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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.

5 Premier League Meltdowns.

Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea is seemingly already etched in footballing infamy, despite only occurring last month.

The tearful Liverpool club captain realised that the resultant 2-0 defeat had probably cost his side their first ever Premier League title, just when the winds of change appeared in their favour.

Steven Gerrard

Liverpool aren’t the first team to collapse in spectacular fashion though, here are five blasts from the past!

1. Newcastle United squander a 12-point lead (1995-96)

 

“I will love it if we beat them… Love it!”  Kevin Keegan wailed at the Sky TV cameras during his interview after a nervy 1-0 win for his Newcastle side against Leeds United.

KK’s vitriol was directed at mind game mischief maker, Alex Ferguson, boss of rival title challengers Manchester United, who had speculated that certain sides might take it easy against a popular Magpies side.

Despite leading the pack by a dozen points heading into the final third of the season, the Toon proceeded to capitulate, with heartbreaking last-gasp defeats to Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers leaving their dreams of a first major trophy for 27 years in tatters.

2. Manchester United flop as Arsenal hit the accelerator (1997-98)

Wenger Boys: 10 league wins on the spin denied Man United.
Wenger Boys: 10 league wins on the spin denied Man United.

Like Newcastle a couple of seasons earlier, the Red Devils held a 12 point lead over nearest rivals Arsenal, with some bookmakers deciding to pay out before the season had ended.

The Gooners had other ideas and proceeded to embark on a ten match winning streak that ultimately meant they won the championship with two games to spare.

It was Arsene Wenger’s first Premier League crown and the start of a bitter 16-year rivalry between the Frenchman and Ferguson, which only softened in the latter stages.

3.  Fergie’s mind games cause Benitez meltdown (2008-09)

 

Approaching the second half of the 2008-09 Premier League season, Rafa Benitez had Liverpool flying.

With an eight point cushion at the summit and virtually injury free squad, the Spaniard seemed to have turned the Reds into genuine title contenders for the first time in nearly 20 years.

As with Keegan in 1996, Ferguson decided to engage his rival in a spot of psychological warfare. Benitez took the bait and there was only ever going to be one winner.

Liverpool ended up securing their highest ever Premier League points haul (86) to secure the runners-up spot, but Manchester United managed 90 to win it.

4. Birmingham City hit the beach too early (2010-11)

League Cup Glory: But Brum eased off too soon.
League Cup Glory: But McLeish’s side plummeted thereafter.

For Blues fans the 2010-11 campaign appeared destined to go down as one of the most enjoyable in recent memory.

Having won the League Cup with a shock 2-1 victory over Arsenal at Wembley, the team sat a comfortable seven points above the relegation zone with only half a dozen games remaining.

Their mind’s evidently elsewhere, Alex McLeish’s side picked up just a single point from their run in, dropping into the bottom three with a final day 2-1 defeat at Tottenham.

5. Wolverhampton Wanderers appoint Terry Connor (2011-12)

One in, one out: Terry Connor was out of his depth as a manager.
One in, one out: Terry Connor was out of his depth as a manager.

Mick McCarthy’s five and a half year association with Wolves ended after 25 games of the 2011-12 Premier League season, with a disappointing yield of 21 points in those matches the catalyst for his termination.

Inexplicably, rather than appoint a tried and trusted relegation specialist to save the day, club CEO Jez Moxey opted to promote clipboard wielding lackey, Terry Connor.

The results were predictable, with zero wins and a pitiful four points from those conclusive 13 fixtures. Connor was mercifully placed back on cone duty by the start of the following summer.

There are plenty of other dishonourable mentions, feel free to add your two cents to the comment section below!

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.

The Number 23

England’s footballers head to Brazil this summer for the World Cup, with manager Roy Hodgson tasked with selecting his final 23-man squad at the start of June.

Here, Dom Kureen gives his verdict on who should make the cut and why.

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GOALKEEPERS
Joe Hart (26 years old, Man City, 39 Caps)
Remains his country’s undisputed number one, despite some indifferent club displays resulting in a prolonged spell on the sidelines for Manchester City earlier this season. Recent return to top form is timely, expect him to be a key figure if England are to progress beyond their group.

Fraser Forster (26, Celtic, 1 Cap)
With no serious contender to Hart’s throne, the Scottish Premier League’s elite stopper is the ‘best of the rest’, although his kicking and overall distribution remain worryingly suspect.

