As the 1960s moved into the 1970s, Liverpool and Leeds continued their sustained battle at the top of English football – punctuated by Arsenal’s double-winning triumph of 1971. The World Cup victory of 1966 would not be repeated in 1970 although England’s campaign in Mexico left many memories. The FA Cup was still highly popular throughout the country and the 1970s produced memorable upsets.
Strong British managers continued to inspire the leading football teams and the decade saw, at their best, many figures (from Bill Shankly to Brian Clough) whose reigns will last in sporting memory. Off the pitch, the tragedy at Ibrox stadium in 1971 would, devastatingly, be just one of a series of stadium disasters over two decades.
The Five Nations rugby union championship enjoyed great popularity – aided by the attraction of colour television (first introduced into sport at Wimbledon in 1967). The late 1960s and the early 1970s were years of success for the Welsh rugby team with players worthy of the rugby gods. If rugby encapsulated the national pride of Wales, no greater smile was enjoyed throughout Northern Ireland, and Britain as a whole, than that of Mary Peters in 1972 winning Olympic gold in the pentathlon.
The 1970s were also golden years for horse-racing. Outstanding thoroughbreds created tales that would be celebrated in racing history. As ever, it was another decade of triumph for Britain’s greatest post-war jockey, Lester Piggott. On the motor racing tracks (motorcycle and Formula One) there were both triumphs and sadness.
A number of the leading sporting figures of the era are no longer alive – some suffering the poignancy of an early death. Others recalled in bronze are still very much with us. If televised sport and sponsorship brought greater financial rewards and celebrity status (some would say, too easily) to leading sportsmen, it is notable – and warming – that sculptures and memorials recall figures from this decade whose substance, character and enthusiasm represent the very best in sport.