My one to follow: Masters choose their class for '94: Whose chances do the experts fancy in the new year? Top performers select the men and women in their own field who hold most promise for the future

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MARTIN OFFIAH on Graham Holroyd

The Great Britain and Wigan rugby league winger has high hopes for the 18-year-old Leeds stand-off who has been deputising recently for the injured Garry Schofield.

I'VE BEEN very impressed with Graham. I first noticed him when he came on as a sub last season. He's still only 18, but having come through the Academy team he already seems to have the makings of an international.

He's exceptionally quick for a stand- off; he's got great hands and a fantastic boot. He's perhaps a bit slim, but because of his age he's still growing, and I'm sure he'll develop physically. I notice that he still wears shin pads. There aren't many top players who bother with them, and I think that as he gains in confidence he might decide he can do without them.

He's just got this presence about him. I wouldn't say he was exactly the fiery type. But he's confident and he's prepared to have a go and try things - to stamp his authority on the match. There's a bit of guile about him. I suppose if you had to compare him with someone it would be Tony Myler (the former Great Britain and Widnes stand- off), but he's a lot quicker.

I wouldn't say he had any glaring weaknesses. Everybody has to work at the game - nothing ever comes that easy - but he strikes me as the sort of player who is certainly going to make it to the top. It must help to have players of the calibre of Garry Schofield and Ellery Hanley around him. His defence is sound and he scores tries.

COLIN McMILLAN on Adrian Dodson

The former British, Commonwealth and WBO world featherweight champion picks the London light-middleweight who as Adrian Carew impressed for Great Britain at the 1992 Olympic Games but who has since turned professional.

ADRIAN has got a tremendous amount of potential. He's very focused and he's well schooled in every department - punching ability, fitness, technique, good boxing brain. I first met him when I was training at Gleasons in Brooklyn in Autumn 1990. He had a good reputation in the States already. He'd won the New York Golden Gloves, and he has more of an American style. The boxer he most admires is Sugar Ray Robinson, although Adrian's a southpaw.

He's nice and relaxed in the ring, very fluent, and punches in combinations with plenty of lateral movement and plenty of angles. With any fighter the potential can be there but you have to have the right guidance and breaks. He has all the ingredients. All he needs is a little luck.

He's just moved up to light-middle and his future may lie in the middleweights, which is very, very tough, the most competitive division out there. He's still relatively inexperienced. He's got to go through the learning fights before he can compete at the highest level. He shouldn't be rushed but at the same time his opposition should be gradually raised. Adrian knows exactly what he wants. He's got that tunnel vision. By the end of 1994 he will definitely be a champion of some description.

STEVE DAVIS on Ronnie O'Sullivan

The six-times world snooker champion names the 18-year-old who this season became the youngest player ever to win a ranking tournament.

IN MY sport Ronnie O'Sullivan can be the only choice. He represents the new breed of fearless young players who've really come through in the last couple of years or so. They're a dangerous bunch who've switched the emphasis away from safety to attack. Ronnie's the most dangerous of them all.

Everything about him suggests he will be the future of the game. He doesn't miss many shots but his most impressive quality is his mind. He's had 10 years of watching top-quality snooker on television - something the previous generations did not have - and although he's only 18 he has the snooker brain of someone 20 years older.

Let me give you an example. I made my first century break at 17 and my next at 18. Ronnie already has 50 as a professional and probably about a thousand in his life. I'd go out for a Chinese meal to celebrate whenever I got a century; Ronnie thinks he's not cueing properly if he doesn't get five in a day's practice.

It's a totally different world from the way snooker was when I started. A good comparison is with marathon running 50 years ago compared to the present day. They're running an hour faster now which takes it into another realm. Ronnie, I'm sure, is going to pull people back to the sport and make it prime-time television again.

GRAHAM GOOCH on Robert Rollins

The Essex and former England cricket captain extols the virtues of his county's young wicketkeeper.

I'M ALWAYS a bit wary of nominating any young cricketer for future greatness. There are just too many things that can go wrong and it can seem like the kiss of death when someone tips a young lad for stardom and he doesn't deliver.

