Category Archives: Forge Press

4000 wins for A.P McCoy: but is he really the greatest sportsman of his age?

a.p mccoy

Image courtesy of Paul.

A piece for Forge Sport’s regular Matchdebating feature, arguing that A.P McCoy can’t be judged the greatest sportsman of his generation, even after 4000 race wins. Must be mad.

There is no doubting the enormity of A.P McCoy’s achievement, his 4,000th win this month merely allows people to celebrate what we all already know, that he is one of the the greatest race jockeys of all time.

But anointing him as the greatest sportsperson of his generation, let alone of all time, is much more problematic. For starters, to make a rather obvious and blunt point, McCoy’s successes are never truly just his own. His skill of powering horses towards victory is undoubted, but he is blessed with being the main jockey of the most illustrious stable in British hunt racing.

The horses on which he rides are the best of their kind, bred to race and trained by the incredible Jonjo O’Neill. Just as Sebastian Vettel would struggle in a moderately sized hatchback, McCoy couldn’t have won the Grand National on a tired old nag.

So is it not true that the winner of all of those 4,000 races has been the horse, the trainer and the owner, just as much as McCoy?

Horse racing is also undoubtedly an exciting and dramatic sport with fans all over the world. But, really, McCoy is only well-known in Europe, not in America or Australia, where racing is a game governed by different rules and with its own fans. He is only really a hero in Britain and Ireland.

Which really raises the issue of what makes a great sportsperson anyway. There are those, like McCoy, who stand head and shoulders above their competitors – literally in the case of Usain Bolt, figuratively for Lionel Messi.

But these two men transcend the sport in which they are so accomplished and are recognised globally simply for their excellence.

Big companies fall over themselves to associate their brand with Messi and Bolt, and most importantly, kids aspire to emulate them.

Their stories are so well known across the globe – Messi overcame a growth hormone deficiency to become one of the greatest footballers of all-time; Bolt had to be persuaded away from playing cricket to concentrate on his sprinting.

They are not simply great with a ball at their feet or with 100m of track in front of them, they are role-models to children from Buenos Aires to Kingston and beyond. McCoy may well be great, but his reach is somewhat more limited.

But of all of this begs a good question. Does the fact that more people know who Messi, Bolt or Floyd Mayweather are mean they are any better at their sport than McCoy is at his? Not really.

A truly great cricketer in Sachin Tendulkar retired this week, and rather than reflecting on his immensity as a player and a man, the debate has already begun on where he sits in the mythical rankings of all-time greats. Debasing the Little Master’s career to mere numbers is perhaps just as much a zero-sum game as comparing jockeys with footballers, sprinters or boxers.

To watch a mazy run from Messi, a booming overhand right from Mayweather or a sumptuous cover drive from Tendulkar is a joy in its own right. Watching Usain Bolt and AP McCoy roar free from a tight crowd to take glory in the last few seconds similarly. To begin comparing them is almost impossible, as to do so detracts from their unique, one-off brilliance. Let’s just enjoy them while we can.


Sheffield United 3-1 Crewe Alexandra: Blades era under Clough off to best possible start

Sheffield United badge

I went and saw how Nigel Clough got on in his first game as Sheffield United boss for Forge Sport

A pair of headers for Harry Maguire and a Ryan Flynn solo effort gave Nigel Clough the dream start to life as Sheffield United manager, as the Blades ran out comfortable 3-1 winners against Crewe at Bramall Lane.

18,784 spectators, this season’s highest at home, gave Clough a rousing reception before kick-off, and the new manager must have soon wondered how his new club find themselves in such a precarious league position.

United had the worst goal-scoring record in League One prior to kick-off, but it took just 17 minutes for the first goal of Clough’s reign. Midfielder Stephen McGinn chased down a loose clearance and won a free-kick deep on the left hand side after a heavy challenge. After recovering well enough to take it, his cross was met by centre half Harry Maguire, who found himself unmarked and stooped low to head in.

It was exactly what the home crowd needed. There had been a distinct tension around the ground in the early stages as Crewe settled well.

Suddenly, United had confidence to attack with greater freedom, and it paid off on the half hour. In an action replay of the first goal, a McGinn corner from the left reached Maguire, who again unmarked, nodded in at the far post to give the Blades a well-deserved two goal lead at the interval.

