We can all admire a great sportsman, but what really endears some of them to our memories is the personality they showed along the way – so here’s my top-5 sporting personalities! But please feel free to post your own favourites below – and tell us why you loved them!
#5 Red Rum
Number 5 on my list is all about guts, determination and stamina and, whilst it would have been easy to put Sir Steven Redgrave at the top of the list of sportsmen who showed those qualities in abundance, I’ll never forget the sight of Red Rum running past the elbow on his way to winning three Grand Nationals, and the roar of the crowd that both appreciated the feat – and loved him for it.
#4 Frank Bruno
Frank Bruno just loved to please a crowd, and the 1995 WBC Heavyweight World Champion knocked out 38 of his 45 opponents. His laugh was a knockout as well and, long after he hung up those golden gloves, he’s still playing to the crowds – even if it is only in Pantomime.
#3 David Beckham
Maybe we’ll never quite forgive him for being sent-off for his petulant kick at an Argentinean player at the 1998 World Cup, but it’s hard not to like David Beckham. He’s a kid who would have happily have given you a 100% playing at the local park, but managed to make his mark on the world stage with his trademark crosses and free-kicks. He’s always admitted he’s not the sharpest tool in the box, but playing for the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid, travelling the world as an ambassador of the sport, and marrying a Spice Girl – means he’s done pretty well for himself.
#2 George Best
Some people may think that George Best wasted his talents, but for many he’s a legend. When Best died aged 59, Pele said he was the best footballer whoever lived. He scored 131 goals in 367 appearances for Manchester United, before retiring at 27. He returned in bit-part roles around the world to fuel his lifestyle – and his ethos will always be immortalised in the words, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”
#1 Ian Botham
Ian Botham knew how to party too, though it was shameful that the English press couldn’t wait to catch him in the act. But that never stopped the crowds loving the man nicknamed “Beefy”, and the expectancy when he took to the pitch with bat or ball was always electric. That’s because he was as patriotic as he was talented, and in 102 tests for England he scored 5,200 runs and took 383 wickets – wearing an England shirt as proudly as any man I’ve ever seen.