Andy Murray is the best of the year

This year Andy Murray not only led the British triumph in the Davis Cup — where, frankly, he looked a class better than anyone else — but afterwards stood tall at the microphone and explained to the Lawn Tennis Association where they were going wrong.

Britain's Andy Murray tops the author's list.   -  AP

A columnist’s New Year would not be complete unless he compiled a list of the great sportsmen he had watched in the previous 12 months. Inevitably, he wants to select the best of the year and this time I am in the happy position of finding that I can justify picking a British sportsman as the star of 2015. (Note I say British and not English because I simply do not want to offend any of the Scots I met during the two happy years spent north of the border at the start of my career.)

That brings us immediately to Andy Murray who, a couple of years short of his 30th birthday, happy in his own skin, powerful of stroke, gimlet-eyed, tactically aware and improving day by day still has a chance to be called best in the world before he retires and, if I am any judge, plays as big a part as David Beckham in the governance of sport.

Murray is my choice as the best of British; maybe the best anywhere for his actions and his forthright words.

This year he not only led the British triumph in the Davis Cup — where, frankly, he looked a class better than anyone else — but afterwards stood tall at the microphone and explained to the Lawn Tennis Association where they were going wrong.

So that is two marks for Murray — on the court and afterwards. Keep up your good form Andy — one day it may bring about a higher standard of tennis in Britain and you will be recognised as a hero again.

Next in my list of all-time greats from this era is Lewis Hamilton, supreme F1 driver and, quietly a leader in the movement that says all men of every colour are equal.

Hamilton has now won two World Championships in a row and it was obvious to anyone with half an eye for the way sport works that he was going to win this year’s title from the start. After he completed his success his form suddenly went flat and no one seems to be able to work out why.

Here’s a clue. After years of reaching for the stars he had nothing more to prove. He started as a youngster, won the World Championship in Brazil at the last possible moment, put up with all the racist insults the bigots could throw in his direction, switched cars and suddenly went from hopeful trier with a load of talent to the ace of aces.

I wish him more luck in the future because in the class ridden society of my country he will need to overcome the fact that he was born and brought up in Stevenage, a new town that arose soon after the War but which still causes snobs to react as if he had been raised as a wild creature in the jungle.

Nothing of the sort. In the last couple of years, he has learnt to be an ambassador for his sport.

There are plenty of rivals for the best of 2015 including three footballers apparently wanted by Manchester United: Neymar, Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

United are cash rich but talent poor at the moment and I think they are going the wrong way about building a team. “You’ll win nothing with kids,” is an old football saying but it is equally true that you cannot buy success.

I would pay good money to see any of the three play in the Premier League but I wonder if I will get the chance.

Besides, I see around me and hear rumours of marvellous English, Scottish and Welsh players in amateur, non-League and semi-professional football, kept in the shadows because Premier League clubs cannot see beyond the stars like Neymar and the rest. If you consider Leicester City, a true threat at the top of the Premier League without a big money player you must realise that English clubs are failing to find local talent.

Perhaps it is time to give these kids a chance to shine. Who knows, in a couple of years I might be writing about their hopes of winning a Player of the Year title. Now that is a columnist’s New Year wish come true.

Actually, I have a confession to make. I dislike tattoos and coloured, decorated footballs and wish that football would go back to plain, brown leather footballs like American football. It adds dignity to the game and heaven knows our football should welcome a little dignity after all the undignified behaviour of its leaders recently.