James Lawton: Rooney a ringer for Bell, says Allison

Tuesday 07 January 2003 01:00

Terry Venables' slightly peevish reaction to best wishes for his 60th birthday will be warmed, I hope, by the news that his old friend and former mentor Malcolm Allison is in much better form these days.

Depressed for a while over the need to cut back on champagne and Cuban cigars Big Mal, who will be 75 this summer, is in better health and was in excellent form over an Italian lunch – and one glass of Valpolicella – the other day.

He attends Manchester City matches and believes that the Everton phenomenon Wayne Rooney may be the most arrestingly physically talented young English player since the arrival of his own beloved Colin Bell, the "Nijinsky" of the 1960s.

Bell and Allison's other two superstars, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee, are among visitors to the Cheshire nursing home where the great football man regularly reminds fellow guests that old age is an impertinence to be treated with nothing so much as contempt. This, is of course, easier to say when you still bear a passing resemblance to Paul Newman, the star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

An eagle The Independent was right to reject

Full marks to the Daily Telegraph for copying, however belatedly, The Independent's poll of its readers to establish the pecking order of Great Sporting Britons, not to mention the eloquence they are drawing from the pundit columnist and the former central defender Alan Hansen, who yesterday wrote: "Spurs are unable to throw off their self-defeating philosophy of art over substance."

No prizes, however, for those Telegraph subscribers who voted for the man who ushered in the age of bogus sporting celebrity... Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards.

Not only did Indy readers refuse to cast a single vote for the utterly uncompetitive Olympic ski-jumper, they summarily dismissed one of my own choices – W G Grace, who was ranked seventh in the Telegraph's poll. Grace, considered the "father of batsmanship" by some, was tossed aside as a curmudgeon and a cheat by our voters.

Obviously, they are a youngish crowd of impressive moral rectitude, though they were prepared to overlook Beefy Botham's oat-sowing phase and elect him the greatest of them all. Telegraph readers, God bless their foot-warmers and ear-trumpets, went back all the way to the 1940s and the 50s for their top man... the great Denis Compton.

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