Ben Foster (31, West Bromwich Albion, 6 Caps)
The star turn in a poor Baggies team this season, Foster has the experience and confidence to prosper in South America and wouldn’t let the side down (a’ la Robert Green) should he be required to step up at any point.

 

DEFENDERS
Kyle Walker (23, Spurs, 10 Caps)
The former Sheffield United trainee hasn’t been at his dynamic best this term, but is still a fundamental component in his country’s blueprint for future and present success.

Glen Johnson (29, Liverpool, 50 Caps/1 Goal)
Although Johnson can be a liability in the defensive third, his powerful forward raids offer much-needed width to England’s narrow formation. That offensive ability, coupled with half a century of caps, should ensure that he edges ahead of the promising Nathaniel Clyne this time.

Leighton Baines (29, Everton, 22 Caps/1 Goal)
After spending almost a decade as Ashley Cole’s understudy, Baines is now the undisputed first choice left back at international level – one of Hodgson’s easiest selections.

Ashley Cole (33, Chelsea, 107 Caps)
A toss of a coin, with Southampton’s ‘wunderkind’, Luke Shaw, destined to displace Baines and Cole in the near future. The aura and reputation of England’s greatest ever left back should allow him one final tilt at the Jules Rimet trophy, before he gracefully steps aside at the conclusion of the tournament.

Phil Jagielka (31, Everton, 24 Caps/1 Goal)
In the absence of the internationally retired John Terry, the Toffees’ skipper is the Three Lions’ premier available centre half. As such, he will be expected to marshal the back line and should provide consistent, wholehearted displays against all-comers.

Gary Cahill (28, Chelsea, 22 Caps/1 Goal)
Prone to lapses in concentration, Cahill has at times found it difficult to step into the colossal boots of Messrs Ferdinand and Terry. For now he remains the appropriate choice to partner Jagielka in the heart of England’s back four.

Steven Caulker (22, Cardiff City, 1 Cap/1 Goal)
A £7m summer move from Tottenham Hotspur to Cardiff City enabled Caulker to play regular top-flight football, an opportunity that he’s since grabbed with both hands. Deserves to be rewarded for consistent excellence in a struggling Bluebirds team.

Phil Jones (22, Manchester United, 9 Caps)
Yet to fulfill his immense potential courtesy of various injuries, Jones’ value to his club side is nevertheless set to increase following the imminent departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Based on talent alone, he should have nailed down a starting place in the national side by now.

 

MIDFIELDERS
Steven Gerrard (Captain: 33, Liverpool, 109 Caps/21 Goals)
England’s captain may be past his talismanic best, but he is still a vital cog in the side’s engine room. Has adapted his game to compensate for a loss of pace and verve in recent seasons, ensuring that he remains indispensable for club and country as he approaches his 34th birthday.

Jack Wilshire (22, Arsenal, 15 Caps)
A creative tour de force at his best, Wilshire needs to add goals to his slick technical prowess in order to become the great player he’s capable of developing into. Has been in decent nick for the Gunners this term and should make the starting eleven at the World Cup if fit.

Michael Carrick (32, Manchester United, 31 Caps)
The veteran Geordie has had a subdued domestic season, missing almost half of Manchester United’s matches through injury. He remains a valuable squad player for England and a useful alternative to the inexperienced prospects vying with him for selection.

Ross Barkley (20, Everton, 3 Caps)
One of a host of talented English midfield players to emerge in the past few years, Barkley has more than a hint of Paul Gascoigne about his play, hopefully sans the off-field exertions. Has flourished at Goodison Park since Marouane Fellaini departed last summer.

Adam Lallana (25, Southampton, 3 Caps)
After working his way through the lower leagues with the Saints, Lallana has become a bona fide Premier League star, with the capacity to be moulded into Steven Gerrard’s long-term successor.

James Milner (28, Manchester City, 45 Caps/1 Goal)
A willing workhorse with the versatility to play anywhere across the middle of the park, or even as a full back, former Leeds United starlet Milner is a reliable if unspectacular footballer, as well as a model professional.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (20, Arsenal 14 Caps/3 Goals)
In his third Premier League campaign, ‘Ox’ has yet to fully convince that he’s ready for a World Cup, although there have been flashes of the artistry associated with him throughout his youth team days at Southampton. In the absence of club teammate Theo Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain could find himself fast-tracked into England’s starting lineup.

