Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

By Alton, Roger | The Spectator, January 18, 2020 | Go to article overview

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton


Alton, Roger, The Spectator


Anyone still vaguely tempted to subscribe to that lazy and stupid cliché about footballers just being overpaid idiots should have been at the Savoy the other night when the Football Writers’ Association paid tribute to Vincent Kompany, Manchester City’s legendary former captain. The term ‘role model’ is hackneyed, but if ever it was applicable it would be to Kompany, a true giant among men. Literally too: he is physically immense and would have been a very troubling sight for any marauding centre-forward. He speaks six or seven languages, and was a natural leader on and off the pitch.

In his spare time, he set up the charity Tackle4MCR with the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, and it has so far helped more than 2,000 homeless people find somewhere to live. He spoke effortlessly and with great charm and dignity about his love for the city and the team, as well as the work of his charity. Sport, all sport, needs more men like Vincent. Much chat at our table about whether he was the best centre half of the century. It’s pretty close between him and Liverpool’s utterly imperious Virgil van Dijk.

It’s beginning to look like the most powerful man in English cricket is Surrey’s Alec Stewart, known to all and sundry as ‘the Gaffer’. The lord of the Oval was, I understand, a shoo-in as head coach of England after what was said to be a first-class piece of power-pointing — as slick and masterful as his performances behind the stumps for England — but had to turn it down for ‘personal reasons’. ‘Chris Silverwood’s your man,’ he told the ECB, and so it came to pass.

In the current England set-up, he’s steered the Curran brothers, Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Ollie Pope and Ben Foakes, in many people’s estimation the best keeper in the country. Anyone Stewart rates tends to become a big name, so keep an eye out for top order bat Will Jacks, and Amar Virdi, a handy off-spinner, who have both done their stuff with the England Lions. …

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