With these misgivings in mind, I would recommend people to keep their eye out for our young wicketkeeper Robert Rollins. Although he hasn't much first-team experience yet (he replaced Mike Garnham towards the end of last summer), he has represented England Under-19s for the last three years and performed well.

Technically, he is an accomplished all-round keeper. But what makes him a little bit special is the co-ordination of his foot movement, particularly when standing up. That's the acid test for all keepers. He gets into position so quickly that his hands never seem to be searching for the ball. You see a lot of keepers whose hands go but whose feet don't. Robert does it properly and with a minimum of fuss. These days it is very important that wicket-keepers are able to bat to the ability of at least a No 7 or 8. If Robert keeps his place, and he faces keen competition because Garnham is a very fine cricketer, it will be his batting that will come under most scrutiny at this higher level. He is a nice lad who is keen to learn but he now needs the challenge of putting his ability on the line.

JOHN LYALL on Mark McGhee

A veteran of the management scene, now at Ipswich, applauds the young Scotsman in charge at Second Division Reading.

A WHILE ago Mark asked me and my assistant Charlie Woods if he could join us at a match. When I met him I was very impressed with his enthusiasm and what he had to say. He'd played at under-21 and full international level for Scotland and for Aberdeen and also in Germany for a couple of seasons before he went to Newcastle. He was with Ossie Ardiles until a couple of years ago when he moved into management.

He's made the transition from being a player to manager very well, and with Colin Lee also at Reading as coach, he seems to have an excellent set-up.

There are a lot more bright young men around in football these days - we've got three graduates on our playing staff - and Mark and Colin are two very studious young men. They probably haven't got much money to spend at Reading but they've got the team to the top of the Second Division and Mark was Manager of the Month in November.

He reminds me a bit of Gerry Francis, a thinker about the game. He's sensible and is very inquiring, and that's the way you have to be. It's refreshing to talk to a young man like him. Keegan and Hoddle have great experience and deserve credit for what they've done as players but there are other ways to come through as managers. Mark is not a household name in England but he can achieve success his own way.

NIGEL WINTERBURN on Stephen Froggatt

The Arsenal left-back opts for the sort of player who is out to test him every week - Aston Villa's 20-year-old winger.

STEPHEN has been spoken about as a good prospect for a year or so, and it's a pity he's missed a few games through injury this season. But he's certainly someone who's caught my eye - a very exciting prospect. He's come up through the ranks at Aston Villa and played for the England under-21 side, so he's definitely one to watch out for.

He's got a very good left foot, and the great thing is that he's not afraid to take on defenders and whip in his crosses. That's the sort of thing that's always going to cause trouble in the area. And he's got a good first touch, of course, and looks comfortable on the ball.

Nowadays wingers have to work up and down. The game has changed a lot in that respect. As well as attacking, they have to get back and defend and put in the tackles. I've noticed he seems willing to do that, and I think this season that Ron Atkinson has sometimes used him in a more defensive role.

With Stephen's approach you've always got a chance of getting to the byline, which is what all wingers should be trying to do. He keeps the ball close to his feet and is a good dribbler, but equally he is prepared to look at what's going on around him and lay the ball off if the situation demands it. As for his pace, you have to compare him with the best. Lee Sharpe, for example. He's certainly as quick as him.

TEDDY SHERINGHAM on Nick Barmby

The Tottenham Hotspur striker finds much to admire in the 19-year-old supplier of many of his goals.

I THINK Nick Barmby has to be the one to pick. He's well established at Tottenham, but there are plenty of people around the country who still don't know what he's capable of. From my point of view as a striker, the thing that I really value in him is his ability to give you the ball just the way you want it.

He plays just behind the front two and he's got unbelievable awareness of what's going on around him, which is most unusual in a player so young. I've been watching him quite closely during the last few weeks when I've been injured, and before he even gets the ball, he's looking round to see what the options are. But the great thing about the Tottenham team is that everyone can play, so even in a tight situation there'll always be someone he can find.

He's got great control, and scores goals. A very neat finisher. There are plenty of players who can look good around the pitch, but he does it where it matters. He's helped by being quite stockily built and having a low centre of gravity. He hasn't got amazing spring, but he's still a good header of the ball.

