Weir’s Week: no Battle of Britain, but memories of the Brylcreem Boy

compton1By Stewart Weir

Saturday
As a kid, I was amazed to hear and read about one Denis Compton. Here was a guy who was arguably the best batsman of his day (certainly sponsors Brylcreem thought so) and, as if that wasn’t enough, he also played football for the Arsenal.

Latterly, although at a slightly lesser level perhaps, Andy Goram played first-class cricket (a status then awarded to the annual Ireland versus Scotland international match) and for various football clubs, Hibs and Rangers among them, as well as Scotland.

Ian Botham, Liam Botham, Chris Balderstone, Alastair Hignell and Phil Neale all dabbled at various representative levels in cricket, rugby union, rugby league and football, although perhaps not as famously or notoriously as Compton and Goram.

Chances are we will only ever read about these people, true sporting all-rounders, in the future. And for one very good reasons.

In Compton’s day, you had defined seasons. Cricket was played when there was no football. Hignell played for a very good Gloucestershire side in the summer, but for England at Five Nations level in the winter.

Such crossovers are just impossible now. Take Saturday. The English football Premiership begins the same day as Wales meet England in a pre-World Cup rugby union Test, and England wrap up a cricket Test series against India.

The even sadder thing is that kids are being asked to choose what sport they want to major in before they reach their teens. Which kind of flies in the face of all those sporting bodies who try to claim “sport is for fun”…

Sunday
The English Premier League – the best league in the world according to everyone in England – might have started on Saturday. But it isn’t really up and running until the champions appear – or the champions elect.

Manchester United start with a win over West Bromwich Albion, but Chelsea draw with Stoke City, the FA Cup finalists. Stoke’s style is effective, but not for the purists.

Last season they set some record for the most passes into the final third of the field (ie lumps up the park).

But hey, do Stoke fans complain?

Monday
Today I’m looking through the draw for World Snooker’s PTC3 event in Sheffield and come across the name of Robbie Williams who is down to play Alex Taubman in the opening round.

Did the reunion with Take That not work out?

Still, I suppose he’ll be good for a song, the first time he wins a major championship. Possibly Angels.

Or, given the nature of the game he plays, perhaps Angles

Tuesday
Various media sources confidently predict that Celtic will sign Fraser Forster, on loan again, from Newcastle United. He certainly looks the part, and obviously fits the bill for Hoops boss Neil Lennon.

I don’t think he’s too bad a goalie. However, ahead of the League Cup final last season, I spoke at length to a former Scotland goalkeeper, who gave his opinions on the various ‘keepers involved in the game.

Allan McGregor, he said, was head-and-shoulders above anyone else, although Neil Alexander was better in a few departments than even McGregor.

On Forster, he was praised for being big, commanding and a presence. But, according to the expert, “if he has one weakness it’s getting down low to his left side.”

I thought nothing of it – until first Steve Davis, then Nikica Jelavić, beat Forster – twice, low to his left…

Wednesday
If it was Federer in tennis, Hendry in snooker, Schumacher in F1 and Woods in golf, then it still is Sébastien Loeb in world rallying.

The Frenchman has reeled off seven straight world titles since 2004, won a record 66 World Rally Championship events, and recorded 101 podium finishes from his 146 world championship events, such is his domination.

And the good news for those competing against him is that he has decided to continue for another two years.

I just wonder how many will be watching the WRC – now tucked away on ESPN and Motors TV – when Loeb does call it a day?

Thursday
The Old Firm might dominate the headlines most days of the week north of the border. But tonight Hearts take centre-stage as they face Tottenham Hotspur in the qualifying round of the Europa League.

It is a glamour tie. Hearts are a famous old club, as are the Spurs. However, the fact that this is a contest to get into the lesser of the two European club tournaments (although as I’ve said before, Old Firm fans won’t admit as much this season) should have alerted people that this ain’t no “Battle of Britain”.

It’s not a Celtic versus Leeds United, or a Rangers versus the Elland Road club, or Rangers against Manchester United.

It’s a Scots team against a similarly placed English side. So no Battle of Britain. At best, a good supporting fight on the undercard… with Rafael van der Vaart as the star turn

Friday
And lastly on Hearts vs Spurs. The Londoners couldn’t find a hotel in Edinburgh, because of the Festival. So the players had to make do, not with some B&B around Shotts, or a Travel Lodge on the M8, but with the five-star trimmings of the Old Course Hotel at St Andrews.

And I’m reliably informed that at last one Spurs player wondered why the team were staying in Birmingham if they were playing in Edinburgh…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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