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Alan Hubbard: Murray Simply the Best in 2016 – But of All Time? Not in My Book

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Andy Murray. Photo: Sky Sports

Barring a massive computer cock-up or a questionable slice of rank injustice, Andy Murray will be crowned the BBC Sports Personality of the Year on Sunday (December 18) for the third time, and rightly so. It is a no-brainer after the fabulous year he has had.

When he won Wimbledon in 2013, Murray ended a 77-year wait for a home-grown male champion and he repeated his triumph this year. He has also made history as the first player to retain an Olympic singles title. His 44 career titles leave him well out in front of the British competition, and his three majors place him in elite company worldwide.

That is why he also got my vote as Sportsman of the Year in the annual Sports Journalists Association poll.

And it is believed he has been nominated for a knighthood in the New Year Honors.

He deserves that too.

But incredibly, in my book, he has also been named as the UK’s Sportsperson of All Time in a poll conducted by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Of all time? Surely not?

Much as I admire Murray I simply cannot believe that! Can you?

In front of Sir Bobby Charlton, named at number two, better than Daley Thompson, listed at number three, and Sir Ian Botham, at number four. And most astonishingly of all, better than Sebastian Coe.

His Lordship comes in at only number 16 in the list of 100 of the all-time best of British.

Coe’s citation reads: “Graceful, elegant, jet-heeled, he was a pioneer of proper training methods long before the days of maximizing marginal gains. A captivating middle-distance runner in his pomp, winning successive 1,500m titles in 1980 and 1984 and forging a compelling rivalry with Steve Ovett (named at No 95 incidentally).

“His stewardship of London 2012 was achieved with the same apparently effortless ease.”

Moreover those Olympics surely were Britain’s finest sporting accomplishment and his contribution in winning them for London and orchestrating their success was immense.

And now he heads the world’s largest sporting body in terms of global membership, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Yet apparently this does not qualify him, according to the Telegraph’s jury, of being placed higher than a clutch of sporting knights including Sir Bradley Wiggins, Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Nick Faldo. What? Sir Nick Faldo? You have got to be joking.

Sebastian Coe. theolympians.co
Sebastian Coe. theolympians.co

If that is a slight to Lord Coe then how about Sir Alf Ramsey, the man who masterminded England’s only football World Cup victory? He does not even make the cut.

Neither does Charles Burgess Fry. He was an English sporting all-rounder as well as a politician, diplomat, academic, teacher, writer, editor and publisher, who is best remembered for his career as a cricketer.

The great scribe and commentator John Arlott described him thus: “Charles Fry could be autocratic, angry and self-willed: he was also magnanimous, extravagant, generous, elegant, brilliant – and fun…he was probably the most variously gifted Englishman of any age.”

Fry’s achievements on the sporting field included representing England at both cricket and football, an FA Cup final and equaling the then-world record for the long jump. He was also a rugby player and renowned acrobat who reputedly turned down the throne of Albania.

In later life, he suffered mental health problems, but even well into his 70s he claimed he was still able to perform his party trick: leaping from a stationary position backwards onto a mantelpiece.

At Oxford he gained a total of 12 sporting Blues for representing his university, and in one year he captained the football, athletics and cricket teams. To fill in time he also played rugby union at university, as well as for Blackheath and the Barbarians. In addition he proved himself to be a fine boxer, golfer, swimmer, tennis player, javelin thrower and sculler.

Murray is the only tennis player among the Telegraph’s top 50, yet it is arguable that he is not Britain’s greatest to grace the courts.

Fred Perry is ranked at number 52 yet he won eight major titles, including three straight Wimbledon Championships from 1934 to 1936. He won all four Grand Slams in a four-year period, was world number one and helped Britain to four Davis Cups.

Times were different then of course. Maybe the competition was not as intense but today’s facilities, training methods, diets and living standards are far better…as are the rewards.

The selection process included 13 expert sporting panelists, along with Telegraph sports writers, choosing their top 20 lists. A second element was to invite the public to participate. Correspondents each picked up to 20 contenders in each sport or area, and then readers were asked to vote in an online poll with more than 6,700 subscribers taking part.

With Murray, you can throw in a US Open title as well as his colossal contribution to Britain’s return from the wastelands of the Davis Cup.

It is likely you have heard of most of the likely suspects on the 100-strong list which is liberally sprinkled with lords, knights and dames. From Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Mo Farah, Bobby Moore (but no Sir Geoff Hurst), Sir Roger Bannister and Sir Bradley Wiggins to W.G Grace, Sir Ben Ainslie, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Jonny Wilkinson, George Best, John Charles, Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson and Laura Trott, to name but a few. As well as darts czar Phil Taylor, at number 25, and snooker’s Ronnie O’Sullivan at number 63.

But some are less familiar, like Welsh-born Paulo Radmilovic, at number 94, whose four golds in water polo and swimming across three successive Olympics set a standard not broken for 80 years. Only the First World War, which arrived between his second and third Games, denied him winning more.

Born in Cardiff in 1886, son of a Croatian father and Irish mother, Radmilovic won four gold medals in a remarkable 20-year Olympic career spanning five Games in swimming and water polo.

Then there was a real pioneer of boxing in the 18th century, Jack Broughton at number 66. “The Broughton Rules” contributed to the development of “The Marquis of Queensbury Rules”, still used worldwide today.

Broughton, undefeated in his incredible 42-year career, also invented the first form of padded boxing glove.

From numero uno Murray through to Jimmy Greaves at number 100, the list is absorbing, controversial and doubtless will be the subject of arguments and debates in clubs and pubs as the sporting year closes.

For the record the Telegraph’s top ten are: Andy Murray, Sir Bobby Charlton, Daley Thompson, Sir Ian Botham, Mo Farah, Sir Steve Redgrave, Sir Tony McCoy, George Best, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy.

Oddly, not a female among them. The highest is 12th-placed Jess Ennis-Hill, one below Faldo.

But I seriously doubt even the modest Murray himself would really consider himself as Britain’s greatest ever sports figure.

Surely that has to be Coe?

By Alan Hubbard

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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