Talking Sport: Skill and pace more important than size

Trevor Watson
Trevor Watson
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One of the most pleasing aspects of the past sporting week has been the rebirth of what could be called ‘the tinies’, players not built like old-fashioned wardrobes.

The highlight was, of course, Shaun Johnson’s performance for New Zealand as they held off Australia to win a marvellous Four Nations final.

Scrum-half Johnson is a lightweight but his footwork and imagination left Aussie defenders for dead.

Fair enough, he was behind a steamroller of a Kiwi pack but his performance was great to watch and reminiscent of such as Roger Millward, David Topliss, Brian Gabbitas - every team seemed to have at least one.

Scotland’s footie team have come up with a likely prospect in Ikechi Anya, son of a Nigerian father and Romanian mother, who tips the tape at 5ft 5in but is like an electric ferret.

Over the years, the Scots, more noted for their caber tossing and backside baring before battles, have produced more than their share of small but richly talented players, not least current manager Gordon Strachan.

After all Billy Bremner was no giant, and had some rare battles with England’s Alan Ball and Kevin Keegan, who were also scarcely extra large.

For their one-day series in Sri Lanka, England’s cricket selectors have recalled James Taylor, who stands, yes, 5ft 5in but his record for hitting sixes puts him in the top rank.

I hope he succeeds after unpleasant remarks about him by one Kevin Pietersen. As Taylor points out, the great Indian Sachin Tendulkar was also 5ft 5in and he could play a bit.

Both codes of rugby and to some extent football seem to prefer people built like broken lorry parts and this trend has taken something out of the games.

Wayne Rooney’s 100th appearance for England certainly rescued the international side. A tedious 3-1 win over an ordinary Slovenia team in the Euro qualifier was forgotten with all attention on the fact that Rooney’s goal from another penalty lifted England.

There was precious little mention that for an hour England were awful. These were our stars of the so-called best league in the world with the highest-paid players and top attendances, which shows you can kid most of the people all of the time.

England’s RU team were not so fortunate. Another poor performance in defeat by South Africa has brought words such as ‘crisis’ and ‘shambles’ and demands for change. They get a chance for redemption against Samoa on Saturday, although the visitors have threatened to strike in a dispute with their union over money.

The patience of another English crowd was shown when Roger Federer withdrew from his tennis final against Novak Djokovic because of a bad back with 18,000 present, paying up to £110 for a seat.

Fortunately Scot Andy Murray only lives in Surrey and generously agreed to take part for nowt in a friendly doubles with Tim Henman, Pat Cash and John McEnroe and there will be partial refunds. Happy days!