ONE city and very much a tale of two sportsmen.
In the last week or so, we’ve all witnessed the latest unsavoury episode of the soap opera that doubles as the life and work of Kevin Pietersen.
There is no doubt that he is probably one of the most gifted cricketers to ever represent England.
But, as far as I’m concerned, this fact is well and truly tempered by my considering him to be one of the most unpleasant people to be capped by his ‘country’. He is a man who makes the enigmatic Geoffrey Boycott look like Mother Theresa.
Reading up on KP, it’s apparent the controversy started fairly early on.
Born in South Africa in 1980, it really was a case of ‘Kevin the Teenager’. Aged 19, he left his home country to come to the UK, citing South African cricket’s racial quota system as the reason – centuries of political and racial struggle condemned by a man who’d barely started shaving!
And, so set the trend. For all of his obvious talent, he’s clearly extremely self-centered, arrogant and ultimately disruptive, which culminated in the publication and related media tour regarding his autobiography.
Clearly, with his talent, and his penchant for self- promotion, he’s not short of a bob or two. But his latest money-making exercise in the form of the book will re-open wounds that will never heal and, for me, will sadly distort the memory of what was once a great cricketer.
Right at the other end of the scale, on Monday evening, I had the pleasure of again meeting at the annual boxing writers’ dinner at the Savoy, a young man who I believe could go on to be one of the greatest sporting icons this country has ever produced.
The saying form is temporary but class is permanent is never so apt than when discussing Olympic heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua.
A young man who not only is already heading towards the top of his field but is also a truly nice person, whose manner and demeanour transcends all barriers to be, very much, a man of the people.
Over the years, young sportsmen have similarly emerged, only to change with age and success. I will stick my neck out and say I don’t think ‘Josh’ will change and, in 25 years, will still be as loved and respected throughout this country in the same way as Sir Henry Cooper was decades before him.
The only difference will be this will possibly be against the backdrop of him dominating heavyweight boxing throughout the world.
And, finally, the Albion return to league action on Saturday with the visit of Middlesbrough to the Amex. I’m not only hopeful of a decent showing on the pitch, but also not so many empty blue seats off it.
Tickets are still available – see the banner below this column. We had an early season blip, almost a stutter, but rejuvenated after the international break, hopefully, we can truly say the season starts here.