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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones