Saturday 20 January 2018

England expects but irate Scot Murray stays on his baseline

A s an anglophile, I am deeply troubled by the BBC tennis coverage presented by Sue Barker and Tim Henman. This is not the face I want England to present to the world. It is a country that makes you work for your devotion.

I am, perhaps, not as deeply troubled by it as Andy Murray, who is probably not an anglophile. Murray always seems slightly discommoded by the support he so enthusiastically receives from people he has so little in common with, except an interest in tennis.

They were always more comfortable with Tim Henman who never challenged any of their assumptions, particularly their assumption an Englishman would never win another grand slam.

Murray is more challenging which is another way of saying he is better. I desperately want Murray to win today. Apart from anything else, his victory would deeply disturb that strange constituency of tennis supporter who is irritated by Murray because he once said he wants England to lose at football. They have responded to this statement as if it was bafflingly perverse and perhaps even treacherous rather than the simple and automatic statement of a Scotsman.

It is strange to see a Scotsman excelling at lawn tennis. In some ways, it is like seeing one standing at the front row during the last night of the proms, waving a flag of St George and wearing a Union Jack tophat. It's not the place a Scotsman goes to proclaim his otherness from the assholes of middle England.

But Murray manages to do it somehow while still carrying their hopes. "I hope he smiles," one radio presenter commented last week which gives you an indication of what he is up against before he even reveals that he may not be that upset if England lose a football match.

He has not lost his Scottishness; in fact it may be what has allowed him to become the player he is, once due acknowledgement is given to the ambitious mother and all the other staples of the pro tennis player. But Scotland seems to have given him his air of solitude and his dyspeptic approach, particularly when faced with a microphone.

Murray always looks impatient for the bullshit to end which means he lightens up only in the company of Will Ferrell or when being interviewed by the eccentric old pro Jim Courier who has very little desire to ask him how he feels. Murray is Scottish, we know how he feels.

There was some concern recently when new statistics painted what was considered to be an alarming picture of Scottish drinking habits. Every person over 18 was drinking the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka a year, or perhaps not even the equivalent, maybe it was just a study of their vodka-drinking habits and they were drinking 46 bottles of the stuff a year, on top of all their other alcohol.

There was a lot of concern about this but it works out as less than one a week (a lot less when you realise the under 18s who were excluded from the statistics are drinking more than their share) and, given all they have to put up with, there is a case for saying it's quite restrained.

Sport has caused them more agony than most things and now they have to deal with the confused feelings of sharing the joy of Sue Barker if Murray wins this morning or some other day when England will rejoice.

* * * *

AS an anglophile, I'm not sure where England go from here with their leader John Terry in a World Cup year. There is something weirdly admirable in Terry appealing for an injunction to prevent a newspaper reporting his affair with a former team-mate's former girlfriend on the grounds that the publicity would have a negative impact on his earning power in a World Cup year rather than any "personal anguish" it would cause him.

JT can take care of the personal anguish, we know that, but he must be concerned about coin at the moment, given that he recently gave an undercover reporters from the News of the World a tour of Chelsea's training ground and they handed over 10 grand for it.

There have been a number of sporting comebacks since the credit crunch which would suggest that nobody can be too fussy about how they earn a buck.

In a World Cup year, Terry seems to have been more proactive than most, with his advisers recently writing to potential clients pointing out that he had been voted one of "the World's most influencial (sic) people", edging out Ben Bernanke and Hamid Karzai because of his strength from set-pieces.

He was said to be interested in buying "a country pile" and he will have been eager to observe the proper etiquette which is why he embarked on an affair with a former girlfriend of a former team-mate. He may even point to his honourable actions in not joining Wayne Bridge at Manchester City in the summer which would have been unnecessarily provocative. But none of this might help him now, not in a World Cup year.

"Within minutes of the story breaking," the Mail reported, "the internet was awash with angry calls for Terry to be stripped of the captaincy." If the revelation had even made the internet "awash with angry calls" then Terry really has misplaced his moral compass. In a World Cup year as well.

Normally the internet is awash with messages of peace and love but it was no surprise that it turned angry at what the judge called the "socially harmful" behaviour of Terry.

The internet is against him, it seems even his team-mates think he has crossed the line and England's World Cup chances have been jeopardised in a World Cup year. I wonder what Andy Murray thinks about that.

Sunday Independent

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