Spectator Sport

The perils of going to Manchester United

Plodding up Wembley Way to the FA Cup Final at the weekend surrounded by a phalanx of well-refreshed Manchester United fans was not a savoury experience, but the game was something else. What was clear was how good United were, full of bite and high-throttle energy, ready to go for broke against the best team

Is pro-golf eating itself? 

Spare a thought for Manchester United’s Erik ten Hag. He’s got a fairly crummy, injury-hit team who appear to have given up running (apart from Alejandro Garnacho who is still young enough to think that it’s OK to belt down the left wing and then deposit the ball somewhere, though not in goal). His new

The strikers giving Southgate a headache

Poor Gareth Southgate. Having three outstanding finishers is giving him a thumping headache ahead of the European Championship. Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden are thrilling football crowds with their goal-scoring talents in three of the best domestic leagues in the world. Most national team managers would welcome such a golden trio: but for

It’s no wonder Manchester City are top of the league

Well it was fun while it lasted, the closest three-way race for the Premier League in history, a title challenge as exciting as anything you will see on Netflix. It’s not over yet but it certainly feels like it. With six games to play, there’s still many a slip… But deep down even their most

County cricket needs Bazball

It’s freezing cold and everywhere is flooded, so it must be the start of the county cricket season. Surrey, last year’s champions, head for Old Trafford on Friday, in what should be a three-sweater day, aiming to make it three titles in a row. And who would bet against them? It’s a superb tournament, the

Where did all the good English football managers go?

It’s not easy for most right–thinking people to care much about golf and golfers apart from gasping in wonder at the size of their bank balances. Right now the Saudi–backed LIV tour and the American and European tours are making occasional grunts of peace towards each other. Soon the various professional golf bodies will have

Sometimes rugby can be the most exciting sport of all

After the failure of Bazball – ending in England’s dismal capitulation on the cricket fields of India – let us give thanks for the emergence of Borthball in front of the Twickenham faithful. And it certainly was much needed: Steve Borthwick’s England rugby team had apparently been trying to convince us that they really weren’t

Formula 1 is a breeding ground for scandal

Well, who could have guessed it? So the world of Formula 1 isn’t a clean-living sanctuary of good behaviour that makes a Convocation of Bishops look like the court of Caligula. Here’s a slice of F1 life: a prominent motor-racing executive walks into a room of pretty young marketing girls: ‘What’s the difference between an

Can England rain on Scotland’s Six Nations parade? 

Watching England play Wales in the Six Nations the other day, a lacklustre match between two middling sides and distinguished only by lashings of Welsh hwyl as the visitors outperformed their role as underdogs, I remarked to the Irish friend who was with me: ‘The Welsh don’t like the English, do they?’ ‘Get in line,’

Farewell to rugby’s King John

You couldn’t miss the heartbreaking irony of one of the greatest rugby players who ever pulled on his boots passing away just as the latest tournament was getting under way featuring 18-stone behemoths smashing into each other. Barry John, who retired at 27 and died last Sunday at 79, could have walked through brick walls

Football needs its own Mr Bates

Did football officials watch Mr Bates vs The Post Office? They should have – and learned from it. Otherwise they could be next in the crosshairs of a TV dramatist. Just as the Post Office failed to act as they should have done to protect sub-postmasters, football – and rugby for that matter – is

Can England beat India at home in a Test series?

It is surely the ultimate challenge in international cricket: winning a Test series in India. It’s the pinnacle for a Test team, much harder than in Australia. India have lost only one home series in 19 years, in 2012, when Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar spun Alastair Cook’s England to an epic victory. The latest

My sporting questions for 2024

Could this be the year when England’s men win their first international football trophy for 58 years? After all, they have the best striker in Europe in Harry Kane and the best attacking midfielder in Jude Bellingham, both of whom are being treated like Wellington and Nelson at their respective clubs BayernMunich and Real Madrid.

Rugby could be derailed by its head injury problem

Anyone who thought Gavin Henson, perma-tanned Welsh rugby three-quarter and one-time escort of Charlotte Church, was just an overhyped glamour boy should think again. He has revealed himself as one of more than 200 former players, including several Test players, involved in legal action against World Rugby and the English and Welsh unions, claiming levels

How Vegas became a sporting hotspot

Anyone know the Hindi for schadenfreude? Who could have seen that coming: certainly not your correspondent, who had invested some time ago in India to win the Cricket World Cup. Not to be, sadly, and the red-hot favourites were given an absolute pasting in their own backyard by a team of unfancied Aussies who had

English cricket doesn’t travel well 

It’s a tricky old time for cricket. The collapse of England’s World Cup white-ballers – and how they have managed to run up the white flag with quite such aplomb – is one of the great sporting mysteries of our time. One day they are the best in the world and hot favourites; the next

Simone Biles is in a league of her own 

Has there ever been an athlete, male or female, quite like Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time? She is like something from another planet, so out of this world are the body-bending tricks she can accomplish on the floor, vault and bars. These are incomprehensible feats of agility, strength and grace, which were

Will the US catch the birdie at the Ryder Cup? 

At last the Ryder Cup is here – well, in Rome – and with it Europe’s biennial chance to stick it to the Americans in a sport that matters in a format that we can all relate to. Even if you regard golfers as extremely well-off people largely determined to make themselves better off, the

Novak Djokovic, the man who won’t go away

‘What are you still doing here?’ joked Daniil Medvedev to Novak Djokovic after their US Open tennis final – a lung-busting baseline slugfest featuring jaw-dropping athleticism and brilliant shot-making – had ended in a straight sets win for the Serb. It was his 24th Grand Slam victory. There’s no sign that Djokovic wants to slow