Tag Archives: Greatest

50 Greatest British sports stars of all-time: 30-21

In the third part of the series, Kureen counts down the best of British sport from 30th to 21st place. To view the first two editions simply click on the links below;

Part one: 50-41
Part two: 40-31

30: Sebastian Coe

Seb Coe

His post-athletics foray into politics has make it easy for detractors to overlook a sensational spell during the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s when Seb Coe not only broke three world records in the space of 41 days, but also became the undisputed king of 1500m running.

This was much to the chagrin of British team-mate and arch nemesis Steve Ovett, who pre-1980 had been undefeated at the distance for three years, only for Coe to win consecutive Olympic titles in 1980 and ’84 to go alongside a brace of 800m silvers.

29: Mo Farah

 At 5 foot 6, and carrying a little over 55kg on a slim frame, Mo Farah isn’t your archetypal sporting hero. Born in Somalia in 1983, he joined his father in Britain at the age of eight, barely able to utter a word of English.

He soon found his purpose, becoming a top junior middle and long distance runner, culminating with a clutch of national records and, more notably, double gold at 10,000m and 5000m in both the 2012 London Olympics and 2013 Worlds – Farah rewarded with a CBE and lucrative endorsement deal with vegetarian food behemoth Quorn.

28: Steven Hendry

‘The golden boy’ was the fresh, acne afflicted face of snooker throughout the 1990’s, winning seven world and five UK titles over the course of the decade, remaining world number one for an unprecedented eight consecutive seasons between 1990 and 1998.

An attacking, fiercely competitive player, Edinburgh born Hendry revolutionised the game with offensive shot selections that put fear into opponents, most notably Jimmy White who was traumatised irreparably by a series of major final defeats at the hands of the Scot. 

27: Lester Piggott

Nine Epsom Derby wins and 11 British flat racing championships in a high-calibre era of horse racing made Piggott the Queen’s favourite jockey.

That cosy propinquity rapidly fell into decline in 1987 however, with Piggott jailed for more than a year as a result of tax fraud, her maj’ swiftly withdrew his OBE, and although a return to the saddle provided a few career twilight highlights, his reputation amongst racing fans was in tatters. 

26: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan burst onto the snooker scene in 1993, beating the great Steven Hendry 10-6 in the final of the UK Championships at the tender age of 17; the crowd wooed by his attacking style and dismissive attitude towards the game’s hierarchy, an ardent support that endures to this day.

That early hype seemed to weigh heavily on the shoulders of ‘The Rocket’, with severe depression and patchy form undermining his remarkable talent. A new training regime, lightened schedule and adjusted mindset allowed O’Sullivan to find consistency, his five world titles placing him third on the all-time list.

25: Martin Johnson

A World Cup winning captain, British Lions staple, and world class player, 6 foot 7 inch, 260 pound lock Martin Johnson was the proud, fearless chief who stood at the front of England’s 2003 main stage success.

If that World Cup glory was inevitably the pinnacle of a glittering career, it was for the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa that Johnson arguably reserved his finest form, the Spring Boks unable to snuff out his threat at the line-out on the way to a 2-1 series victory for the British team.

24: Fred Trueman

A stoic Yorkshireman, ‘fiery’ Fred Trueman is etched in the annuls as England’s all-time premier fast bowler, with his 307 Test match wickets (at the time a world record) coming at just 21.57 a piece, a miserly average befitting a man never ashamed of his thrifty habits on or off the field.

That superlative international record would have undoubtedly been even more impressive had Trueman not been in conflict with the MCC so often, leading to him being omitted from a number of England’s matches. Surprisingly, considering the velocity of his bowling, Fred stood at only 5 foot 10 inches tall in his spikes.

23: Jonathan Edwards

Edwards’ talent was obvious from a young age, but the embryonic stages of his athletics career were affected by devout Christian beliefs which prohibited the triple-jumper from competing or practising on Sundays. Relenting, he eventually decided to work around his religious convictions, his career almost immediately prospering as a result.

Early in the 1995 season he broke the world record by a centimetre, and later that year added another 31cm to the mark as he took World Championship gold with a humongous leap of 18.29m. Olympic glory took longer, eventually arriving in Sydney in 2000, with Edwards bowing out of the sport a year later, having secured a second world title. As an interesting aside; in 2007 Edwards announced that he was no longer a Christian.

22: Andy Murray

2012 was a career defining year for Andy Murray. The Scottish tennis player became the first British man to reach the Wimbledon singles final since Bunny Austin in 1938, losing to Roger Federer. The tears he shed in his post-match interview saw him accepted by reticent sections of fans still lamenting the retirement of the milder mannered Tim Henman.

Andy Murray

Later that summer Murray won the Olympic singles title. He started 2013 by gaining his first Grand Slam at the US Open, and, having qualified for a second successive Wimbledon final, secured the trophy in front of a fervent, partisan crowd, defeating Novak Djokovic in straight sets. All that remains on the career bucket list is to win the French and Australian slams, and become world number one before the inevitable knighthood… Watch this space.

21: George Best

The most talented footballer that Britain has ever produced was also one of the most troubled. Discovered at 15 playing in Belfast, Manchester United manager Matt Busby received a telegram from one of his scouts which read “I think I’ve found you a genius.”

