Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Advent 14

Possessed by a Faldoesque craving for perfection, Jonny Wilkinson is an altogether more lovable icon than the golfer. But make no mistake, both were possessed by a devilish attention to detail.

He was self-endangeringly committed to his cause and combined this with a technique honed by hours of practice. That drop-goal says it all - delivered clinically and decisively off the 'wrong' foot. A genuine hero - as revered in his adopted Toulon as on this side of the Channel.

Advent 13

There is no gainsaying the record of Tiger Woods but in all honesty I have never warmed to the man. He dominated golf in an unparalleled manner but it would seem the golfing gods are not to be mocked and his fall from grace was spectacular. He will be back but without his previous psychological edge.

I start with the case of Woods because when I admit my coolness to him it makes my next choice on the list seem a little contrary. I choose a player nowhere near as talented or prolific though nonetheless a titan of the sport. This man had and even more tetchy relationship with the press and he could behave with a stunning lack of grace. However this is what he was: a completely dedicated sportsman who got the utmost out of his game. He was thoroughly un-English in his commitment to professional sport and I admired him for it. Nick Faldo always gave us the spectacle of someone doing his damnedest to win. The contrast between him and Greg Norman in that Masters final round of 1996 was as telling a moment as the crucible of top sport can provide.

Tomorrow another slave to his profession/art.  

Monday, 11 December 2017

Advent 12

I promised you that this boy has a good engine, in fact some of his less charitable critics have alleged that Chris Froome must have a secret motor on his bike.

It is all too easy to be sceptical about cycling's grand tours, what with the industrial scale cheating in which Lance Armstrong participated. However a part of me has to say that you'd practically need to be on drugs to contemplate tackling these races.

Froome won his fourth Tour de France this year, but more enthralling still was his victory in La Vuelta in Spain. This was unfinished business for Froome and by landing that title he embedded himself amongst the modern greats. Not Eddie Mercx but still bloody impressive. Arise Sir Chris?  

Advent 11

The snow is lying all around, deep and crisp and even.

At number 10 we had Bryan Robson, of whom it was surely said (by Ron Atkinson you would expect) that the boy had a a good engine. Well, today's great has possibly the best engine of all time. Sir Mo Farah who can run the last lap of a 10000 metre race far faster than most humans can run that lap fresh. A great champion and a proud immigrant to and advocate for this tired old island of ours. His mien is generally uplifting and it is sad that our beastly press can sometimes be seen to bring down his mood. GOAT? In British terms undoubtedly.

Tomorrow, another good engine who has had trouble with certain elements of the press.

Advent 10

A great pub debate is to name the best player you ever saw playing. ICW and I have played this game about the best players we saw playing for West Bromwich Albion. For him it is the late Laurie Cunnigham. I think that's a good call but there is one even better in my mind. Bryan Robson was athletic, ridiculously brave and, like Martin Johnson in a different sport, a leader by example. He might, in my view, have been England's greatest centre back had he been deployed there but instead he dominated the hub of midfield and scored a lot more than his fair share of goals. He may be best remembered for his Manchester United achievements but he remains my favourite Albion legend.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Advent 9

It's the almost legendary Roberts Christmas party tonight so I'm in preparation mode and have little time to blog. I'll be brief. For those familiar with my opinions on rugby football, today's nominee will come as no surprise. For technical grasp of her position coupled with physical equipment, I have never seen a better player than Maggie Alphonsi. I'm not a big one for nicknames but Maggie "the Machine" does convey something of her relentlessness.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Advent 8

Yesterday we had the image that has come to haunt English football. Today we have the picture that warms the heart of English rugby fans but with every passing year makes those fans yearn for the good old days: Martin Johnson lets out a triumphal roar and holds the Webb Ellis Cup aloft.

Of all the achievements of Northern Hemisphere rugby (and I include in this the astounding Lions teams of the seventies) I just about rate the 2003 world Cup win as the pinnacle. Johnson was at the forefront - indomitable and suitably vicious, the man others followed unquestioningly. The team was put together with obsessive drive by the frankly bonkers Clive Woodward. Luck played its part - for example Johnson was not Woodward's first choice as captain - that was Dallaglio who got blown out of the water (but not out of the team - Woodward always knew which side his bread was buttered) by that unlamented journalistic coup, a New of the World entrapment. As Millwall fans and Brian Moore have been known to say: no one likes us, we don't care.