Appointed  Days in charge 
1. Simon Weaver Harrogate Town May 21, 2009  4,098 
2. Gareth Ainsworth  Wycombe Wanderers  September 24, 2012  2,876
3. Sean Dyche  Burnley  October 30, 2012  2,840
4. John Coleman  Accrington Stanley  September 18, 2014  2,152
5. Jurgen Klopp  Liverpool  October 8, 2015  1,767
6. Chris Wilder  Sheffield United  May 12, 2016  1,550
7. Mark Cooper  Forest Green Rovers  May 17, 2016  1,545
8. Pep Guardiola  Manchester City  July 1, 2016  1,500
9. Paul Warne  Rotherham United  November 29, 2016  1,349
10. David Artell  Crewe Alexandra  January 8, 2017  1,309

The Harrogate boss was appointed manager eleven years ago, on May 20, 2009, meaning he has served at the club for 4,098 days as boss. In that time, Chelsea have had 10 different managers, while Watford have had a staggering 14 managers on the touchline. 

Sportsmail takes a look at the managers the 42-year-old has leapfrogged after securing promotion to the Football League with Harrogate Town.  

Gareth Ainsworth may be well known for his quirky dress sense, often wearing an extravagant leather jacket or a pristine shirt, but the Wycombe Wanderers boss has worked wonders at his club for the best part of eight years.

Weaver's 11 years in charge sees him overtake Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth

Weaver's 11 years in charge sees him overtake Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth

Weaver’s 11 years in charge sees him overtake Wycombe Wanderers boss Gareth Ainsworth

He has taken the club from League Two to the Championship during his 2,876 days in charge

He has taken the club from League Two to the Championship during his 2,876 days in charge

He has taken the club from League Two to the Championship during his 2,876 days in charge

The 47-year-old took the helm at The Chairboys on September 24, 2012, a time when Sir Alex Ferguson was still manager of Manchester United and Taylor Swift was top of the UK charts with ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’.

Unlike the intended recipient of that classic hit from Swift, Ainsworth has enjoyed a fantastic relationship with Wycombe Wanderers. This season he capped a remarkable journey from League Two to the Championship, beating Oxford United 2-1 last month to secure their place in the second tier.

Ainsworth is closely followed by Sean Dyche, who has done an outstanding job at Burnley, qualifying for the Europa League two seasons ago. There have been reports of tension between Dyche and chairman Mike Garlick. If the club and Dyche part ways, they’ll be searching for a manager for the first time since October 30, 2012. 

Burnley boss Sean Dyche (right) sits in third while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is fifth

Burnley boss Sean Dyche (right) sits in third while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is fifth

Burnley boss Sean Dyche (right) sits in third while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is fifth

Klopp has delivered Premier League and Champions League titles in his 1,767days at Anfield

Klopp has delivered Premier League and Champions League titles in his 1,767days at Anfield

Klopp has delivered Premier League and Champions League titles in his 1,767days at Anfield

It feels as though Jurgen Klopp only took over at Liverpool very recently, so it will come as a surprise to see the charismatic German on this list in fifth place, behind John Coleman of Accrington Stanley. 

Klopp took over from Brendan Rodgers in October 8, 2015, and has gone on to enjoy huge success with the Reds, ‘turning doubters to believers’ and securing the club’s first Premier League title in 30 years in the process.

Since Klopp’s arrival at Anfield 1,767 days ago, Manchester United have had three different managers in Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, spent roughly £610m and fallen well behind their arch rivals. With a new contract signed until 2024, Klopp could well see himself move to the top of the list if he continues in this vein.

Sheffield United's Chris Wilder (left) is sixth, having won two promotions with the Blades

Sheffield United's Chris Wilder (left) is sixth, having won two promotions with the Blades

Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder (left) is sixth, having won two promotions with the Blades

The 52-year-old has worked wonders at his boyhood club, finishing ninth in the top flight

The 52-year-old has worked wonders at his boyhood club, finishing ninth in the top flight

The 52-year-old has worked wonders at his boyhood club, finishing ninth in the top flight

Just behind Klopp in sixth is Chris Wilder, who was appointed just five days before seventh-placed Mark Cooper of Forest Green Rovers on May 12, 2016.

It would take a spectacular downturn in form, and several armed men, to dislodge Wilder from his boyhood club. The Blades have been taken from League One to ninth in the Premier League during Wilder’s 1,550 days in charge of the club, and they don’t look like taking a backwards step. 