That genius was never more obvious than during the 1967-68 season, when a 22 year-old Best struck 32 goals, helping United to secure the European Cup and becoming the youngest player ever to receive the FWA player of the year award. By 26 alcohol addiction and a nocturnal lifestyle ensured that Best’s peak years were behind him; a flurry of different clubs brought fleeting highlights, before he received a liver transplant, drinking the newly fitted organ into submission within three years, and passing away in 2005.

Tomorrow we’ll reveal the first half of the top-20, who could be better than Best? Tune in tomorrow to find out!

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: 40-31

In the second part of Kureen’s top 50 British sports stars countdown we look at numbers 40-31. Check out 50-41 by clicking here.

*Article profile picture courtesy of Louis Swann.

40: Christine Ohuruogu

Christine Ohuruogu

Revelling on the big stage, London born Ohuruogu has won 400m gold and silver medals at the last two Olympic games, adding to two World titles gained in 2007 and 2013.

Her career was in danger of going horribly awry in 2006, with a one year suspension from athletics the result of three missed out-of-competition drug tests. A 2009 MBE reflected her figurative rehabilitation in the eyes of her peers.

39: Steve Davis

A perceived lack of personality held Davis back from super stardom, as he romped gleefully towards half a dozen world title wins during his 1980’s pomp.

Conversely it is for defeat that he is best remembered by casual fans, his 1985 epic with Dennis Taylor ending 18-17 to the bespectacled Northern Irishman, as Davis crumbled from 8-0 up, eventually missing a decisive final frame black, with a still unrivalled 18.5 million BBC 2 viewers tuning in until almost 1am for the climax.

38: Gary Lineker

The ‘Match of The Day’ anchorman came within a spot-kick of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record, fluffing a penalty against Brazil that would have drawn him level with the 49 scored by the Manchester United legend.

Still, 48 goals in 80 international games, a World Cup golden boot, and prolific scoring stints with Barcelona, Spurs, Everton and his beloved Leicester City all contributed to a wonderful football career that ended prematurely due to a toe injury.

37: WG Grace

‘Doctor’ William Gilbert Grace was the first celebrity of cricket, once refusing to walk when bowled out in a friendly match, replacing the bails and telling a disgruntled bowler “they’ve come to see me bat, not you bowl!”

Beyond the bravado Grace was a terrific all-rounder, whose First Class batting average of around 40 accompanied a bowling average of 18, and was all the more impressive due to the state of the uncovered pitches of the time. He played his final Test match in 1899, finally hanging up his whites in 1908, aged 60.

36. Phil Taylor

Depending on which side of the bed you lay upon ‘The Power’ either shouldn’t make the list due to a lack of perceptible athleticism, or should be placed far higher due to an unrivalled 14 world championship titles.

It is for his relentless quest for perfection at the oche that he deserves to be recognised, in total securing 40 major title victories. At the age of 55 his skills finally appear to be diminishing, but with a brimming trophy cabinet and 10 televised nine-darters in the bag his legacy, and financial security, have long been assured.

35: Sir Leonard Hutton

One of England’s most headstrong cricket captains, and arguably their finest ever batsman, Yorkshireman Hutton broke team-mate Wally Hammond’s Test record score by compiling a 13-hour innings of 364 against Australia in 1938.

Sir Leonard Hutton plaq

That mark stood for 20 years, and remains an Ashes record today – Hutton relishing contests with England’s arch rivals, also winning both of his series against Australia as captain. Remarkably he achieved all of this despite prime years of his career being lost to the Second World War, where he additionally suffered significant wrist and forearm injuries.  

34: Sir Gordon Richards

The only jockey to ever be knighted, Sir Gordon Richards was the British flat racing champion on 26 separate occasions during a 33-year career that included almost 5000 career wins.

As the only major event he hadn’t won, the Epsom Derby became an obsession for Richards, and in 1953, in his final dash for glory, he was finally able to add the trophy to his collection, storming to victory on 5-1 joint favourite Pinza.

33: Tanni Grey-Thompson

Grey-Thompson boasts one of the most decorated careers of any athlete, her 11 gold medals spread across four Paralympic games from 1992-2004.

Hailing from Cardiff, Wales, the future wheelchair racing icon was born with spina Bifida, eventually heading to Loughborough University in pursuit of athletic excellence. This was accomplished, and a 2005 promotion to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) was as much recognition of her service to disadvantaged people as it was her sparkling career on the track.

32: Virginia Wade 

Famed for her 1977 Wimbledon singles title, Wade boasts a 100% success ratio in solo Grand-Slam finals, winning all three that she contested. The only reason she doesn’t make the top 20 is due to her era not being among the strongest for the women’s game.

Her place in the hearts of British sports fans was assured via US (1968) and Australian Open (1972) singles victories that saw her rise to world number two, as well as four doubles slams, but her legacy was truly cemented by that win at SW19. 

31: Matthew Pincent

The often overlooked half of the Redgrave/Pincent dynasty, Matthew Pincent was an outstanding rower in his own right, earning gold at four consecutive Olympic games between 1992 and 2004.

Ten more gold medals at world level established him as one of the greatest the sport has ever seen; that he will forever be viewed in Redgrave’s looming shadow owes more to his colleague’s incredible achievements than any shortcomings in Pincent’s own makeup.

As we hurtle rapidly towards the top 30, let us know what you think of parts one and two. Come back tomorrow to find out who filled positions 30-21.

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.