Top Five: Sporting Heroes

Scotland’s former first minister, Alex Salmond, is renowned for his love of sport – particularly horse racing golf, and football (he’s a big Heart of Midlothian fan).

Our political editor, Mark Leftly, decided to ask Salmond, who is now MP for Banff and Buchan on the west coast of Scotland, who his favourite British sportspeople were in the latest in our series of Top Fives.

This proved to be far from simple: Salmond insisted he needed both a Top Five of current British stars and an all-time international list. This involved a rebuke for Darren Clarke for not selecting his favourite men’s golfer in Europe’s unsuccessful ryder Cup team this year.

Most interestingly, he revealed that his elderly father has a memory blanket of a hugely successful former Scotland international inside-forward on his bed to help with his recollection."


Top five contemporary sportspeople:


1. Andy Murray (world number two tennis player) 

“He’s up on top.”



2. Mo Farah (four-time Olympic gold medal winning athlete)

“He must be up there, I think he’s fantastic.”



3. Catriona Matthew (former British Open winning golfer)

“She’s an amazing player, a major winner.”



4. Ikechi Anya (Scotland international footballer)

“I like this wee Scotland winger - he’s good.”



5. Russell Knox (world number 19 golfer who was controversially not selected for this year’s Ryder Cup)

“Picking the picks for the Ryder Cup is difficult, but in terms of points won he should have been in.”



Top five all time sportspeople:


1. Muhammad Ali (three-time heavyweight boxing champion, 1960s and 70s)



2. Jock Stein (Celtic centre-half and manager)



3. Tommy Walker (Scotland international inside-forward)

“A Scotland player and Heart of Midlothian manager, the most successful Hearts manager. My father said he was the finest footballer he’d ever seen. My dad is still going strong, incidentally. He has a picture of Tommy Walker on his bedspread, one of these memory quilt things, which are fantastic. My dad’s 95 and has problems with his memory, and one way you help people is you have what’s called a memory quilt of their favourite things. In my dad’s case, golfers and footballers. So when my dad is showing people his room in the nursing home he’ll point to the quilt and of course they don’t know who it is - but my dad says ‘Well, that’s Tommy Walker’. It’s a wonderful thing, because it allows people who have got memory difficulties, recollection difficulties, to put them in the position of knowing something… into charge of the conversation. It’s a wonderful thing and football is particularly strong as a memory trigger.”



4. Evonne Goolagong (seven-time major winning tennis player) 

“Grace personified.”



5. Ken Barrington (Surrey and England cricketer)

“England’s ‘middle stump’, an opening bat for England in the 1950s and 60s. So courageous. He wasn’t like a graceful Colin Cowdrey. Barrington was constantly getting bombarded by West Indian fast bowlers at frightening speeds, but never flinched.”


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