Why Botham can up the pace for England

Forget the nonsense about Liam, the son of... Liam Botham is very much his own man, and his decision to move from Cardiff to Newcastle confirms the point. The positive influences of his parents, Ian and Kathy, are self-evident, as the highly competitive and gushingly polite young man exudes all the worthy attributes of a professional sportsman.

The young Botham is an all-round sportsman, who as a talented teenaged cricketer featured on Hampshire's books, but he was determined to etch a career in rugby union, I suspect, to sidestep away from the cursory comparisons with the legendary Ian.

West Hartlepool gave him his first opportunity at senior club level, but a difficult and unstable financial climate at the northern club, coupled with a different mind-set to the then coach from New Zealand, Mike Brewer, provided the basis for a rocky marriage.

As the then chief executive of Cardiff Rugby Club, I nearly contributed to a rocky marriage myself after contacting the restless Botham when he was, unbeknown to me, on his honeymoon. I had coincidentally careered into Ian on the fairways in Newport, and during our brief conversation, it was apparent that any opportunity at Cardiff would be greatly appreciated.

I explained to Liam that Cardiff would be prepared to grant him a trial period of a few months and only pay his expenses on the way. He grasped the opportunity and insisted on leaving for Cardiff within a day, much to my concern over his nuptial arrangements.

His arrival at one of the world's famous rugby clubs was viewed with much cynicism and some suspicion that this was favouritism, an old pal's act to help a famous father who was well-known to leading figures at Cardiff, particularly the chairman, Peter Thomas.

Perhaps there was some truth in that hypothesis, as nobody knew much of Liam's abilities, but any fears were quickly dispelled. He was barely 20 years of age and naturally pretty raw, but his enduring commitment, will to win and eagerness to learnwere an example to some of the bigger names at the club.

His arrival was, perhaps surprisingly, welcomed by the club's fans, who quickly took to him. He was quick to respond, revealing a penchant for scoring tries. Speed and acceleration are musts for a top-rated international wing, but despite his scoring prowess Liam was probably a couple of yards short on pace, a flaw he readily acknowledged and worked to redress. Today I believe he is a yard away from his target but certainly motoring in the right direction. Last season he was the club's leading try-scorer, during a winter spent rebelliously playing against England's leading clubs and the wingers whose position in the national team he so desires.

This is why, of course, he has set his sights on a return to the Allied Dunbar Premiership and a stage at Newcastle, in order to pitch himself regularly against England's best.

"I have to prove that I can compete against players such as Ben Cohen, Austin Healey and the like, and thus persuade the England selection panel that I am of international quality," he argues. "I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Cardiff and am both grateful and indebted to the club for making my time there a happy period, but more importantly to the coaches for the way in which they helped to develop my game. However, there is a danger of being out of sight and therefore out of the selectors' minds when it comes to national selection."

During the eligibility row, Liam proudly vowed his allegiance to England, despite being approached by the Welsh Rugby Union to consider playing in a Welsh trial match, as within the next few months he would have qualified to play for Wales under the residency rule.

Perhaps this route could have provided a way for him to body-swerve the inevitable comparisons and expectations pressed upon him following his father's exploits, but he has staked his moral bets on representing his country of birth, and rightly so.

He has hopes of an England call-up to South Africa this summer, where his pace and skills would be closely scrutinised by Clive Woodward;his endeavour and competitiveness would not be found wanting. Perhaps this would rub off positively on an England team who have fallen short so often in this area at crucial times over recent years.

Cardiff will miss Liam Botham, and his talent, if nurtured properly, could blossom to England's gain. One thing is certain: he will do things his own way, which perhaps is not too dissimilar to the fashion in which his father rose to sporting greatness.

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star