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[Archived] Your top 5 sporting heroes

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A topic bound to be influenced by personal preference (of both sport and individual), so hopefully this doesn't turn into an argument!! In the aftermath of the PL season I was cooking Sunday roast tonight, and I started to think about this because I saw those Man City players jumping around ... but for me absolutely none of them are sporting heroes. In fact I didn't think I could place a single footballer into my list.

But after some more thought, maybe I could ...

I'm reserving the right to either revise or expand this list, but for now, my 5 is this ...

Lance Armstrong

To beat that illness from the stage he had it, to come back and be the best in the world in one of the most gruelling sports, incredible - a real inspiration

Steve Redgrave

Another illness, another gruelling sport (and he did so much to push it into the limelight - but all his hard work was done when there was no limelight for rowing at all) .. and count those medals

Didier Cuche

Anyone who swaps a career as a butcher to win 4 world titles (and 5 downhills at the legendary Kitzbuhel) in such a dangerous individual sport is a hero in my mind

Glen Chapple

This won't have legs outside of Lancashire, but for longevity and for bowling through a hamstring injury to help secure the County Championship last season - a selection from the heart

Tom Finney

It was between him, Mansell and Senna for the final spot. Senna went into the flawed genius category, Mansell simply fell well short of the single club grafter who would have been better than C Ronaldo if playing today. About 50 years ago my grandparents (living in Preston) called for an emergency plumber on Christmas Day. Tom Finney was the man who came round and rang their doorbell to fix the issue.

Well there we are. I didn't think a footballer would make the 5, but personal reasons put Finney in there.

Just a bit of fun ... over to you!

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An intial list, could change but for starters:

Neil Fairbrother, Lancashire

'Harvey' was by far my favourite Lancashire player in the late 80s/early 90s. Many a time he'd dominate a Sunday League or B&H match at the real OT without really doing anything explosive. Very quick between the wickets, devastating when in top form and an excellent fielder, especially in the covers. Probably the best finisher of a one-day innings in the world at the time. People talk about Twenty/20 players today, Fairbrother would have been a mega star in the IPL.

Alan Shearer, Blackburn Rovers

There were a few years in the early/mid 90s when Shearer was the dominant player in English football. One incident sums it up perfectly, he was on 99 Rovers goals before a home game v Coventry. Before the match, in the Fernhurst, a Coventry fan asked me if I thought he'd get his 100th, I replied he'll probably be on 102, needless to say he got the hat trick. My enduring memory is the bullet he smashed past Schmeichal in the 2-0 home win over Utd.

Mark Cavendish, HTC Highroad and Sky Procycling

Having lived on the Isle of Man for a good few years now, I've got the cycling bug and Cav is the biggest and brightest star. Went to Paris for his stage win in 2010, also saw two stages last year, including the win at Lavour that put him in Green. Met him at the start of that stage and he was nothing like the moody, grumpy, arrogant character some sections of the media portray. Delighted when he won the Worlds in Copenhagen. This guy is seriously good and fully deserved SPOTY 2011. His fall earlier this week in the Giro said everything, lost a vast amount of skin, got up and crossed the line, shame today's footballers act like pansies.

Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers

Joe Cool is widely regarded as one of the best quarterbacks ever to play in the NFL. Was drafted in the third round out of Notre Dame. Took a hopeless team to a Superbowl win in 3 years. Won 4 Superbowls with 3 SB MVPs. Played in a era when QB contact was far more acceptable than today. His stats don't look that good these days but the game has changed. The back to back SB wins over the Bengals and Broncos summed him up, amazing come back under huge pressure followed by a devastatingly dominant performance a year later. Simply the best.

Don Bradman, Australia

The Don is the only one I haven't seen live, be it on TV or in the flesh. His record is so staggeringly better than anyone else who has played the game it really is ridiculous. His test average is over 50% better (60 to 99) than the best of the rest. In no other sport has one player ever been statistically 50% better than 2nd place. Other players may have exceeded his aggregates but no-one will touch the average. Strangely, he had terrible doubts about his own ability and was a bit of a sick note during his career. His final test innings only added to the mystique of the man.