Raheem Sterling (19, Liverpool, 2 Caps)
Flourishing alongside the visionary elegance of club colleagues Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho, the Jamaican born winger-cum-striker has made monumental strides in the past nine months, notching more than half a dozen goals in all competitions and wreaking havoc upon opposition backlines with his searing acceleration.

 

STRIKERS
Wayne Rooney (28, Manchester United, 89 Caps/38 Goals)
The key man for England, Rooney’s record at major international tourneys has left much to be desired since he lit up Euro 2004 as a belligerent teenager. This summer will surely define whether he goes down as one of the finest players of his generation, or merely a very good one who floundered on the big stage.

Daniel Sturridge (24, Liverpool, 10 Caps/3 Goals)
After years of treading water at Man City and Chelsea, Sturridge’s £12m move to Anfield 15 months ago has seen him mature into one of the most clinical, potent front men in Europe. If his partnership with Rooney can develop into something akin to the one he enjoys with Suarez for the Reds, England will have something special on their hands.

Andy Carroll (25, West Ham United, 9 Caps/2 Goals)
A massive flop over the past three and a half seasons, Carroll has commanded over £52m in transfer fees, despite netting a meagre 14 league goals during that period. His inclusion would at least provide an interesting alternative from the bench and his presence can assist the talented midfield runners in the side.

Danny Welbeck (23, Manchester United, 21 Caps/8 Goals)
Has discreetly prospered at club level this season, netting nine league goals at a rate of almost one every two matches. Like a select few before him (notably Darius Vassell), Welbeck appears to be a player who performs better for country than club and is a valuable member of the Three Lions’ squad.

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 Who do the fans want?

Five fans also chose their 23 to represent England at the World Cup, their selections made for some interesting reading!


Harry Groves (Portsmouth/England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Forster, Ruddy.

Defence
G.Johnson, Walker, A.Cole, Baines, Jagielka, Cahill, Smalling, Jones.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Wilshire, Carrick, Milner, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana, Sterling.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Carroll, Welbeck.

Did you know: Harry’s squad effectively ends Frank Lampard’s England career, with the 35 year old’s omission surely putting the legend out to pasture.

 

Jonathan O’Shea (Aston Villa/Ireland fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Foster, Forster.

Defence
G.Johnson, Shaw, Baines, Jagielka, Smalling, Lescott, Cahill.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Wilshire, Lampard, Milner, Lallana, Barkley, Oxlade-Chamberlain, A.Johnson, Sterling.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck

Did you know: Jonathan’s squad selection is the only one of the six with Joleon Lescott and Adam Johnson’s names among the 23.

 

Sarah Kingston (Southampton/England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Foster, Ruddy

Defence
Baines, A.Cole, G.Johnson, Jones, Cahill, Jagielka, Shaw, Smalling.

Midfield
Barry, Lallana, Lampard, Lennon, Milner, Rodwell, Shelvey, Wilshire.

Attack
Rooney (capt), Sturridge, Lambert, Welbeck.

Did you know: Sarah opts to leave Steven Gerrard at home and makes Wayne Rooney the captain instead.

 

Just Mike (England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Ruddy, Foster.

Defence
Baines, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones, Smalling, Shaw, Gibbs, Walker.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Lampard, Carrick, Lallana, Townsend, Sterling, Wilshire, Barkley.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Welbeck, Lambert.

Did you know: Mike is able to name three specialist left backs by utilising Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as backup to first choice right back Glen Johnson.


DJ Rees (Tottenham/England fan)

Goalkeepers
Hart, Forster, Butland.

Defence
Baines, Shaw, C.Davies. Cahill, Jagielka, Clyne, Caulker, G.Johnson.

Midfield
Gerrard (capt), Lallana, Barkley, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Huddlestone, Carrick, Wilshire, Henderson, Sterling.

Attack
Rooney, Sturridge, Lambert.

Did you know: DJ decides to reward form rather than reputation, nominating Curtis Davies, Jack Butland, Nathaniel Clyne and Tom Huddlestone after the quartet enjoyed productive domestic campaigns.

Tom Huddlestone has impressed DJ Rees since joining Hull City.
Tom Huddlestone has impressed DJ Rees since joining Hull City.

So, that’s what we think, how about you? Comment below to let us know which players you’d give the nod and why!

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.