His technique is brilliant, and he's prepared to work at it in training. I've seen him in matches when he's got the ball on his wrong foot and I thought he could be in trouble, but he's coped very well. It's his awareness that marks him out. He's a certainty for England.

IAN RUSH on Robbie Fowler

The scorer of more than 200 goals for Liverpool nominates his 18-year-old team- mate and heir apparent.

HE'S SIMPLY a natural goalscorer, very level-headed. A lot of young players have difficulty keeping their feet on the ground, but not Robbie. He's always willing to watch and learn, to try out things in training and then work at it. Technically he's excellent, with good close control and a good first touch, and he gets away from defenders really well. But a good first touch is probably the most important thing for a goalscorer to have. He's basically a left-footed player, but he's quite happy if he has to take the ball on his right foot. He's not just a blaster - you don't need to be to score goals. The great thing about Robbie is that he knows where the corner of the net is. He knows that there are always going to be chances you miss, but he doesn't let that bother him. He'll just get on with it and wait for the next one to come along.

He's not particularly big, and you won't see him winning headers around the halfway line. But he's good in the air when he needs to be - in the six-yard box. He's still young, and he's a good passer of the ball, but he perhaps needs to learn when to pass and when to take people on. That will come with a bit more experience. But he's definitely got it in front of goal. I'm certain he'll play for England - I can't say when because England have got quite a few good players to choose from up front. But it's only a matter of time.

GORDON STRACHAN on Gary Kelly

The Leeds United and former Scotland footballer selects the club-mate who has come into the Leeds team at right-back this season.

GARY KELLY made an impact last year with Leeds and although there's usually a lull with a young player after initial success, so far there's been no sign of it with him. At 19 he has the potential - now it's up to him how far he goes in the game.

At the moment he has a terrific enthusiasm to learn but he'll need to maintain that. Getting into the Republic of Ireland squad with the World Cup coming up is a great incentive.

Ask what his great strength is and I'd say he does my running for me. And my heading. And my tackling, come to think of it. Gary was a midfield player or a forward until the beginning of this season but has been converted to right-back by the manager. This means he has ability going forward but he's still picking up the defensive side of the game.

His only slight weakness is his tackling, but I'm sure that will improve with experience and so far his pace has ensured that no one has caught him out. It's a wonderful asset, pace; I think I last had it around 1976.

Gary is among the young players who have given the club a lift after a difficult time last season following our championship win in 1991. The manager must be delighted to see his youth policy come to fruition and to see several of them break into the first team.

CHRIS BOARDMAN on Stuart Dangerfield

The Olympic gold-medal winning cyclist earmarks the 22-year-old hill climber for higher achievement.

THERE are a lot of good young riders around - Matthew Illingworth in the South and Paul Jennings in the North spring to mind - but Stuart is the one I'd go for. He is the national hill climb champion and the national 50-mile time-trial champion. He got a bronze in the 4,000 metres individual pursuit in last year's national championships, and is on the shortlist for the Commonwealth Games.

He is only 22, but his attitude is one of total single-mindedness. It's something I recognise in myself. That's the way you have to be. In fact, the quality that is going to make you a champion is also the one that could bring you down, because that kind of dedication is not necessarily healthy. But you have to have it if you're going to succeed.

Physically Stuart's not outstanding - 10st and 5ft 8in - but you don't want to be too big if you're a hill-climber. What impresses me about him is his mental attitude. That's the crucial thing. There are plenty of riders physically capable of winning top races, but that's just one brick in the wall. The real challenge is coping with the psychological side of things.

Stuart is thinking about cycling all the time. His home is at Willenhall in the West Midlands, but he rides for the North Wirral Velo Racing team. There he is just one of seven riders in the first team, and there are seven others in the development team. I think being part of a bigger group is good for you mentally. That's certainly true of Stuart. You learn not to run away with yourself, to knuckle down with the others. He's getting excellent advice there from Harry Middleton. I'm the team director and I talk to Stuart quite a bit, and I know he's got the makings of a really top time-trialist. He's already up there behind me and Graeme Obree. And I think he's capable of going on to even bigger things.