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Freddie Flintoff

When I face a 12-year old Freddie Flintoff for the first time, we already knew he was good. He was playing for Dutton Forshaws at the time, or Dutton Flintoffs as we often called them, such was the outstanding ability of Andrew. My experience of facing him didn't last long, I think I managed 2 balls before I got out at best. I never even considered he would play for England, funny that. In 2005 he was an inspiration for England, I remember scooting from the office at 3pm to go to my hotel room, stick on channel 4 and catch the last 3 or 4 hours. brilliant stuff.

Jason Robinson

Billy Whizz was a lightning fast world beater, and his influence as part of the arguably the best England team ever is not to be understated. As a professional playing league for Wigan, he came under the influence of Vaiga Tuigamala,"Inga" the winger. When he came to play for England at Rugby Union, not only was he quick and talented, but he possessed ferocious discipline. As a player, he was unstoppable in his prime, and although now retired, I still get incredibly start struck when I bump into him in Longridge Town Centre.

Simon Garner.

Need I say more? a legendary and inspirational player, love him to bits.

Tom Finney

I can only go off second hand information on Tom's playing career. He played in an era when television coverage was limited, so there isn't the same archive of his performances as there is of Pele, Maradona, Beckanbauer etc. It would seem though, that it is not without good reason that Tom was, in his day, the greatest footballer to walk the earth. My father used to get 3 buses with his own grandfather to go to Deepdale to see him. Which was no enviable task. Lucky enough to have met Sir Tom a couple of times, he seems a lovely bloke, and a living legend

and I'm stumped for a fifth...

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Not Just because he has left Juventus, But Alesandro Del Piero.

When i started taking a regular intrest in football i started watching italian football aswell as the prem.

And Juve were the team i took a shine to, Roberto Baggio, Yugovic, Vialli ect..ect..They then signed a young lad called Del Piero.

The rest is history.One of the best footballers of all time and my personal favourite.

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  • Backroom

I can't do a top 5 (can reach a 3), but I idolise Lance Armstrong. The latter's story is what gives my uncle hope in his own battle vs cancer. I always loved Seve Ballasteros ' ability to recover from virtually any golfing nightmare, too. The only (modern) footballer top be worthy of anyone's 'top' list imo is Zinedine Zidane. Not only could the guy change a match with a little bit of magic and score from anywhere on the pitch, but he was hard as nails too. The ultimate player.

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  • 3 weeks later...

My list is flawed like the others but has a focus on people who transcended their sport to become household names because of their prowess and character inside and outside their game of choice:

1. Mohammed Ali - a legend and a man of principle

2. Geoff Boycott - the means by which many a Yorkshireman still defines himself

3. Simon Garner - can a better better servant to a club be found?

4. Stephen Hendry - simply the best of his time at what he did

5. Lance Amrstrong - a clean competitor in a world of dopes who overcame great personal challenge

I could probably be persuaded to replace any of 2 to 4 but not no.1

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Hopefully you won't beat the poo out of me for my choices. But considering my allegience to another football club I am sure you will understand, if not sympathise with my choices.

1. Dixie Dean (wish I could have seen him play)

2. Alex Young

3. John Hartle (motorcyclist)

4. Alan Ball.

5. Duncan McKenzie.

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I'll have to give some more thought to the rest of my list but I can't agree that Lance Armstrong is the best cyclist. I know he had a tough time with fighting cancer but in cycling terms he is not remotely in the same league as Eddie Merckx. Armstrong concentrated on one race - Merckx entered everything he could and won the majority, all the time, week in and week out.

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Hard to whittle down to five but here are mine:

1- Alan Shearer- My football idol growing up, no need to go into detail about the obvious contribution he made to the club I love.

