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 so much money they will be able to club together and buy Saudi Arabia. But what you can be certain of is that no one has ever watched a LIV event of their own free will or is ever likely to, despite the presence of some of the world’s best players, like Jon Rahm, Bryson

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 very good at the game before donning Superman cloaks last Saturday to give a classic fooled-you performance against Ireland’s dogged champions. Playing fearlessly with speed, adventure and aggression, this young(ish) England side produced one of the greatest games of the century. Playing with speed and aggression, this England side produced one of the greatest games

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 and emerged unscathed. Was he the finest fly-half ever? He was certainly the most beautiful to watch. He played just 25 games for Wales and a handful for the British and Irish Lions, including the 1971 tour of New Zealand when he helped them to their only series victory against the All Blacks. It was

How sport helped shape the British character

Faith in state planning was central to Harold Wilson’s pledge to modernise Britain. It was his rhetorical vision of a country guided by strategic foresight and ‘forged in the white heat of technology’ that helped him win the 1964 election. But Wilson also displayed the same attachment to planning in his personal life. Back in 1934 he joined the Port Sunlight tennis club, not because he was interested in the sport but because he felt it would provide the right environment to approach one of its young female members, a shorthand-typist called Gladys Baldwin. Unlike his ‘white heat’ agenda, the policy worked. After a lengthy courtship, during which Gladys dropped

In defence of supporting both England and Wales

Michael Sheen has had a problem with the royal family for some time – and it’s only got worse since William was appointed Prince of Wales. The actor, best known for playing Tony Blair but somewhat to the left of him politically, has criticised the notion of an Englishman being nominal head of the principality. Sheen has lately carved out a niche as a pound-shop Richard Burton addressing motivational monologues to the Welsh football team, to little effect thus far. And he predictably stepped up his campaign ahead of the World Cup: how could William, he asked, reconcile his role as President of the English Football Association with his position

Who’s more useless – the Tories or the England rugby team?

In a curious way the decline of English rugby mirrors that of the Conservative party. Four years ago there was a spring in the step of both. England had trounced the All Blacks in the semi-final of the World Cup in Japan, and although they lost to South Africa in the final a week later there was a belief that the future was bright. As the Daily Telegraph summed it up in a headline, ‘England’s squad unity demonstrates cause for optimism’.   Four years on and England are anything but optimistic ahead of next month’s World Cup. Under new coach Steve Borthwick they have won just three of their nine matches

Rugby union needs its own Richard Thompson

Dear oh dear, as exasperated kings are known to murmur – just look at the state of rugby union. But if our monarch had to pass judgment on the catastrophe enveloping the game in England, you imagine his language would be stronger than that. Mind you, a decent king is just what rugby needs: heads have to be seriously knocked together – off the field – if the game is to survive in anything like its current form. This column feels no shame in returning to this theme; after all, it’s not often that a major sport finds itself looking down the barrel. It’s clear that the current organisational structures

English rugby is in crisis

Make no mistake: the game of rugby, which many of us love so much, is in serious trouble: it will have to change or die. The game’s scarily existential issue on the field – especially the brain health of those who play it – is one thing. But what is going on inside the heads of those who run the sport? The financial clouds hovering over English rugby are as menacing as Billy Vunipola coming on to the ball at full speed from the back of the scrum. Worcester Warriors are just the start: Wasps are in trouble, and Bristol could be next. There will be more. Only Leicester, Northampton

What Richard Thompson can do for English cricket

Well alleluia, English cricket doesn’t seem able to put a foot wrong these days. After hitting three cherries with Rob Key, Brendon McCullum and Ben ‘Bazball’ Stokes, they may well have struck the jackpot with the appointment of Richard Thompson, the Surrey chairman, to take over as head of the English Cricket Board, something this column has long advocated. Thompson has plenty going for him: uniquely perhaps among the game’s administrators he is both traditional and forward thinking. Traditional enough to have realised the Texan conman ‘Sir’ Allen Stanford, with his million-quid pile of money on the Lord’s outfield, was a wrong-un. And forward thinking enough to have championed the

I’ve seen the future of motor racing, and it’s quiet

Are petrolheads’ days numbered? I only ask because having just been introduced to the quiet, petrol-less world of Formula E, I’m rather taken by it. Apart from anything else, part of the fun of spectating is making your feelings heard, which isn’t easy against the 130 decibels generated by F1 engines. The Formula E world championship arrives in London’s Docklands this weekend, weaving in and out of the ExCeL for races 13 and 14 of the season. That’s ‘E’ as in electric and plainly non-fossil fuel motoring is the future, though how soon isn’t clear. Formula E people think single-seat racing is a good way to promote it, and once

How Kyrgios saved Wimbledon

What separates this year’s ‘empty seats on centre court’ scandal from every other year’s ‘empty seats on centre court’ scandal? Wimbledon has always been a garden party with some tennis thrown in, attended by the least sports-driven crowd in existence – the matrons of Guildford and Godalming who manage to love Rafa and Andy for a fortnight, but not much longer, and whose need for a punnet of strawberries and cup of tea at around 4 p.m. is eternal. And for whom it’s funny if the ball hits the umpire’s chair. Wimbledon is half a tennis tournament and half the last redoubt of a disappearing England. Certainly the BBC saw

Is any sporting event more brutal than the Tour de France?