Cooper has been at the helm at Rovers while the club has undertaken a unique and innovative transformation. Since his appointment on May 17, 2016, Rovers have been named the world’s first vegan club

Forest Green Rovers boss Mark Cooper has overseen a huge transformation at the club

Forest Green Rovers boss Mark Cooper has overseen a huge transformation at the club

Forest Green Rovers boss Mark Cooper has overseen a huge transformation at the club

Rovers became the world's first vegan club and named the 'greenest club' during his tenure

Rovers became the world's first vegan club and named the 'greenest club' during his tenure

Rovers became the world’s first vegan club and named the ‘greenest club’ during his tenure

Rovers are a football club who do things differently, and having entered the Football League after promotion in 2017, FIFA have described them as the greenest club in the world with innovative environmental and sustainability policies. 

Occupying eighth position is Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, who, like Klopp, feels like he’s been in England for a shorter period of time than the 1,500 days since his arrival on July 1, 2016. 

After initial doubts among fans and pundits, Guardiola has taken the Premier League by storm. The City boss has won two league titles, three EFL Cups and an FA Cup to boot. The former Barcelona manager’s tenure at the Etihad will be defined by his performance in Europe, with a Champions League title wanted by City’s top brass.

Paul Warne of Rotherham United and David Artell of Crewe Alexandra complete the top 10 longest-serving managers in English football, with the former taking his club back to the Championship having arrived on November 29, 2016, while Artell has led Crewe to promotion to League One this season. 

P.S. Former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe would have been third on the list prior to leaving the club at the start of August as he was in charge of the south-coast side for 2,848 days. 

Man City boss Pep Guardiola is the eight longest-serving manager in the Football League

Man City boss Pep Guardiola is the eight longest-serving manager in the Football League

Man City boss Pep Guardiola is the eight longest-serving manager in the Football League

David Artell of Crewe makes up the top 10, sitting just behind Rotherham boss Paul Warne

David Artell of Crewe makes up the top 10, sitting just behind Rotherham boss Paul Warne

David Artell of Crewe makes up the top 10, sitting just behind Rotherham boss Paul Warne

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6pm Chelsea transfer news LIVE: Blues make £20m John Stones bid, Willian’s emotional goodbye message, Kai Havertz LATEST

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willian onana

WILLIAN has confirmed he is leaving Chelsea, with Arsenal waiting in the wings for the Brazilian.

The attacker played no part in the Blues’ Champions League defeat by Bayen Munich which knocked them out of the competition.

Follow all the latest transfer updates from the Bridge below…

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Man Utd set to let Tahith Chong join Werder Bremen on loan this transfer window, says Bundesliga chief

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man utd set to let tahith chong join werder bremen on loan this transfer window says bundesliga chief scaled

MANCHESTER UNITED’s Tahith Chong could be heading to the Bundesliga with the club willing to let the winger join Werder Bremen on loan. 

Chong, 20, is reported to have had talks with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Friday, following his appearance in United’s Europa League game against LASK. 

Werder Bremen are reported to be keen on a signing Tahith Chong on loan ahead of next season

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Werder Bremen are reported to be keen on a signing Tahith Chong on loan ahead of next seasonCredit: AP:Associated Press

The Netherlands-born winger made a 25-minute appearance as a substitute during United’s 2-1 win against the Austrian club on Thursday. 


MAN UTD NEWS LIVE: Click here for the latest United news


And the Dutch Under-21 international, who’s made just nine appearances in the Europa and Premier Leagues, is keen to get more minutes under his belt. 

According to the Daily Mail, Bremen are eager to sign Chong on a two-year loan deal. 

However a loan fee and salary are reportedly yet to be finalised.

Werder sports director Frank Baumann said: “That we are in exchange is the case. We are in good talks. 

“Several parties are involved. Some things still have to be clarified and we have to agree. As of now, this is not the case.”

Tahith Chong signed a new contract with United in March to keep him at the club until June 2022

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Tahith Chong signed a new contract with United in March to keep him at the club until June 2022Credit: Getty Images – Getty

United are thought to be pressing ahead with plans to sign Dortmund star Jadon Sancho and Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish. 

Should deals for both players go ahead, it is likely Chong could face an uphill struggle to get more game time at Old Trafford. 

The young Dutch winger is well thought of by Solskjaer, who backed the 20-year-old’s contract extension this year. 

VP MAN U STATS 28 JULY

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The new contract, signed in March, means Chong will remain with the club until June 2022. 

Other United players who are targets for Premiership and European sides include Diogo Dalot, Jesse Lingard, and Chris Smalling. 

Dalot is reported to have attracted interest from Everton while Newcastle United are rumoured to be keen on Lingard.

Man Utd transfer target Sancho spotted at UK house party

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