2- Wasim Akram- Followed Lancashire Cricket quite religiously during my early to late teens. Loads of Lancs players I had respect for, Chapple, Martin, Keedy, Austin, Fairbrother et al but Wasim was my favourite. Those left handed inswinging yorkers were lethal.

3- Stephen Hendry- Greatest snooker player of all time, it was a privilege to watch him in his prime and absolutely dominate. An aggressive player in them days and once he got around the reds and the black was in play 9 times out of 10 you knew a big break was coming.

4- Steve Redgrave- Had a huge amount of respect for Redgrave for what he achieved in such a gruelling sport not only physically but mentally.

5- Aaron Rodgers- This is more of a current one, he plays for the NFL team I follow and I just love watching him play. He's at the top of the game right now in terms of QB play, league MVP last season and not even in his prime yet.

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The ones I will say publicly:

1. Sir Stanley Matthews: His autobiography "The way it was" is so detailed about 'the way it was.' I'm not vegetarian myself but to be the best player he could be and in his view, Matthews did this way back then before it was common and coming up with this view out of Stoke City. Also, he wrote about the days of the olde England teams and when they played the 3rd Reich team, won in Germany. Lots of good personal antidotes. Played for Blackpool too.

2. Brian Clough and Peter Taylor, Clough probably would not have done as well without his righthand man so I lump them into one. Yes, Clough was a vulnerable human being and most likely alcoholic. Enjoy him all the same, fascinating figure.

3. Sir Bobby Robson, Yeah, I think he was a good and generous, gracious manager for England.

4. Bernard Gauthier, not a very well known French cyclist from the 1950s but that was a sort of golden era of cycling or maybe Charlie Gaul, Luxembourger who won a tour back then as well.

5. Jesse Owens, from the Olympic games, 1936. Crossed color barrier, set records. Read a book on him. He actually befriended and was aided by a German athlete in the high jump. The German did not survive the war to come.

Could list more. I really enjoy reading up on old time sports. May edit this later on to make changes but had to put out some thoughts on it.

Honourable Mention: Bernard Trautman, that City goalkeeper who was actually a German prisoner of war during WWII and when he got out went to play for City, broke his neck in an FA Cup game. These are the kinds of stories I find fascinating and to me he's a hero too. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Trautmann

Like I said, there really are many other than the famous golden boys of the sport. Simon Garner would be another. Gino Bartali, Lev Yashin and more.

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  • Backroom

To my earlier 3 (Lance Armstrong, Zinedine Zidane and Seve Ballasteros), I feel I should add Roger Federer and perhaps (I'm a wrestling fan, I'm afraid) Mick Foley. Not because he's particularly 'great', but the fact he did everything he could to reach the top of his chosen game. His willingness to bleed and whatever else to put on a show isn't impressive in itself, but it shows his passion and determination (as much as I hate buzzwords) to do his best at what he wanted to do.

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It's a great question, I am very sorry I had to add on an instructor of Cardio vascular classes in my own life, does Zumba and Yoga too, to me, it really is phenomenal in itself.... I got to thinking of this because some of the television fitness instructors have been heroes to me as well.

I have Tom Finney's autobio too, definitely deserves mention. The 'Preston Plumber.'

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jonah Lomu - the guy innovated rugby union single handedly

Ian mcgeechan - Most passionate man in Rugby and gives definition to the British and Irish Lions

Alan Shearer - Legend

Ryan Nelsen - the guy put it on the line in every game. Frequently played injured (including playing 30 mins with a broken leg against Charlton)

The Rock - hahaha...the guys a hero

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Grabbi the well known Italian waiter

Keith Andrews

Carlos Villiwhatshisname

Steve Coco Baldy Barsteward Kean

Mrs Desai

trump that!?

