Archive for December, 2010

Best of British? Really???

Posted: December 19, 2010 in General
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Amy Williams cannot even train in the UK

Once again the time of year has arrived to allow us to celebrate the best of British sport. Time to recognise the fine achievements that make our country what it is.

Well in that case what a failing nation we are.

Apparently the best sportsmen we have at present is either a jockey, a boxer, a darts-player, a heptathlete, a diver, a cricketer, a cyclist, a golfer or a skeleton-bobsleigher

Do not get me wrong the 10 contenders have all had exceptional years and are more than worthy of a mention at the prestigious end of year award ceremony.

Amy Williams won our first Winter Olympics gold medal since the 1980s; Tony McCoy the greatest jockey of all-time won the Grand National at long last and Phil Taylor continually churns out title after title.

But the best of British? No. Not even close. Amy Williams cannot even train in the UK because of the lack of facilities.

Sadly the depressing situation of UK sport at the moment means that unfortunately the winner tonight will only win it because we have a dreadful year as a nation.

In a World Cup year the highest level our footballers reached was 1,500m above sea-level at Rustenburg as we recorded our worst World Cup performance since failing to qualify for USA ‘94.

Football is meant to be our national sport and yet we were disgraceful. From Rob Green’s best Basil Fawlty impression, to the team’s inability to defend a goal-kick against Germany we were awful. At least if the weather stays like this skeleton-bob will overtake it in popularity.

In rugby England yet again were mediocre at best in the RBS Six Nations as France romped to Grand Slam glory. The Autumn Internationals provided a glimmer of hope with England’s victory over Australia and the Scots beating World Champions South Africa. Next year’s World Cup will determine whether this is a new or false dawn.

Andy Murray failed to win a Grand Slam in tennis so he has not won the accolade. If he ever does though, the charismatic Scot will no doubt prove an irresistible choice for armchair sports fans.

After consecutive F1 World Champions this season saw Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button epitomised British sporting prowess with a nearly but not quite performance. Admittedly the McLaren was not the best car but both were too inconsistent to merit a second title.

I could continue but the pattern is clear.

Analyse any sport that we would normally regard as important and you will see how embarrassing we have been this year.

Whilst all this year’s contenders have performed well in their own-right, everyone at the event and everyone watching at home know that the winner only won because of other’s failings.

Had Matthew Upson headed the winning goal in the World Cup Final against Spain ridiculously he would win it, regardless of any teenager’s ability to jump into a swimming pool theatrically. That is the way our country thinks.

And so the Sport’s Personality of the Year shall this year be a black-tie event for more sombre reasons.

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Vettel celebrates becoming World Champion back in November

Team orders. It was the most commonly used phrase throughout the F1 world in the week lead up to Abu Dhabi. Thankfully it will not be the phrase which the 2010 season will be remembered for.

With Fernando Alonso the overwhelming favourite – requiring just a top two finish to guarantee the title – many have questioned whether he would deserve it after the Hockenheim team orders scandal back in July.

Unlike the Scuderia, In Brazil Red Bull refused to swap their two drivers and give Mark Webber the win, even though it would have put him just a single point behind the Spaniard.

At various points during the season the team rivalry looked to boil over in particular during the Turkish and British GPs as the team appeared to favour Sebastien Vettel.

To blame Mark Webber for the coming together in Istanbul did not reflect the opinion of most neutrals.

Similarly to take Webber’s new front-wing off his car and give it to Vettel after he damaged his before qualifying at Silverstone, because Vettel marginally had the better championship position, led to his infamous outburst after winning as ‘Not being bad for a number two driver.”

Rivalry between teammates is common place. It is natural but Red Bull did not help themselves. All year pundits, fellow team principals and fans have said Red Bull needed to choose which driver to back.

Given that the other two title contenders were Alonso and Lewis Hamilton prompted inevitable comparisons to the 2007 season. The pair fell-out after Alonso perceived McLaren favoured Hamilton and their inability to keep the rivalry under control allowed Kimi Raikkonen to steal the title for Ferrari at the final race in Brazil.

However when it came to the season’s climax the team and its drivers behaved impeccably and they got their reward.

It would have been ‘easy’ to have asked Vettel to allow Webber past in the penultimate race. Realistically that was the best way for the team to maximise their chance of capturing the Drivers’ Championship to go along with their Constructors’ Championship.

Had Alonso won the title because they did not implement the switch then the post-season analysis would have been very different.

Red Bull had the quickest car all year. Their dominance in qualifying proves that with 15 pole positions from 19 race weekends.

But race days did not prove to be as dominant and a number of human and mechanical errors almost let their rivals in.

Vettel in particular bore the brunt of Red Bull’s unreliability. Bahrain and Australia were costly to the start of his title bid but his engine failure in Korea looked to have done irreparable damage. It is to the young German’s credit that despite the blow-up he clawed back the 25-point deficit on Alonso in the last two events.

Credit must go to the whole of Adrian Newey’s team for designing such a magnificent car. For a private team to defeat the mighty manufacturers of Ferrari and McLaren is an outstanding achievement.

It should not be forgotten either that both of Red Bull’s competitors had a head-start in designing this year’s car because they were not in the 2009 title hunt.

It is difficult to quantify Christian Horner’s role since the team’s evolution from the Jaguar team in 2005. With David Coulthard and Christian Klien at the wheel the team established itself as a solid midfield runner. The leap they have made in such a short space of time is nothing short of spectacular.

Next year will be another massive test for the team. Mercedes – who took-over the defunct Brawn team – highlighted this year how difficult it is to produce back-to-back titles.

It is a fantastic achievement and thoroughly deserved.

Who will win in 2011? Might as well pick a name out of a hat…