Early Doors

A national hero is something to be

Early Doors

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Making one's way home from work last night on a vastly overcrowded train that appears to characterise the sludge of London transport as much as jobsworths in Hi Vis garb, the senses were immediately drawn to two blokes gazing deeply, and somewhat excitedly it must be noted, into their mobile phones as Andy Murray jousted with Fernando Verdasco in a frazzled Wimbledon quarter-final.

One was Spanish, he bore a slight resemblance to David Ferrer believe it or not, the other was British. Or to put it in his own words when he was overheard exchanging sweaty pleasantries with his fellow tennis lover: "I'm not English, I'm Scottish."

Arms across the sea, brother. Murray, his fellow Scot, ousted Spain's Verdasco moments later after a taut fifth set was played out on a moving smartphone.

There was a general feeling of euphoria sweeping over this geezer and several other put-upon passengers to welcome in Murray's march to the semi-finals on the commute home.

Let us hope this splendid, world class tennis player can trouser two more matches to end Britain's 77-year wait for a home victor at Wimbers just like England collected a gleaming Jules Rimet back in 1966. It has been far too long.

Murray's momentum immediately left one thinking what the reaction would be like if this was England's footballers winning a World Cup quarter-final in Brazil a year from now?

If success in tennis can prompt such scenes of elation, a joyous run in Brazil would probably make some forget about the state of the economy. The economy of good feeling gleaned from sporting success is measured only in an enhanced spell of well-being among the general public.

Such a point surely could not have been lost on the England manager Roy Hodgson as he sat alongside the retired Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the cheap seats while Murray completed what was a rousing recovery from two sets adrift and seemingly on the verge of a highly depressing departure from the Grand Slam on grass.

Fergie was not needed to cajole Murray into performing after a sluggish start because the man from Dunblane is a champion, and champions do not slip quietly into the night. They tend to find reserves of energy because they do not like to disappoint the masses. Or most importantly, themselves.

England's footballers should take note of Murray's components before they attempt to finalise their place in those Brazil finals this autumn. Like him or lump him as a Scotsman, his assets really are the very best of British. They are found far from any earnings.

Murray has tenacity, bravery, fortitude, composure and considerable class. But as the former champion and world number one Boris Becker, a figure who told me in an interview last month that he thought Murray would carry off Wimbledon, pointed out during commentary: "It doesn't matter how you win, it is just important that you find a way."

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The problem is unearthing a Bobby Moore or two to carry the banner the way Murray flies the flag. When men like John Terry are held up as the modern day equivalent of Moore, you know your foundations are fixed on shaky moorings that are unlikely to withstand the torrents that rage.

Pride in performance and genuine hunger seem to be aspects sadly missing from some of England's elite players whenever they wash up for international football. The national teams of the home nations have all been damaged by the advent of the Premier League, and will continue to be so as long as foreign players wooed by the promise of greenbacks continue to be recruited, stifling the progress of home-grown talent.

One such figure, the young attacking midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, yesterday departed Liverpool to join Swansea for around £6m. Similar moves are likely to become the norm if England players are contemplating regular action for their country.

Shelvey made only 17 appearances in three years for Liverpool. He would have slipped further into the shadows without fresh impetus.

Apparently only 35 players available to England younger than the age of 21 made appearances in the Premier League last season. This was the lowest figure since 2005. These are not treasured times for the notion of the three lions.

The club game takes precedence over the national game. Yet there is something that cannot be replicated by giving it all for the nation, and finding a way to eke out a win under duress from a football match.

Scotland have not been to a World Cup finals since France 1998, but hope springs eternal. A 1-0 win in Croatia last month suggests that where there is life, there is hope. England and Scotland meet at Wembley on August 14 in what will be a shadow of a match compared to their get-togethers of the 1970s and 1980 at the old stadium when such fixtures oozed quality.

But at least England remain active in attempting to reach the World Cup finals. Four wins from four against Moldova, Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland will see them through.

Unlike Murray's attitude, the concept of performing well for your national side, for your people, your family and friends, and somehow winning meaningful matches, seems to have eluded the modern era of football players.

These rich young men have lost their identity, or the need for universal approval.

They are footballers who know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Many have lost their way in life because of the pitfalls of money.

John Lennon once sung a working class hero is something to be. Andy Murray proves a national sporting hero is always something to be.

Desmond Kane

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I miss English football. For me, it was [some] of the best years in my career when I was there in Manchester United. Everyone knows that it is a club that is still in my heart and I really, really miss. But now my life is in Spain. I am enjoying playing there, too. Part of my life is there (at United), but in the future we never know. I am really, really happy in the Spanish league." - Cristiano Ronaldo and why he will and won't return to Old Trafford.

FOREIGN VIEW: "I have few doubts about coming here, because although I knew that Pellegrini wanted me, once I learned that Real Madrid's interest was serious I didn't think twice. I had offers from other teams in Europe but it's impossible to say no to Madrid, it's a dream for me to play here and here I am." - Isco reveals he rejected a move to Manchester City to join Real Madrid for over 20 million euros.

COMING UP: Europa League qualifying is about as good as it gets, football action-wise today, so to keep you going Eurobot will be along with some transfer rumours and Jan Molby will file his latest blog. Our live coverage of Wimbledon continues, with the women's semi-finals, while Mark Cavendish will have the chance to double up on stage six of the Tour de France in Montpellier.

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