Coffee on keyboard moment - Steve Coco Baldy Barsteward Kean :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Only picked those I have seen in my lifetime otherwise Ali, Montana, Bradman, Pele etc

Fedor Emelianko

Michael Jordan

Lance Armstrong

Marcelo Garcia

Michael Phelps

Honourable Mentions - Gretzky, Tiger Woods, Federer, Hackett, Craig Alexander

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Kieran McGeeney - a true great of gaelic football. He revolutionised the level of commitment, dedication, fitness, physical strength and single mindedness that is needed by the modern day gaelic footballer if they want to win the ultimate prize in the sport. He lead my beloved Armagh to their first ever All Ireland Football title in 2002. McGeeney wasn't the most talented player, but he made up for that by sheer effort and commitment. If a tackle needed to be made, he would put his body on the line to do so. He could turn the momentum of a game with a big hit, an spectacular interception or crucial block. He was a true leader and a player that the opposition genuinely feared. He won multiple All Star Awards and captained Ireland in the International Rules series. The only regret is that he and Armagh didn't win more All Ireland titles when they were one of the most dominant forces in the game.

Michael Jordan - simply the greatest basketball player of all time. What he achieved in the sport is incomparable, especially when he played at the same time as other legendary names like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Modern day stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade don't even come close to him in my opinion.

Brian O'Driscoll - the best Irish rugby player ever and arguably the leading, most consistent and dominant player in world rugby over the past decade along with Dan Carter and Ritchie McCaw. He burst onto the scene when he scored a hat-trick against France in Paris as a 20 year old and was the star of the Lions team that went to Australia. To play at such a consistently high level for as long as he has speaks to his greatness, especially when you think that he hasn't always played on the strongest of Ireland teams. However over the last number of years, the emergence of a great Ireland team helped O'Driscoll captain the team to its first Grand Slam in decades. He has lost his electric pace, but his ability to create space, make breaks, be a real force at the break down and inspire others has arguably got better. Ireland are in big trouble when he finally calls it a day.

Seán Óg Ó hAilpín (pronounced Oog O Hal-peen) - one of the most outstanding hurling players of his generation. Being half Irish, half Fijian and having spent his early years living in Australia, Ó hAilpín became a standout in Irish sport, not just for how he looked but more importantly for the his brilliance on the field. He is one of the most dominant half backs in hurling history and like McGeeney, took the level of commitment and fitness to a new level. Also an outstanding gaelic footballer, he captained Cork to the All Ireland Hurling Championship in 2005, where his acceptance speech in Irish spoke of his total assimilation into the Irish way of life. He is held up as a key figure within the GAA. In a sport that had little or no diversity in those who played either hurling or gaelic football, Ó hAilpín represented the early changing face of Irish society and sport in the 90's and 2000's and someone who can attract a wider number of participants to the association in a growing multi-cultural country. The determination and strength of character shown throughout his career was never more apparent than when he battle back from career threatening injuries including a severed kneecap sustained in a near fatal car crash. His supreme skill in the fastest field sport on earth has lead to him being awarded an number of All Ireland Championships, All Star Awards, Hurler Of The Year award and representing Ireland on the International Rules team.

Zinedine Zidane - My favourite footballer of all time. The man in my opinion is the greatest player of the last 30 years. Watching him play was an absolute joy. People say that the sign of genius is when a player makes it look so easy. Zidane was proof of this. The ease at which he play the game was astonishing. His passing, his control, his ability to go past players, his shooting, his technique was as close to perfect as possible. The economy of effort he seemed to use to perform at this level was even more impressive. He could have played for Blackburn if Gary Flitcroft had not been so good! There's no player I've enjoyed watching more. His performances at Euro 2000 were just incredible. His goal against Bayer Leverkusen for Real Madrid in the Champions League Final is the best goal I've ever seen live. Since his retirement there was a gap in the world's most outstanding player, which has finally been filled by Messi. Like older people these days talk about how good Pele, Best and Maradona were when they were growing up, Zidane is someone I will be telling the grandkids about when I'm grey and old.

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