SOME, too many indeed, see him as a surly Scot, but increasingly I’m viewing Andy Murray as a top- class sportsman whose stock is on an inexorable rise.

Now I know the recent announcement by a leading bookmaker that Murray was a 7-1 favourite to be crowned the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year in 11 months is absolutely ridiculous. January is not even out yet. But the tennis ace deserves far better.

Two grand slams under his belt, including that albatrossia Britannia otherwise known as Wimbledon, the Scot will tomorrow contest his fourth Australian final at the age of 27.

Now he may have lost his three previous outings in the pinnacle event down under, but few would have bet on him getting that far after a 2014 interrupted by injury, major changes to his back-up team and understandably patchy form.

But following on from a flourish to last year Murray, now coached by former women’s ace Amelie Mauresmo, has surged to the Oz final in the first of 2015’s slams and even given the immeasurable strength of his opponent tomorrow, I have a sneaking feeling a third slam will be toasted in Murray’s home town of Dunblane.

Yet even if he were to succeed his army of supporters would not suddenly experience an upsurge, especially in England, where there is a bizarre reluctance to accept Murray’s supreme talents in the same manner as a Rory McIlroy, a now retired Brian O’Driscoll, a Lewis Hamilton, or a George North.

There is definitely a sneer and loathing that accompanies many English sports-fans’ verdicts on Murray. I know even of some Scots who do not warm to their racquet-wielding compatriot.

Had Murray been born in America he would be exalted, exhorted, extolled – not treated like some exasperating figure from north of Hadrian’s Wall who is swatted away like some troublesome midge.

The fault - not merely single, nor double but multi-fold - of British tennis is that for all the attention attracted by Wimbledon, for all the money raked in by that curiously archaic championships and the vice-like power-grip of the Lawn Tennis Association, there has still not been a world class player produced from the streets.

Not even equestrianism can be accused of such elitism.

Murray, by his attitude, application and approach is the nearest British tennis has got to a gung-ho gunslinger prepared to trade blows, stand tall in the back court and at the net against a tennis trio par excellence – Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

If they are the three musketeers then Murray is a dashing D’Artagnan, who thoroughly deserves to be a peer in their company. Strangley, he is often regarded as an interloper.

Is that because he is not all sweetness and light and does not play the fame game by playing up to the media? I mean, I remember, when he made an off the cuff remark about not supporting England in football’s World Cup, he was roundly slaughtered. Who would blame him being more guarded around the press?

But I don’t need my sports men and women to be hitching their wagon to the dubious gravy train of celebrity and fame. Instead they need to be exemplars of competitive excellence and Murray is that.

If there is to be a meejah circus then his feisty fiancée Kim Sears can be that, especially given her outburst towards the camp of Murray’s vanquished semi-final opponent Thomas Berdych. Anyone not skilled in lip-reading were able to discover her own verbal volley.

So time now to cut Murray some slack. He’s in the final tomorrow, an achievement worthy of applause and, if he wins, deserving of even louder acclaim.


SO now we await the final challenger Septuagenarian Blatter as the next president of FIFA, football’s world governing body.

No, it’s not – thank mon dieu - former Spurs and Newcastle winger David Ginola. The Frenchman’s campaign barely raised enough cash to keep him in shampoo let alone the five votes needed.

There are three others in the race: Fifa executive committee member Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, Dutch FA president Michael van Praag and former world player of the year Luis Figo.

Any of those candidates has to be better than Blatter, the burgomeister of blather and bother.