Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

By Alton, Roger | The Spectator, April 15, 2017 | Go to article overview

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton


Alton, Roger, The Spectator


What a treat to be Sergio Garcia. Not only have you just won your first major and trousered a small fortune, you are also loved by all and sundry without exception; not least by your absolute corker of a fiancée, the sensational Angela Akins, who looks like she should be from Malaga, but is actually Texan. Sergio and Justin Rose, his play-off rival at the Augusta Masters, are two of the most popular sportsmen around. The scenes of rapture as the 18th-green crowd leapt to their feet as one when Sergio holed his final birdie will stay with me forever. But winning and being popular don't always go together.

Don Revie's Leeds were pretty successful, but almost universally loathed. Alex Ferguson's Man United played some of the best football we will ever see and cleaned up every trophy going, but loved? Ferguson was admired

and not much more. Jose Mourinho is a proven winner all over Europe, but popular? Come off it. Aussie cricket teams are never liked, no matter how great their players. Yet the magnificent West Indies teams of the 1980s were adored, even when they were slaughtering everything in their path. Chris Cowdrey tells the story of captaining England in the last Test against the Windies in 1988 at Headingley with the series lost. He walked out for the toss, immaculate in his whites and England blazer, down the pavilion and out to the square in almost total silence. As he stood waiting, he became aware of an excited murmur round the ground, followed by wild applause as the capacity crowd stood to hail a man sauntering out in plimsolls and tracksuit bottoms. It was Viv Richards. And that's what being popular is all about.

Brian Clough's brilliant Nottingham Forest teams were admired as well as loved, as was their irascible manager. The players were pretty likeable too. As for modern football, David Beckham was the last really popular player. …

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