The shortlist for SPOTY has been announced, and regular as clockwork the controversy starts. This year it’s come from women athletes complaining that their contribution has been ignored with a 10 man shortlist. My initial reaction was to dismiss this as political whingeing at the end of a year where British women athletes have hardly distinguished themselves. But the more I looked through the shortlist the more I think they’ve got a point.
Not that any of them deserve to get anywhere near to winning the thing, they just haven’t performed well enough. But looking through the list you could say three men have done nothing to merit inclusion. Luke Donald has yet again been Mr average, who performs immaculately in any major till the Sunday, where he thinks par golf will see him home. It might have worked for Faldo 20 years ago but Tiger Woods has happened since then and it won’t do now. Well done on topping the rankings but so what. Murray has continued to disappoint everyone but his harridan of a mother so why he’s there baffles me (but we always seem desperate to reward tennis mediocrity ion this country). And Amir Khan, well I’m no boxing fan but he’s not world champion in any of the self-serving boxing organisations so just not good enough. So in place of any of these you could have found genuine women winners, albeit only to make up the numbers.
Of the remaining ones worthy of discussion Dai Green and Mo Farrell (massive gooner – respect) have had outstanding years on the track. Next year it’s the Olympics, do something then and you’re in with a chance.
So that leaves a peloton of five worthy contenders, two from golf, 2 from cricket and a lone cyclist. All have succeeded at the highest level, and each has done that bit extra to get the nod. Rory coming back from Augusta misery to dominate and win the US Open was a stunning achievement, especially whilst seeing out his clothing sponsorship with Burton group. Darren Clarke won a great Open in some style, and has a back story to make James Murdoch weep, but his determination to piss it all up against the wall since should count against him.
The English cricket team have had another outstanding year, stuffing all comers with monotonous regularity. All my life I’ve waited for a genuine world-class England team, and now, finally, we do. It’s just a shame that Australia have been so pitifully poor so as not to provide any meaningful competition. (I wonder if Mitchell Johnson or Doug Bollinger are up for any gongs in Oz this year? Or Punter. Or Xavier Doherty.) Of the 2 stars Strauss hardly excelled with the bat but led the team magnificently on and off the field. Alistair Cook has been the best bat on the planet, batting Australia, Sri Lanka and India into submission. If ever there was a year for him to win the thing it’s now.
And yet for me it has to be Cavendish this year. The Manx Missile has been the biggest thing in cycling for the past 3 years but has kept under the radar in this country. Fir some reason we only seem to recognise indoor cyclist over here, which merely betrays our ignorance of competitive cycling. The real top cyclists strut their stuff in the grand tours, and most importantly the Tour de France. Cavendish has been an utter sensation since becoming the lead sprinter for the HTC Highroad team, winning 20 stages in the last 3 years. If you consider that there are probably only 9 stages or so each year that a sprinter stands a realistic chance of winning that means he’s got a 75% success rate. This year was business as usual, but he managed to secure the maillot vert, something no British rider has ever done, as well as customarily winning the Champs Elysee sprint for the 3rd year running. Oh and he went on to become the Road World Champion in Denmark in October, the first Brit to win this since the late great Tommy Simpson (I think).
I actually think he has a realistic chance of winning it this year because of the way it’s fallen. Presumably both cricket and the golfing (and Irish) vote will be split down down the middle, leaving Cav as he does so often, to emerge from the massed ranks and snatch victory at the very last. If he falls then I hope it’s Cook who gets it.
But SPOTY has a history of serving up ill deserving winners, from royalty through to ageing Welsh wingers who happen to have played for ManU for a long time. At least when these travesties occur you can take solace in the fact it’s a meaningless back slapping charade which counts for nothing. But please not this year.