Enthusiastic comments

Raheem Sterling, a 19-year-old old winger with the buoyant Liverpool football side, is the most exciting British footballer since George Best pulled on his first pair of boots, writes Ted Corbett.

Springtime and — in the words of the old song — the living is easy. Very easy, for a jobbing sports columnist like me, as the winter games reach their climax and all the preparations for the summer begin to shape up. If a writer cannot find 900 words of enthusiastic comment at this time of the year, he is, well, in the wrong job.

Let’s write the big events down. The Grand National, as hefty a test of a jumping horse as you will find anywhere in the world; that slightly out-dated but still fascinating University Boat race; the world snooker championship, full of stylish strokeplay; the dramatic semifinals of the FA Cup; IPL, that crescendo of excitement lasting little more than three hours and, of course, the subject of a great deal of “well, it’s not really proper cricket, is it?” in my country.

(Even the most conservative of critics will acknowledge it gives enormous pleasure to thousands, brings in a shedload of money and occupies TV schedules day after day, but it was not born here and therefore we don’t like it. Well, I do and the rest of the world can please itself.)

In addition there is the start of the golf worldwide with the American Masters played at a club which is more than fussy about who is allowed to enter its doors. All the usual suspects are excluded including women — half the planet’s population, remember. Wrong? Of course it is. Imagine the hullaballoo if I turned up to report a women’s Test match and was told I was the wrong gender, please go away.

Lord’s has not always welcomed women inside their pavilion — unless they were there to clean or type or serve dinner — but now that Charlotte Edwards has found a spot in Wisden at last women have a clear place in cricket.

No one will deny Charlotte is worthy of her honour but let me take her case a stage further. Is she the greatest international captain of all time? She has three Ashes triumphs to her name and if that was not enough she has led her fully professional team to World Cups, beaten every other side in sight and been the soul of discretion, a batsman of note and a sportswoman supreme at the same time.

She is already an MBE but I reckon that even at this moment the Queen has a pencil in hand and a scroll of parchment so that before too long we will be talking about Dame Charlotte Edwards and quite right too.

This is also the time of year when the Grand Prix begins and when every red-blooded male in the world imagines he can drive his scooter, his bike or his three-wheeler just as rapidly as Lewis Hamilton.

May I remind you that Hamilton is coloured — and booed in Spain for instance — but by the end of this season, when only a miracle can stop him being world champion, there will only be prejudice against him in the least civilised parts of the world. So too is Raheem Sterling, a 19-year-old old winger with the buoyant Liverpool football side, named for tabloid greatness and the most exciting British footballer since George Best pulled on his first pair of boots.

All the GP drivers recognise that Hamilton is a genius, polite and humble and genuinely pleased but still hurt when someone else wins. As for Sterling his first action after scoring a thrilling goal recently was to hug his manager. They both understand celebrity and sportsmanship.

In a country where any sportsperson only has to step out of line for a micro-second to be damned by newspapers, radio and television, Sterling, Edwards and Hamilton have managed to conduct their lives perfectly.

The Queen surely has her pencil out scribbling Lewis Hamilton’s name on that parchment too. I also bet this modest young guy will carry it well. There is time for Sterling — possibly after the World Cup — which will give Wayne Rooney another chance to put on a super show even if the England team are not good enough to win.

Dear Wayne, he is not the prettiest is he? I think that tells against him and makes him the victim of all those sports writers who would prefer their heroes to be tall, blond and handsome. Perhaps referees feel the same way so that every time he makes a heavy tackle they want to tell him off, warn him, book him or send him off.

I am far from being a Manchester United fan but I sometimes feel Rooney, who began life in the back streets of Liverpool and his career with Everton, is more sinned against than sinning.

One day, when he retires, we will look back on his era as a golden time in British football. Did you see that lob from the half-way line that went over the goalkeeper’s head and bounced into the net?

Heavens above, that was a superb goal, worthy of a Best, a Cruyff or a Ronaldo and proof that Rooney, mocked in a million headlines like “What did Roo do?” is just as football intelligent as any of the brainy chaps who have won a reputation for their tactical thinking. The idea of him and Sterling together is almost too good a dream to come true.

I hope his World Cup is a fabulous success and shows the people in Brazil, the country that gave us Pele and all those other football stars just how good Rooney is.