The second half started with a scare for United, when Crewe’s Anthony Grant got into a good position down the left and crossed for Byron Moore, who skied over when he should have scored despite taking the ball on the volley.

If that was a let-off for United, then they really rubbed Crewe’s nose in it just two minutes later. Ryan Flynn, who looked dangerous down United’s right all afternoon, collected the ball 35 yards from goal and drove at the Crewe defence, before beating Crewe keeper Steve Phillips with a low shot at his near post.

United looked likely to add more goals when Taylor, King and Collins all went close.

But it was the introduction of Chuks Aneke and Max Clayton for the visitors which brought them back into the game. After heading against the bar a minute earlier, the bright Aneke then fed Clayton who ran in behind the United back four and slotted home with 15 minutes remaining.

The Blades spent the last part of the game penned in their own half as Crewe pushed for another, but the new boss was able to breathe a sigh of relief as the Blades picked up a valuable three points.

University of Sheffield 1sts 4-0 University of Leeds 1sts

My first match report on university football for Forge Press. It was cold…

Three goals in the last ten minutes saw Sheffield run out comfortable 4-0 winners against University of Leeds and pick up their first three points of the new campaign.

After gaining promotion last season by dropping just two points at home, Sheffield went into the game with confidence despite suffering a 3-1 defeat at Manchester last week. But the home side were noticeably relieved when midfielder Tom Bland smashed home an 82nd minute penalty to put them 2-0 up after a disjointed game, hindered by some questionable refereeing decisions.

With the play stretched and Leeds deflated, the tireless Tam Kitgrave twice broke in behind Leeds’ defence to add another two late goals. Having won the earlier penalty through sheer force of will after chasing down what seemed a lost cause, it was the least his endeavour deserved.

In truth, it was the piece of play that epitomised Sheffield’s performance. After dominating the first 15 minutes, Sheffield had to work hard to keep Leeds’ pacey front three at bay, who constantly threatened to break in behind the Sheffield defence.

The teams had seemed destined to go into half-time at a stalemate, before Sheffield took the lead on 40 minutes. A whipped corner from the impressive Eric Wedge Bull landed perfectly on the forehead of centre back Patrick Howard who made no mistake from five yards out.

Leeds enjoyed their best spell early in the second half, when Sheffield tucked their wingers Kitgrave and James Shields back into midfield to protect their lead, leaving striker Josh Thompson isolated. But Sheffield defended resolutely and restricted Leeds to only half chances.

The game grew increasingly fraught as Leeds searched for an equaliser, and much of their ire was directed at the referee. His display was best described as inconsistent, after bringing the play back for seemingly minor infringements but taking no action after several crunching challenges.

The angrier the Leeds players became, the less effective their attacks seemed to be. Sending their vocal centre back Jason Pilkington further forward left gaping holes which Kitgrave gleefully exploited in the closing stages.

Without ever really dominating, Sheffield gained a handsome victory through their doggedness and determination. Going into next week’s home game against Liverpool John Moores, they will feel confident they can make their mark at a higher level.

Uni of Sheffield helps launch £23m Arts and Humanities college

I wrote a few news articles for Forge Press, the student newspaper, when I started my course at Sheffield in September 2013. Here it is on their website. 

The University of Sheffield has helped launch the White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities, a new £23m initiative that will fund scholarships for 300 doctoral students over the next five years.

The White Rose College will be one of the largest doctoral training schools for arts and humanities in the UK.

Alongside the universities of York and Leeds, Sheffield is a member of the White Rose Consortium, a partnership between the three Russell Group universities established in 1997.

£19m has been provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the White Rose Consortium will provide an additional £4m.

As well as studying at their own university, successful applicants will benefit from specialist research and employability training from White Rose College and the opportunities to study abroad and go on placements.

Professor Richard Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield, said: “The funding from the AHRC is a real vote of confidence in the depth of scholarship and the quality of the doctoral experience in Arts and Humanities in the three universities. Potential applicants for these AHRC studentships, as well as students funded by other means, will see this award as a badge of quality, helping us continue to attract the brightest doctoral students.”

Since its formation the White Rose Consortium has raised over £130m for the three Universities involved.

Applications for the White Rose College open in November 2013, with the first group of students starting in Autumn 2014.

The new college qualifies as one of the AHRC’s Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and as an AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).