Played by Hooligans…

How many times have I heard that old adage:

Rugby – played by hooligans, watched by gentleman
Football – played by gentleman, watched by hooligans

The problem is, as an English sports fan, the saying no longer holds true.

The first line probably still applies. The general rugby fan is reasonably wholesome, more interested in a family day out and a few warming pints than goading opposition supporters and storming local pubs. And the English rugby team certainly proved at the recent Rugby World Cup that they can still be classed as hooligans. Mike Tindall and co. managed to not only make fools of themselves (tossing dwarves and snogging locals), but they also let down the wider English public and even managed to embarrass the Royal Family. Well done Mike!

The major problem with the saying focuses on the football team. Yes the hooligans still rule the terraces (despite the best efforts of the family stand and numerous ‘kick it out’ initiatives), but unfortunately the same idiots now also perform on the pitch.

Almost all the current crop of big-name England internationals have at least one major front page headline to be proud of. Our (former) captain John Terry has a long list of misdemeanours, culminating in his current race row. But he’s not alone, Wayne Rooney has had a few Grandma prostitutes, Gerrard a few nightclub brawls, Ashley Cole managed to cheat on Cheryl, and Giggsy (yes I know he is Welsh) cheated on his wife with his brother’s…not exactly gentleman are they?!

And it gets worse – the current crop of sporting stars now have a new outlet, a new hi- tech opportunity to embarrass themselves and their clubs… their social network, and in particular their twitter accounts.

And who is the leader of the sporting digital generation? Joey Barton, a man who must never be referred to as a gent. Well done Joey, we know you once read an abridged copy of the sayings of Nietzsche and yes, your uncle is gay, but this does not make you any less of a dreadful thug. Joey’s list of bad boy antics make JT look like Mother Teresa – he once slapped a 15year old Everton fan, and even put out a cigar in a youth players eye! How can he be the twitter icon for the new generation? He should be in prison!

It seems us English sport fans have only one hope – our cricket team. Please don’t let us down Alastair, Andrew and Stuart, we need to cling to your clean cut image as long as we can…you are now our only remaining sporting gentleman.

Friday 27th Jan: Monty vs. Muzza

I work for a Central London sports agency…and roughly ten months ago we moved to a spacious new home. One of the important relocation requests was a complete view of high-spec LCD flat-screens throughout the office – for our work demands that visual sport is always very accessible!

Therefore I am lucky enough to digitally spectate at all major daily sporting events.

But today the sport on offer threw up a distinct and controversial cultural choice: on the BBC Andy Murray was fighting for a place in a major final (the Aussie Open), while on SkySports Monty Panesar looked to demolish the Pakistani top order.

I could have a clear view of one big sporting spectacle, but which should I choose?And Monty and Muzza could not be more different…

Andy is a unique talent who always fights passionately to take his place within the tennis elite. In many ways he is desperately unlucky – his professional generation has arguably provided the greatest ever champions in his field; but still he battles to prove his value and create his own legacy within the sport.

But without doubt he is painfully dull –  He has never connected with the British public and his dour, demure personality riles many and disconnects most.

Monty, on the other hand, has managed to establish himself as a cultural and sporting icon. He is far from the greatest player of his generation, he is not even England’s best current spinner. But Monty has always comfortably connected with the wider British public – we all respect him and we love to watch him skip down the wicket with every celebration. He is consistently excitable, passionate and unique.

In reality the choice was easy…we could watch another difficult, frustrating and disappointing Murray defeat or another inspiring, fun-filled Monty celebration – which would you choose?