Frank Bruno receives the Robert the Bruce's spider award for admirable persistence in the face of all available evidence

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The Independent Online
Yesterday, the Queen was inking in the last few names on her New Year's Honours list, wondering, perhaps, about a special mention for Lord Mackay after his work in speeding up the process of divorce. No doubt sporting figures were dotted among the sycophants and time-servers as the gongs were considered, but not in sufficient numbers to reflect the enormous hold sport has over the nation. After all, who is more likely to have lifted our collective heart this year - Jonathan Edwards or some pen-pusher at the Ministry of Agriculture who is guaranteed a knighthood in the small print of his contract of employment?

To redress the imbalance, this column is instituting its own New Year's Honours list for sporting achievement in 1995. But, rather than handing out meaningless strings of initials, the list follows the format of Oscars: awards for specific achievement in a variety of categories. And, in keeping with the unstoppable tide of commercialisation presently overwhelming our sport, many of the titles have been sponsored.

First off, then, the Kenneth Moore Memorial award for a performance full of the understated virtues of Englishness, yet capable of putting a spring into the most sluggish of steps goes to Michael Atherton for his astonishing innings in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, since he is otherwise engaged in Port Elizabeth once more holding together the England team, he cannot be with us today.

But then, nor can any of the other award winners, such as Frank Bruno, who can console himself in just missing out on Atherton's prize as he picks up the Robert the Bruce's spider award for admirable persistence in the face of all available evidence.

Another boxer, Naseem Hamed, is also honoured. He receives the Ray Illingworth award for continuous display of an ego the size of a diseased bladder. Also, thanks to his leopard-skin fringed thong, Hamed picks up the Manchester United merchandise department award for silliest new item of sporting kit.

The Teflon title for being unable to keep a grip on anything worthwhile is shared in a three-way split between David Seaman, for his performance against Real Zaragoza in the European Cup-Winners' Cup final, and two football club chairmen - Martin George of Leicester and Robert Chase of Norwich - so careless of managers you suspect they would be unable to hold on to a life jacket in a shipwreck.

Despite the excellent claims of Juninho and Ruud Gullit in this category, the Christopher Columbus award for not researching your destination thoroughly enough before setting out on an adventure is won by Ivano Bonetti, the Italian footballer recently signed by Grimsby Town.

Linford Christie, after his dramatic tumble in the World Championships in Gothenburg, wins the Bird's Eye new-uses-for- a-pack-of-frozen-peas award. Also easily out-stripping the opposition, Tony Underwood takes the John Redwood it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time award for winking at Jonah Lomu during the haka before the Rugby World Cup semi-final in an injudicious attempt to put him off his stride. And winning this year's Torvill and Dean golden blade for being world champion in a sport which receives no media attention until a Briton wins is Colin McRae, who is a rally driver.

Meanwhile, the Sid the Sexist award for inability to keep hold of talent is won by Bolton Wanderers, who have lost Bruce Rioch, Jason McAteer and, in all likelihood, their Premiership place in quick succession. Still in Lancashire, the Michael Heseltine award for inventing a grandiose title to describe your meaningless new job goes to Kenny Dalglish, self-promoted director of football at Blackburn Rovers.

The Mary Whitehouse award for keeping a television station's complaints duty officer occupied for an entire fortnight is landed by John Sitton, the former co-manager of Leyton Orient, who narrowly beat off the attendant claims of Jeff Tarango. The expletive-fuelled tirades which passed for Sitton's team-talks recorded by the documentary Orient - Club For A Fiver would have been rejected as unnecessarily over the top by a Roy Chubby Brown scriptwriters' convention.

Although he didn't win anything at Brisbane Road, Sitton is, in fact, this column's most decorated sporting achiever for 1995. Beating off stiff competition from Will Carling (apropos his 57-farts television programme) and Stan Collymore (for the I'm-unhappy-at-Liverpool interview with Four Four Two magazine) he also lands the Norman Tebbit always-blame-the-journalist award for claiming afterwards that the programme misrepresented him. Plus he shares with Graham Taylor the Walter Mitty imagination shield for believing, after all that, he still has a future in the game.

Finally, everything seems to be going right for Andy Cole. In the week he ended his goal famine, he also scoops the big one: the Bob Monkhouse tired old gag award. The United striker receives it for inspiring the exhumation of the one about them naming one of Manchester's universities in his honour: UMIST. Previously appended to Ted MacDougall, Garry Birtles, Terry Gibson and Alan Brazil, this gag is ritually wheeled out for any Manchester United striker who has difficulty striking his intended target. And thus, as Matthew Simmons will attest, it has never been applied to Eric Cantona.

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