Kevin Garside: Scintillating Murray seals Britain's sporting supremacy

Of course we'd be equally euphoric if Hodgson triumphed in the Maracana

The Grand Slam breakthrough of Andy Murray in New York rounded out a tidy 24 hours for British sport on the global stage. And none of this had anything to do with the Olympic movement. The day before Murray's epic conquest of Novak Djokovic, Rory McIlroy was busy colonising a verdant corner of Indianapolis just as he had in Boston seven days earlier, winning a second successive PGA Tour event in the lucrative FedEx play-offs. In northern Italy, Lewis Hamilton struck a few hours earlier with a first career victory – pole to flag no less – at Monza, the sacred home of the Italian Grand Prix.

Conditioned by years of international subordination on the football pitch, we have all too often overlooked British – and Northern Irish – excellence elsewhere. The supremacy of our sportsmen in the core disciplines of tennis, golf and motor racing is a non-Olympic reminder not only of the central importance of sport to these isles, but that we are not half bad at it across the canon.

In a sense an appreciation of this broader competence at elite level has been lost in the glow of the unforgettable Olympic gold rush of the past six weeks. The point made by Hamilton, McIlroy and Murray – yes I know he won gold at tennis – is that we were already excelling before the Olympic flame was lit. Bradley Wiggins had in July become the first Briton to claim the Tour de France, Murray himself had contested the Wimbledon final. McIlroy was a US Open champion at 21 and has since added a second major at the US PGA. Hamilton was the youngest to win the Formula One World Championship when he conquered that peak in 2008.

It is not, therefore, as if we needed the Olympic experience to underwrite our credentials as a nation of truly global sporting significance. Of course, we would be equally euphoric were Roy Hodgson to plonk the Cross of St George on the centre spot at the Maracana in two years' time to proclaim England champions of the world. Football is the pre-eminent global sport, after all. The evidence suggests there is not a snowball's chance in hell of it happening, but that does not diminish our standing as a world-class sporting nation.

Was it only a fortnight ago that our cricketers lost their No 1 billing? Do we not approximate to a super-power in rugby? In any given period, Britain boasts boxers with world-title belts. There is not a sport we won't have a go at. Darts? Snooker? Crown green bowls, anyone? Bring it on. We have even produced a decent downhill skier from Surrey. And if Ed Drake had half the funding our cyclists get, you might even have heard of him. Never mind, a spot on Ski Sunday awaits when he tires of paying for his own ski passes, and perhaps a slot on Celebrity Come Dancing. He's blond enough, and tall enough, and handsome enough.

Murray does not owe his success to the British tennis infrastructure, but he is most certainly in debt to the sporting traditions of this country. Hamilton similarly paid his own way, or rather his father did, at times holding down three jobs to meet the rent in his Stevenage home and funding the purchase of a kart for his son to race. McIlroy's old man worked in the bar at Holywood Golf Club, a modest enterprise on the outskirts of Belfast. McIlroy did have generous assistance from the Golf Union of Ireland, but what is that if not an institution born of a sporting heritage?

At some point our footballers will catch up. There is simply too much expertise elsewhere for it not to trickle down into the beautiful game. Already the top Premier League clubs have installed first-rate support mechanisms offering the best that medicine and sports science can provide. The east end of Manchester, with the Etihad Stadium at its heart, is being transformed into a pioneering sporting complex, financed by Abu Dhabi oil wealth. Roy Hodgson's England are showing embryonic signs of improvement, better organised with greater flexibility and enthused by youth.

Our top clubs have, since the inauguration of the Premier League, traded blow for blow with the best in Spain, Germany and Italy. They might have used up a lifetime's luck acquiring it but, nevertheless, Chelsea hold the European Cup. At club level at least, only Barcelona and perhaps Real Madrid might sensibly lay claim to hegemony.

Murray's success is seismic, the first British man for 76 years to win a Grand Slam singles tennis event. It has already been felt in football circles via the presence at Flushing Meadows of Sir Alex Ferguson, who watched alongside Sir Sean Connery. Yes, the Scottish connection was significant, but more than that their attendance was another illustration of the importance of sport to the people of this country. Fergie and 007 chose Queens over Manhattan for their evening's entertainment, a Bud over a Bordeaux. Say no more.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Sport
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
i100
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
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.

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam