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50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: Top 10

So here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for; the top ten British sports stars of all-time! To view the rest of the countdown simply click on the links below the picture. 10

50-41 / 40-31 / 30-21 / 20-11

10: Joe Calzaghe

A two-weight boxing champion with a perfect professional record, Welshman Calzaghe defeated virtually all of the notable names in his weight divisions over the course of a 15-year career.

His final pair of victories against Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. were arguably the most notable scalps on Calzaghe’s CV, albeit both were admittedly past their best. A 2007 BBC Sports Personality of the year award and 2014 induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame were testament to his in-ring excellence and enduring popularity.

9: Sir Ian Botham

One of the greatest  all-rounders the cricket world has ever seen, Botham was England’s talismanic, fearless match winner who overcame an unsuccessful spell as captain to destroy the Australians in 1981 during what came to be known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’.

A series of back issues latterly removed the zip from Beefy’s bowling, but for the first half of his career he was the most exciting cricketer on the planet. Aged 37 Botham found one final burst of form and fitness during the 1992 World Cup, with England making it to the final . A long overdue Knighthood arrived in 2007.

8: Linford Christie

After years of being the bridesmaid, Jamaican born Christie was officially crowned the fastest man on the planet when he blew away the competition to win the 100m Olympic title in Barcelona in 1992.

The following year he added World Championship gold to that, running a time of 9.87 seconds to set a British record that still stands today. That these feats were achieved when well into his 30’s makes them all the more remarkable.

7: Sir Nick Faldo

Faldo’s painstakingly measured approach to each hole made him one of the less exciting golfers during an era of big personalities, but his process brought six major titles, including a hat-trick of Masters green jackets.

His ill-fated captaincy of Britain’s Ryder Cup team in 2008 bore out what many had already suspected, Faldo’s huge ego making him a poor selection for the role. The single-mindedness and unrelenting self-belief that hindered him there were pivotal cogs during his run on top in the 1980’s and 90’s.

6: Sir Denis Compton

Kevin Pietersen has nothing on Compton, the most exciting and innovative batsman England has ever produced.

An average of more than 50 could have been even higher had Compton not been quite as flamboyant, his best Test score of 278 was achieved whilst seemingly attempting to devise as many new shots as possible. Not only was he an outstanding cricketer, he also represented Arsenal FC as a left winger, and even got a dozen caps for the English football team during wartime.

5: Fred Perry

Fred Perry is more than just a clothing line, despite what those adorned in the over-priced garments bearing his name may think; 70 years after his heyday Perry remains the most successful tennis player that Britain has ever produced (sorry Andy.)

Fred Perry statue

A bona fide celebrity, Perry secured eight Grand Slam singles titles in the space of four seasons from 1933-36. He also won every doubles and mixed doubles Grand Slam title available, as well as two US Pro championships. His Davis Cup pairing with Bunny Austin ensured that Great Britain retained the title for four consecutive years.

4: Sir Bradley Wiggins

Born in Belgium, Wiggins moved to England as a child and by the age of 12 had discovered an aptitude for road cycling, progressing through the amateur ranks before turning professional nine years later.

In 2012 he enjoyed his annus mirabilis, winning time trial gold at the Olympics and becoming the first Brit to gain the Tour de France title, both of which resulted in dozens of awards. Wiggins’ attempt to break the hour record this month was unsuccessful, proving that he is human after all.

3: Lennox Lewis

It wasn’t until the final few years of Lewis’ boxing career that he indisputably earned his position among the greats, this despite a constant stream of success for more than a decade – a flash knock-out suffered at the hands of the under rated Oliver McCall giving sceptics fuel for the fire.

Representing Canada on his way to Olympic gold in 1988, Lewis had switched allegiances to Britain when he turned pro (he was born in London.) He went on to beat every opponent he faced in the ring, avenging the only three blemishes on his record by convincingly winning the resultant rematches. ‘The Lion’ remains the most recent undisputed world heavyweight champion, as well as being recognised as the possessor of one of the most effective jabs the sport has ever seen.

2: Sir Steven Redgrave

“If anyone sees me in a boat again I give them permission to shoot me!” So stated Steve Redgrave after winning coxless pair gold for a fourth successive Olympics in Atlanta in 1996.

Yet return he did, and at the 2000 Sydney Olympics a 38-year old Redgrave made it five in a row. His place in Olympic and British sporting folklore assured, the veteran rower did this time stroll into the sunset, focusing his energy on becoming an ambassador for British athletics instead.

1: Sir Bobby Moore

The greatest captain England have ever had, and arguably the finest central defender that the world of football has ever seen. Moore usually reserved his best performances for his country, although he proudly represented his boyhood club, West Ham United, for more than 16 years.

Moore and Pele

His life after football was less successful, with a mediocre stint in management followed by poor business decisions, and a disgraceful shunning by the Football Association. Moore died of liver and bowel Cancer at the age of just 51 in 1993. In death his legacy shines brightly; his incredible tackle that stopped Brazil’s Jairzinho at the 1970 World Cup immortalized by the song ‘Three Lions’ during Euro ’96.

Do you agree with Kureen’s top 50? Let us know in the comment section below, and please remember to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for the latest updates.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.

50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: 20-11

In this penultimate instalment of the series, Kureen gracefully glides towards the upper echelon of the British sporting elite.

To view the first three parts click on the links below;
50-4140-3130-21

20: Sir Walter HammondWalter Hammond

A world-class batsman, inspirational captain, brilliant fielder and tidy, albeit reluctant, medium paced bowler, Hammond appeared in 85 Test matches, compiling an at the time Test record individual score of 336 not out, despite losing years of his career to the second World War.

In addition to his cricketing prowess, Hammond made a handful of appearance as right winger for Bristol Rovers, but in spite of his obvious footballing talent only had eyes for cricket. A glittering 20 year international career finally ended at the age of 43, although a rivalry with the legendary Sir Donald Bradman bred a life-long inferiority complex.

19: Tony McCoy

The 2010 BBC sports personality of the year has won 19 consecutive Champion Jockey titles, and more than 4,300 races all told.

Particularly adept at riding poor horses to unlikely victories, McCoy continues to excel into his 40’s, showing no sign of retiring from the saddle any time soon.  At 5’10” he also stands considerably taller than most jockeys, making his success all the more improbable.

18: Johnny Wilkinson

Kicking the winning drop goal for England at the 2003 Rugby World Cup made Surrey born Wilkinson an instant national icon at the tender age of 23.

Injuries blighted his career throughout, but he still managed to play 91 Tests and score a record 1,169 points for his country. He represented Newcastle Falcons with distinction for 12 years, before a 5-year spell in France with Toulon culminated with Wilkinson leading his team to two cup final wins in his final brace of competitive appearances.

17: Jim LakerJim Laker

Laker’s long-standing first-class bowling record analysis of 19 for 90, achieved against Australia in 1956, is unlikely to be bettered, and amazingly came just weeks after the spin bowler had taken all ten wickets in an innings against the touring Australians in a  warm up match against his county side Surrey.

A Yorkshireman, Laker never actually represented his native county due to settling in London following World War II, instead forming a deadly spin-combo with Tony Lock for both club and country. His record of 193 Test scalps at 21.57 apiece places him firmly among the great tweakers.

16: Dame Kelly Holmes

Inspired by Steve Ovett, Holmes began her competitive athletics career at the age of just 12, winning the British girl’s 1500m the following year. By 1988 she had turned her back on the sport to join the army, only returning to the track four years later.

A succession of debilitating injuries appeared to have denied Holmes gold medals at the major games, until in 2004, at the grand age of 34, she produced nerveless, perfectly paced runs to take gold in both the 800 and 1500 metre races. Holmes later admitted that she had contemplated suicide during the darker days, citing meditation as a practice that transformed her life.

15: Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean

Few sports people have ever come close to emulating the popularity of Torvill and Dean, who came to national prominence when they scored 12 perfect 6’s on their way to Olympic figure skating gold in Sarajevo in 1984.

Turning professional later that year (rules prohibited them from earning any money from skating if they wanted to perform at the Olympics), the duo choreographed a series of successful musical shows on ice, before returning to the pro arena a decade later to take bronze in Lillehammer.

14: Sir Christopher Hoy

The most decorated cyclist of all-time is an 11-time World champion, six-time Olympic champion, and Britain’s most successful Olympian, leading team GB out for the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.

A legendary sprint cyclist, Hoy’s individual success carried over into team cycling, where he represented various teams, most notably ‘Team Sky’ in 2008. Never one to rest on his laurels, the Edinburgh born 39 year-old turned his attention to motor sport in 2014, belatedly announcing his intention to compete for Nissan at 24 hours of Le Mans in 2016.

13: Sir Bobby Charlton

The creative catalyst for England’s 1966 World Cup glory remains one of the world’s most beloved sporting figures almost half a century after his career zenith.

The 1958 Munich air disaster deprived Manchester United of a slew of their exciting ‘Busby Babes’ squad, with Charlton himself considering retiring from the game due to the trauma. Thankfully for United and England he didn’t, going on to become one of the finest number tens the world has ever seen, with the Ballon d’Or awarded to him at the end of the same year that he held the Jules Rimet trophy aloft.

12: Daley Thompson

At a time when the original A-Team was in its prime Britain boasted its own action man in Daley Thompson, a muscle-bound decathlon competitor who struck gold at both the 1980 and 1984 Olympic games, breaking the world record for the event on four separate occasions.

That his feats often go overlooked in the nation’s sporting annals is possibly testament to a lack of perceived conformity, most notably when Thompson whistled his way through the national anthem whilst stood atop the podium in Los Angeles in ’84.  

11: Sir Ben Ainslie

The most successful Olympic sailor of all-time, Ainslie won silver at his first games in 1996, aged just 19, this would be his last time tasting defeat on the grandest stage, with gold following at the next five Olympics to go alongside his 11 World titles.

Sir Ben Ainslie

More recently Ainslie was hailed as the mastermind behind Oracle Team USA’s stunning comeback to win the 2013 America’s Cup 9-8, the Brit providing an unlikely remedy to the team’s warring crew and hefty fines as they turned around a seemingly insurmountable 8-1 deficit.

Tomorrow we delve into the top 10. Who made it? Who missed out? Why the need for so many questions in the closing paragraph? All will be revealed tomorrow.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me. I meditate and wash daily when possible.