KRISS AKABUSI on Kelly Holmes

The former Olympic hurdler is impressed with the credentials of a 23-year-old 800 metres runner.

THERE are several men I expect will make a big impact in 1994, including David Grindley, but Kelly Holmes is someone who may not have captured the attention of the public so far but I'm sure will become better known during the year. She gave up athletics for three or four years to concentrate on her career in the Army. She's a corporal now, based in Beaconsfield, but a couple of years ago she was working as a PT instructor at Southampton, where I was stationed.

Last year she returned to sport and was good enough, despite her lay-off, to win the UK Championships, the AAA title, a couple of grand prix meetings and to break the two-minute barrier. She is close to Kirsty Wade's British record of 1min 57.42sec. At 23, and with another year of full-time training, she should blossom. I think she'll surprise everyone else but the person who'll be most surprised will be herself.

She has a good running style, but it's not that or the times she has set that impress me, but her competitive attitude. She's very strong, particularly in her upper body, and is difficult to knock out of position or her stride. That's important in middle-distance running.

Last season she was thinking, 'I wonder how I'm going to do today', but this year she'll be more confident and she'll now go out with a race plan. That makes a huge difference to a runner. You can dictate races tactically. You can impose yourself on your opponents.

The year is nicely poised for her because there are no Olympics or world championships so she is not being pitted against the really top women all at the same time. But she is good enough to finish in the top three in either the European or the Commonwealth championships and the rest will depend on form, fitness and luck on the day.

NEIL HARVEY on Peter Nicol

The former England No 1 squash player, now a coach, senses a great future for his brightest young charge.

I WOULD say Peter is close to world top 10 standard now. He's just gone up 26 places to No 14. He's 20, from Scotland but based in London, and he has made such improvements in the past few months that I believe the only person who feels safe from him is Jansher Khan, the world champion. Both he and Peter Marshall, the 22-year-old Englishman currently ranked fifth in the world, should be strong contenders for the top.

Peter's been with me for 20 months and is as quiet as a mouse, but what I notice about him is an unsurpassed capacity for work and learning. He has a desperate need to learn. I have given him a three-year programme so he can build up gradually and not play tournaments he has no chance of winning, but I reckon he's out of the second stage already.

He's a left-hander with an all-round game. He moves easily and is now getting his mix of shots right. He gets very good advice from Cannons Club gym experts and he's got to build his body up as much as a squash player can.

His strengths are his ability to adapt to situations and his love of competition. He thrives on being away at tournaments. 1994 should be a great year for him. It has become evident that, provided we get the ingredients right, he can become the best player in the world.

MARK COX on Jamie Delgado

The former British No 1, now director of the Rover Junior Tennis Initiative, singles out the 16-year-old who could make his first appearance at Wimbledon in 1994.

THERE are a good number of young British players coming through, and Delgado is clearly one of the best. He's a compact, solid player, and moves well. He reminds me a little of Ken Rosewall, though he's got a better serve. He constructs points and has to create openings - he doesn't have immense power.

Can a player like that survive in the modern game? If he's going to, I think he has to be Chang-like in his approach - movement and anticipation are important. He's not going to boom down serves and get cheap points.

His temperament seems to be pretty solid. It has to be for him to have done the winning that he's done. His junior ranking is very high, and that's only achieved by playing a lot and being successful. The mental side is an area of the game he needs to work on, though. He seems to need to have the success behind him if he's going to be confident. That's a very British trait, I think. The Americans have this self-belief from the word go.

The great thing is there are other British players coming through - we saw that at Wimbledon last year - and that means the pressure on any individual is diluted. We could see Delgado at Wimbledon this year. I certainly think it would be a valuable experience for him.

BERNARD GALLACHER on Darren Clarke

The Ryder Cup captain discusses the strengths of the 25-year-old Irishman who could be a big hit in more ways than one.

IF I had to name one golfer to look out for in 1994 - one who hasn't represented Europe in the Ryder Cup - Clarke would be it. Last year he had a particularly strong finish to the season, winning his first European Tour event - the Alfred Dunhill Open in Belgium - and coming second to Colin Montgomerie in the Volvo Masters at Valderrama, which is an exceptionally demanding course. He finished eighth in the Order of Merit, and I would expect him to be a likely player for our Ryder Cup team in 1995.

