“How has he never been Knighted !?”
That was the proclamation from ex England cricket captain Michael Vaughan on social media this week.
The subject in question? Former England rugby captain, Martin Johnson.
In 2003, man-mountain Johnson led England to their first - and so far only - World Cup tournament triumph, beating Australia in the final.
The image of the lock lifting the cup in Sydney at the Stadium Australia (then known as the Telstra Stadium) is as iconic as any in British sport.
Vaughan was prompted to make the call after the re-emergence of a video showing Johnson launching praise on his teammates, and the entire England set-up, in the immediate aftermath of the victory and ahead of receiving the trophy. Johnson modestly paid full credit to his back-room staff and the management.
In that year’s New Year Honours list, the entire 31-man squad were subsequently decorated as a consequence of their success to bring home the Webb Ellis Cup. Coach Clive Woodward was knighted and Johnson promptly became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, promoted from a previously received OBE.
After retiring from rugby in 2005 he went on to manage England to their first Six Nations Championship trophy in eight years, in 2011.
Vaughan’s comments got The Sportsman thinking - what more does a man have to do to get the nod from the Palace? And who are the other British sporting icons deserving of a knighthood?
Football Player - David Beckham (pictured above)
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way, David Beckham is a cultural phenomenon.
He will continue to be examined as the template for the modern-day footballer, whether this is a good or bad thing is entirely subjective.
As a footballing icon and one who has productively used his image for a variety of charitable causes his credentials are beyond doubt.
Becks may have scuppered his chances of a knighthood in recent years following questions about tax schemes but the Manchester United and England legend is still in his mid-40s, and time heals.
The last former professional footballer to be knighted was Sir Trevor Brooking, all the way back in 2004. Should Beckham continue to use his brand and popularity for philanthropic purposes, it’s not hard to imagine him bucking that trend.
Cycling - Chris Froome
Like Beckham, cyclist Chris Froome has an OBE under his belt.
However, despite four victories at the Tour de France and becoming the first cyclist in close to 40 years to hold all three Grand Tour winners’ jerseys - winning the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia at the same time - a knighthood hasn’t been forthcoming for Froome.
His former Team Sky colleague Bradley Wiggins was knighted in 2013, aged 33, after becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France in 2012. He also collected Gold in the time trial at the London Olympics and won the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.
A purported feud between Wiggins and Froome, as well as raised questions about drug-enhancement that continues to surround their participation and successes in the sport, look to be major hurdles for the honour for Froome.
Boxing - Joe Calzaghe
Calzaghe is without question one of the best British boxers of all time, an unblemished character with an unblemished record in the ring 46-0 with 32 knock-outs.
In 2007, the legendary Sir Henry Cooper backed calls for the Welshman to be knighted by the Queen after Calzaghe had retained his world champion title for a whole decade, the longest-reigning super-middleweight world champion in boxing history.
The demand however fell on deaf ears, though in the same year he did take home the SPOTY award. It’s now over ten years since Calzaghe (CBE) retired, time to give the former southpaw his due?
Football Manager - Bob Paisley
In 2018, Kenny Dalglish was given what the Liverpool Echo deemed a ‘long overdue’ knighthood. The beloved former Liverpool player/manager made 355 appearances for the club, was gaffer twice and won six English league championships.
Fewer than 20 footballing figures have ever been given knighthoods. Legendary three-time European Cup-winning boss Bob Paisley, the second of that incredible quad of consecutive stretch of Liverpool managers alongside Bill Shankly, Joe Fagan, and Dalglish - is astonishingly not one of them. Only one other person has ever achieved the managerial feat of Paisley and that’s Carlo Ancelotti.
Paisley won 20 honours in nine seasons, including that astonishing three European Cups in a four year span, that elusive individual accolade, however, went missing. It’s time to right that wrong and honour him with a posthumous knighthood.
Cricket - Michael Vaughan
Let’s return the favour to Vaughan. England’s test team captain helped recaptured the Ashes after a desperately long and arduous barren spell that had kept it in the hands of Australia for 18 years.
In 2005, legends were made, new fans of the sport were born, and as much as Flintoff, Pietersen, and Trescothwick became forever intrinsically part of British cricketing lexicon, so too has Vaughn. In his own words - “How has he never been Knighted!?”