2013 - the sporting year in review: Two Ashes series, a second Tour de France... and a Brit who won Wimbledon

Andy Murray’s white, Wigan’s black, Chris Froome’s yellow and the Lions’ red illuminated a golden age for British sport

There can be much that is hurtful, hateful, distasteful and sometimes just outright wrong about what sport has become today. In broad terms it has never been bigger, richer or more prominent in our lives. But what is its place in society?

Can football’s authorities really do something to improve the rights of workers in Qatar? Have the huge sums of money sloshing around football and the omnipresence of gambling, both legal and illegal, around the game tarnished it forever? Can racism ever be expunged? Will the wrongs of Hillsborough ever be put right in some small way? Can the Olympic movement really sway the Russian government’s damning of homosexuality? How can Britain’s major golf tournament be played at a club that refuses to allow women to be members? Was the London Olympics actually an awful lot of our money spent in this straitened time on the best sporting party ever only for us to turn over to another TV channel – BT Sport probably – to watch some other people exercising?

And then a young man from Camberwell dressed all in black leaped off the Wembley turf and won the FA Cup for little Wigan Athletic against Manchester City, the world’s richest club. A couple of months later the sun shone on Wimbledon, where a man from Dunblane dressed all in white seized the prize for which Britain has waited three quarters of a century. That was sport in black and white.

The shades of grey may bring ever-increasing swirls of off-field uncertainty, but on pitches, roads, courts (that’s sporting courts) and courses, 2013 provided a sporting year worthy of following 2012, Britain’s annus mirabilis of sporting success.

It was a sequel splashed with colour: Chris Froome’s yellow jersey – you wait nearly a century for a British winner of the Tour de France and then two come along at once – the British Lions’ red after their first series win since 1997; the golds collected by the remarkable Mo Farah and the indefatigable Christine Ohuruogu at the world athletics championships; the rainbow jerseys won by Becky James, Laura Trott and a rising generation of British female cyclists at their world championships; and the rose tint provided by the first Englishman to win a golf major for 17 years, as Justin Rose took the US Open at Merion. It was Andy Murray who had to mind the biggest gap, the one that stretched from so long ago that his predecessor is now better known as a clothing brand than as a sportsman. In 1936, Fred Perry won Wimbledon, which is thought of, in these isles at least, as tennis’s blue-riband event.

Chris Froome becomes the second British rider to win the Tour de France (PA)  

Murray came close at SW19 last year, reaching the final only to be precisely skewered by Roger Federer’s immaculate greatness. Murray is playing tennis in an era when the standard in the men’s game has never been higher. That may be a misfortune in one way but it does mean that when he does win, he deserves every plaudit – and accompanying end-of-year bauble or honour – that comes his way.

When Novak Djokovic, the dominant player of the previous year, netted a back-hand, Murray’s straight-sets victory was complete. He immediately turned to the players’ box, fists pumping furiously. After embracing his beaten opponent, he sank to his knees and pressed his forehead against the grass. Up in the players’ box, his mother Judy buried her face in her neighbour’s embrace. Murray has not always been liked, let alone loved, by many south of the border, with too many unable to recognise that a truculent teenager has  matured into a self-contained, self-motivated athlete of the highest class.

But was Murray’s triumph Britain’s? Or Scotland’s? The complicated and frequently misunderstood relationship between Scotland and England will be one of the non-sporting themes of 2014. This year Britain bowed down to two sporting Scots, belatedly welcoming one, Murray, and finally saying farewell to another.

Football, for all the happy triumphs of the Olympics and numerous successes across the rest of the sporting world – and this is the golden era of British sport – remains the obsession of the masses. Nobody watches football, either in the flesh or via TV, like we do. The second-tier Championship is the fourth best supported league in the whole of Europe.

One figure has stood at the heart of the hurly-burly of the English game for so long, a Glaswegian who seemed to revel in the adversarial nature of it all, lapping up the sound and fury and creating much of it too. So long Sir Alex.

Murray had not been born when Ferguson came south, already a hugely successful manager having taken Aberdeen to a place far above their station. Despite the fact that he will turn 72 this New Year’s Eve, it still came as a surprise that he chose to call it a day. It is only a matter of months since he took his retirement, but now when he appears before us – lobbing score-settling grenades via his autobiography – he looks closer to his age than he ever did standing on the touchline at Old Trafford pointing angrily at his watch.

United will miss him. The manner in which the team has stuttered at times this season suggests Ferguson was able to extract from a squad that does not boast the depth available to Manchester City or Chelsea an ability to play consistently at their absolute peak.

He was without parallel in Britain as a football manager. Winning the Premier League title, his 13th, was the only way he was ever going to go out.

Roy Hodgson is of the same generation, although staying in the job he occupies  is, if history is anything to go by, likely  to age him briskly. History also says that when he leaves, it will not be to widespread applause.

That doesn’t happen to England managers. It is the great contradiction of the English game –and one with which the Football Association’s new chairman Greg Dyke and his already oft-criticised commission are wrestling – that while the club game is more vibrant than ever, expectation surrounding the national side has sunk to an extent that even the irrational optimism that used to stride off confidently alongside the men in white shirts now stays home.

England were underwhelming in qualifying for next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil. Victories against Montenegro and Poland got them there along with a couple of performances that offered brief encouragement. Subsequent friendly defeats  by Chile and Germany offered a sobering reminder of England’s current international standing.

England’s cricketers of yesteryear will know the feeling. Perhaps the greatest compliment to pay their successors is that the summer’s victory over Australia, a heady third successive Ashes win, felt rather matter-of-fact. Which just goes to show how spoilt we have become – it was not so long ago that winning sport’s smallest trophy meant a victory parade through the capital.

The subsequent reversal of fortune Down Under demonstrates how quickly it can all change, and acts as a reminder, perhaps, to savour what we have got because, for the all the off-field baggage, on it we have never had it so good.

THINK YOU KNOW THE SPORTING YEAR? TAKE OUR QUIZ OF 2013 TO PROVE YOUR KNOWLEDGE

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Linux Systems Administrator

£33000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly successfu...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice