Roger Alton

Roger Alton

Roger Alton is a former editor of the Observer and the Independent. He writes the Spectator Sport column.

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

England’s rugby World Cup has disaster written all over it

England’s preparation for the upcoming rugby World Cup is beginning to look like a slow-motion car crash, after two pathetic performances against Wales. Those of a betting disposition might want to bung a bit on Argentina muscling England aside when they meet in their first pool encounter on 9 September. The Pumas aren’t world beaters,

Stuart Broad would make a great politician

And they said Test cricket was in its death throes! This epic, attention-grabbing, emotion-wringing Ashes series ended in the last minutes of the last hour of the last session of the last day of the last match: who could ask for more? England have had a number of very good captains since Mike Brearley took

Cricket, tennis and the Women’s World Cup: what a summer 

Great sport needs great rivalries, and that is why anyone with a pulse must celebrate being in the throes of an unrivalled confluence of extraordinary sporting occasions right now. As commentators grind on about what a bad place the world is in – ignoring the far worse places the world has been in over the

If you thought Lord’s was rowdy, get ready for Leeds

Shouldn’t we all just calm down a bit after Lord’s? Once prime ministers decide to intervene, you know things have gone too far. Rishi Sunak has made it clear he wouldn’t want to win a match that way apparently, which feels very much like Tony Blair’s decision to wade into the case of Corrie’s jailed

Why we all need an Ollie Robinson

It’s a long way from Edgbaston to Karachi, but that’s where my thoughts were turning after Australia’s last-gasp victory in an unbearably tense, always thrilling, wonderful Ashes Test on Tuesday. Ominously for England, Australia’s three best batsmen, and the three best in the world, misfired simultaneously over five days. But they still managed to win.

Football bosses must carry the can for players’ bad behaviour

If you couldn’t watch the Europa League final between Sevilla and Roma, then you should count yourself fortunate. It was a nasty, bitter and forgettable excursion, blighted by fouls and time-wasting, that should make anyone connected with it ashamed, apart from the doughty English referee Anthony Taylor, who had a fairly good game. But for

Is Uefa just useless – or is it worse than that?

It’s not clear how many readers of this journal will be affected, but anyone planning a stag weekend in Prague ought to steer clear of the first week of June. That’s when the city hosts the Uefa Conference League final at the 20,000-capacity Eden Arena, home to Slavia Prague. The finalists are West Ham –