Is Andy Murray Britain’s greatest ever sportsman? - Ian Hart

So let the debate begin... With last week’s unfortunate announcement of his early retirement due to his hip injury, the question was posed is Sir Andy Murray Britain’s greatest ever sportsman?

Thursday, 17th January 2019, 6:08 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:14 pm
Andy Murray. Picture by Jon Rigby

Lauded by many, vilified by a few right at the beginning of his career, there has been a touch of Marmite about Murray, probably not dissimilar to Sir Ian Botham, another candidate for the mantle of ‘Britain’s Greatest Ever’.

On ability, there is not much of an argument. To be world number one in the era of his contemporaries along with ending the long wait for a British winner at Wimbledon, not once but twice, with an additional Grand Slam win in the US, coupled with back-to-back Olympic gold medals, clearly makes him the greatest tennis player this country has ever produced.

But then that in itself opens the debate, does ability supersede popularity?

Unfortunate quips to a journalist during both the 2006 World Cup and the Wimbledon Championships of that year have dogged Murray for the last 12 years.

Lest we forget, he was not only a teenager at the time but his “anyone but England” soundbite was a joke, clearly ill judged but an attempt at humour all the same.

Apparently that in many people’s eyes bars him from any title of a great British sportsman, which is almost as foolish as his original quote. But is the popularity aspect the deal breaker?

Go down the Amazon and you may find a bloke on a raft with knowledge of British and world soccer. And more than likely he will know who Sir Bobby Charlton is, in 50 year’s time will anyone down the Amazon know who Andy Murray is?

On ability I think, with the facts I’ve already stated, it’s an open and shut case. In their chosen sport, especially an individual sport rather than a team game, I don’t think anyone has reached the levels and achievements that Murray has.

Personally, while I’ve had the privilege of meeting both Sir Charlton and Sir Botham, I have to go on ability and achievement.

I still recall hearing the shouts reverberate around Hillside Avenue when Murray won Wimbledon for the first time, that in itself granted him legendary status. Looking right across the spectrum, I would say he is the greatest sportsman this country has ever, and possibly, will ever produce.

But am I in the majority?

On the subject of Bobby Charlton, the Albion head to Old Trafford this weekend for another Premier League test.

I came away from the Liverpool game last week somewhat disappointed as I felt the Albion could have got something from the game. As with the Chelsea and Arsenal games, we gave our opponents too much respect. And while it clearly was a penalty, what was Gross doing making a challenge like that in the area?

Last season we were unfortunate not to get anything from our November visit to the Theatre of Dreams. With the exit of Jose and rejuvenation under Solskjaer, it’s going to be a big ask.

Having said that, there will be a shock result or two over the course of a season, could it be the Albion’s turn this weekend?