That great Frenchman the Marquis de Sade would have been justly proud of the Tour de France had he lived to see the day. Should we deduce that sado-masochism is a French trait? No question. Has there ever been a more brutal event in world sport? This year’s race kicks off in Denmark (yes, really) at the weekend on its way to more than 3,500km of lung-busting effort. The question is: can anyone stop Tadej Pogacar, the 23-year-old Slovenian prodigy and winner of the last two Tours? He is in staggering form this year, having minced his home Tour and a series of other races. A brilliant climber and time

Rob Burrow is in a league of his own

What a privilege the other night to see Rob Burrow, the Rugby League legend, win Autobiography of the Year at the Sports Book Awards at the Oval. Burrow is one of the most successful players in the history of League, although only 5ft 5in and less than 11 stone in a sport populated by big men battering each other. Now he is confined to a wheelchair, ravaged by motor neurone disease, yet radiating huge warmth with a permanent wide smile. He was greeted with a long standing ovation, and made a moving speech using an eye-activated computer device with his own voice. Sportspeople do not have to be the best

Where Eddie Jones is going wrong

Rugby Union, bloody hell. We’ve got to talk about Eddie, but before that, what about something much cheerier? Just when it seemed the game was for the big bruisers of northern Europe and the southern hemisphere, Italy show us that it ain’t necessarily so. It seemed impossible that anyone could upstage France’s victory parade on the last day, but that is just what Italy’s heroic XV did, by upsetting the only team that had come close to bringing down Antoine Dupont and his crew of Gallic legends. Already the best try of the tournament – and the sporting highlight of the year so far – has been set to ‘Nessun

Let’s scrap the Six Nations

If you were one of the sharp-suited head honchos at CVC Capital Partners, the private equity megalith that has ploughed £365 million into the Six Nations, you might be wondering whether you had got your money’s worth. Sure, all the games are sellouts, from the Twickenham all-day piss-up to the gathering of the clans at Murrayfield to the joys of the Stadio Olimpico because, frankly, who doesn’t want a weekend in Rome? But the rugby’s another matter. It wasn’t the interminable scrum resets at Twickenham that did it for me, nor the endless water breaks, nor the turgid first half, but the shambles the next day in Italy’s forlorn battle

Mason Greenwood and football’s obsession with prodigies

Well, there’s a surprise: Nike have cancelled their sponsorship of the Manchester United and England footballer Mason Greenwood, who is engulfed by a series of very unpleasant allegations involving an 18-year-old girl. There’s a lot that can’t be discussed about this distressing saga but one aspect that’s worth looking at is the fact that Greenwood, like so many prodigies, was snapped up by a Premier League club at an extraordinarily young age, in his case just six. But in its obsession with signing up talent that has only just learned to walk, is football missing a trick? How many hidden gems are there in the lower leagues who were passed

A drinker’s guide to the Six Nations

Let’s face it, rugby can be a bit confusing. No-one really understands the rules. For huge swathes of an 80-minute game, the ball disappears under a pile of bodies; scrums look like a load of fat fellas looking for a set of keys dropped in the mud and the rest of the time it’s just a giant cartoon brawl – a massive Beano-esque cloud of dust with assorted fists, feet and colloquial expletives emerging from it at various angles; after which a pint-sized ‘bloody good bloke’ kicks a penalty through some posts after an alleged offence no one understood in the first place. That’s why rugby fans are allowed to

Why everyone should be shouting about Dave ‘Rocket’ Ryding

As we digest another Ashes thrashing for England’s cricketers in Australia, and wonder whether the 1966 World Cup victory will forever be the solitary success for one of Britain’s national football teams, the triumphs of individual Brits continue to astound. In the past year GB punched well above its weight in finishing fourth in the Olympic medals table with 22 golds, mostly in individual events. Teenager Emma Raducanu rocked the world with her out-of-nowhere win at the US Open tennis, though she is beginning to need a reset now. And then last weekend, even more extraordinarily still, came Dave ‘Rocket’ Ryding’s amazing made-in-Lancashire gold medal in the showpiece Kitzbühel World

The BBC is killing cricket

Full homage to the nail-biting cricketing miracle in Sydney, while bearing in mind that miracles, like lightning, rarely strike twice and it’s a toss-up whether England’s Test team or Novak Djokovic was more deserving of deportation from Australia earlier this week. But only Test cricket could conjure up such a climax after five days of fierce competition where one of the greatest batters the world has seen had just six balls to try to dismiss one of the greatest bowlers. Cricket eh! Bloody hell. The BBC’s desertion of red-ball cricket has played a major role in sidelining the game Breathtaking tension — think Arsenal having to beat Liverpool in 1989

The absurdity of tennis players’ toilet breaks

Forgive the personal question, but how long does it take you to, you know, go to the gents, ladies, non-binary? Quite what Stefanos Tsitsipas was doing in there in any of his numerous toilet breaks during the epic first-round US Open encounter with Andy Murray at Flushing (geddit?) Meadows is anybody’s guess. It clearly riled Murray — never the hardest thing to do — who was playing as well as ever, and is the ironman, quite literally, of Grand Slam tennis. He has also rather wittily pointed out that Jeff Bezos can get into space and back again more quickly than Tsitsipas can go to the loo. There is something