He has a good, correct action; he is a very powerful striker of the ball, and a genuinely long hitter; and he clearly has a good attitude and a fine competitive temperament. He is also an excellent putter, as you need to be. Overall, I have noticed over the last couple of seasons how much he has improved.

One of the things that sets him apart from a lot of players is his positive attitude. He is not afraid to go for birdies; a lot of them. He is not intimidated by the prospect of compiling a low score. In that respect, he's a bit like Johnny Miller used to be at his best - when he's on a roll, he's really on a roll.

In short, he has both the physical and mental attributes to indicate that he can become a very accomplished golfer. And I think he has the desire, too.

JOHN REID on Jason Weaver

The 1992 Derby-winning jockey offers a hot tip in one of the best riders to have emerged from the apprentice ranks.

JASON'S name jumps out at you. He is out of his time now (no longer an apprentice - able to claim a reduction in the weight carried by any horse he rides), but he's just landed the best job in the North as stable jockey to Mark Johnston.

Johnston's a very go-ahead guy and, unlike some northern trainers, he sends plenty of horses down south. That's important. Jason will get plenty of opportunities all over the country.

Jason certainly has a fair bit of natural ability, but it takes more than talent to make a top jockey. Being a successful rider is all about hard work and, fortunately, Jason doesn't seem to mind that.

Keeping fit and coping with a lot of travelling are other essential ingredients. Jason had a good year as an apprentice last year, riding 60 winners, but I've seen other jockeys be even more successful as apprentices and then struggle once they've lost their claim. With Johnston behind him, Jason should be all right.

Jason caught the eye with some big- race successes last season, when he showed he has the knack of producing a horse at the right time. Riding a good finish in the last half-furlong may look all-important, but getting into the right position during the race to be able to deliver a challenge counts for even more. And he can certainly do that.

SIMON GEOGHEGAN on Niall Woods

An established winger in the Ireland rugby union team acknowledges the potential of another who is gathering pace.

AS A winger and an Irish winger at that, I know just how difficult it is to make an impact on the game at international level, but I have no doubt that Niall is a young man with a big future.

He's not built in the mould of Tuigamala and he's very different in style from me, being jinky and elusive rather than direct. In fact he's quite slight, so he has to employ the more subtle skills to beat a man. But having played against him in the inter-provincial championship, I can certainly vouch for the fact that he's an extremely slippery customer and very difficult to mark.

He's 22 years old and plays his club rugby for Blackrock College. He played on the left wing throughout last season for Leinster in the inter-provincial championship.

In addition to being a well balanced runner and a first-class finisher he's also a very useful goal-kicker. We played together in the A international against Scotland last week. It wasn't a good performance by the Irish side and certainly wasn't the best of days to be a winger. But like all good wings, Niall is never afraid to go looking for work and doesn't shirk in defence. You need that as well as attacking skills. He's very definitely my tip for international honours and could perhaps make it this season.

STUART BARNES on Mike Catt

The Bath, England and Lions rugby union fly-half on the club-mate he thinks could succeed him.

TWO or three years ago the choice was wider - there seemed to be a lot of good players coming through. Now the field has narrowed again. I'm reluctant to go for a club-mate, but I think in Mike's case I really have to.

He's 22 and has already played against the All Blacks three times - for the South-West, England A, and England Emerging Players. I would make him a strong outsider to tour with the senior squad in South Africa this summer. Mike was born in South Africa - he's from Port Elizabeth and has played Eastern Province - and I know it would mean a great deal to him to play for England over there. His mother was born in England and so were his two elder brothers and he's committed to playing for England.

At Bath he's played at outside-half and in the centre, which underlines his ability to adapt, but I expect him to take over my position eventually. He made his debut only a year ago, but he's talented, very confident and aggressive. He's also got a lot of pace which is vital if you're playing in midfield.

Mike has a nice balance. He can run the ball or he can kick. He is also good tactically and is prepared to make a break on his own if the situation demands it.

(Photographs omitted)

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