Ten years after England won the football world cup, a group of fans were despairing that since then, their country hadn’t had much success.
So to give everyone some hope, they created a new sport – toe wrestling.
The idea was that if they invented a new sport, the English would be the best in the world at it.
The game is a bit like arm wrestling – competitors play with bare feet and link toes.
Each player’s foot must touch flat against the other’s and the aim is to pin your competitor’s foot for three seconds.
Unfortunately, the first competition was won by a Canadian visitor.
So the following year, the competition was shelved and it wasn’t until 1994, when the original rules were found in the the Royal Oak Pub in Wetton, that the sport was reborn.
The pub’s owner George Burgess decided to get in touch to get the sport registered and created the first official world championships.
It was that event that Alan ‘Nasty’ Nash, now 60, started his toe wrestling career as he went on to be crowned champion.
Since then he has gone on to win 16 times and if he wins the now-postponed 2020 championships, he would be the only sportsman in history to win 17 titles.
The current record is jointly held by Alan and darts player Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor.
His aim is to retire when he meets that milestone as he says that now aged 60, he is competing against (but still beating) people who are much younger.
The 2019 World Toe Wrestling Championships
Speaking about how he got involved back in 1994, Alan, from Stoke-on-Trent, says: ‘I entered as I was working at the championships all day as a light jockey for the bands that were playing after the event.
‘I won and was crowned the first official world champion and have been competing ever since.
‘I won in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.’
Although he has been hugely successful in his toe-wrestling career, it hasn’t been without its challenges.
He sys: ‘In 1997, I broke four toes on my left foot in the semi-final as I took the final point.I just walked off the stage grinning and once I was clear, I snapped them back into place and packed my foot in ice to keep the swelling down. I went into the final and won.
‘Unfortunately, one of the toes did not set correctly and I had to have it taken off in hospital, ground down and reattached 11 months later.’
It meant he wasn’t able to compete in 1998.
The competition was also suspended from 2003 to 2009 after the title was given to his competitor but video footage was played back later and showed that he had won.
He says: ‘It was a very controversial decision which cost me my title, but it was proved that I had indeed won when the video footage was played back later in the evening (there was no VAR back then).
‘There was quite a bit of aggressive behaviour from the spectators towards the officials and the sport was suspended until 2009.’
For many years it took place in the birthplace of the Royal Oak pub but it has been moved to bigger venues in the last few years.
Every year, all proceeds from the world championships each year are donated to The Derby Kids Camp, a charity to help under privileged kids to get a holiday.
Alan was preparing for this year’s competition, due to take place on 20 June, but it has been postponed until later in the year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He says: ‘I train all year round to help stay on top of my game but 12 weeks before the world championships, I will train seven nights a week.
‘Strength helps a lot but my main advantage comes from technique and experience.
‘Most of the contestants I take on these days are at least 30 years younger than me so if I struggle in the first leg, I will change to defensive mode, where I can relax and wait for them to burn themselves out.
‘When I can see they are weakening, I will convert to attack mode and take the point.’
Alan doesn’t just compete in the sport these days – he also jointly owns the World Toe Wrestling Foundation with Ben Woodroffe.
Together they have helped to push the sport more and championships are now held in China, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Canada, USA and Japan.
Although he helps lead the foundation to grow the support, he has no imput on competition day to make sure it is fair.
But he promises that when he wins his 17th title, he will retire from competing, and will take over the running of the event instead.