Best takes top spot in the league of heroes

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The Independent Online
JOHN McKIE

It promises to start countless pub arguments but that was part of the intention.

When Total Sport magazine polled 1,000 sports writers, broadcasters and former stars for their favourite British Sports Heroes of all time for its first issue, there were bound to be some controversial verdicts.

People polled included Gary Lineker, Bill Beaumont, Geoff Boycott, Des Lynam, Brough Scott and Harry Carpenter. They voted George Best into first place, with Ian Botham second, Linford Christie third, Bobby Moore fourth and Lester Piggott fifth. Among the exclusions in the list of 100 favourites are legends including Graham Gooch, Geoff Hurst and Robin Cousins.

Danny Kelly, who left the music magazine Q to edit Total Sport, said: "Yes, it's going to infuriate people, but that's no bad thing.

"The poll was about sporting heroes and that's why George Best is at number one. He seemed to reflect something marvellous about this country in the Sixties ... He may have indulged in a lot of drink and women but it was a life a lot of us would liked to have lived.From numbers two to five in our poll were very close but George Best won by a long way."

The poll reflects popular heroes rather than champions. Steve Davis won six World Snooker titles but does not feature in the top 100. Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, only twice world champion, is at number 36 and Jimmy White, who has never won the world title, is at number 75.

Mr Kelly acknowledged that the ages of those who voted were also a factor and the result, given the high prominence of George Best and the 1966 World Cup hero Bobby Moore in the top five.

The highest placed woman, Mary Rand, was voted into 12th place because of her heroics in the 1964 Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the long jump, silver in the pentathlon and bronze in the sprint relay. Other women to perform well included another pentathlete, Mary Peters, (26) the current track star Sally Gunnell (42) and former Wimbledon champions Ann Jones (61) and Virginia Wade (65).

The highest placed non-human is the recently deceased Red Rum (20), although at number 54 Aldaniti shares a mention with the jockey Bob Champion MBE. Kelly admitted that it was not just the personality of the star which influenced the votes but their panache with which they carried out their day jobs.

"I don't think I'd want to spend a lot of time down the pub with Ian Botham but he made an Australian cricket captain cry and, not to be too jingoistic about it, that's no bad thing in my book."

Current heroes, like the boxer Prince Naseem Hamed (77) and the footballer Ryan Giggs (47) are included, although both are in their early twenties.

England's rugby union captain Will Carling, who is not included, will be less than delighted to see the inclusion of team-mates Rory Underwood (59) and Rob Andrew (66). However, the Princess of Wales was not among those polled.(Top 100 heroes table omitted)

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