Spectator sport

The Davis Cup will be one final flourish for Andy’s Barmy Army

Murray may be a one-man band but a British victory in Ghent is all-but assured

28 November 2015

9:00 AM

28 November 2015

9:00 AM

There’s nothing quite like a sporting celebration, but the lash-up after Britain’s (almost) inevitable victory in the Davis Cup tennis final against Belgium this weekend should be unique. For a start, there will be hardly anyone there: just Judy Murray and Andy, with Jamie popping his head in: ‘Have some Irn-Bru boys, and, take another teacake.’ It’s a funny old team, with -pretty much only one man in the team, but it will be a huge personal triumph for Andy, every bit as special as Wimble-don and the Olympics. What a -triptych! And now David Lloyd is -having a go at him for ‘not giving enough back’ to tennis. Oh please: he’s not a product of the Lawn Tennis Association, thank heaven, but Andy Murray is a great British hero. The hopefully inevitable -victory in Ghent on Sunday (it could even be Saturday) will be Britain’s first triumph in the event for eight decades, since the long-flannelled days of Fred Perry and Bunny Austin. We might not be a great tennis nation, but we have one hell of a tennis player and we are going to be the best in the world.

The Davis Cup, with its raucous crowds and insane jingoism, is sport as showbiz. Like the ATP finals which just finished at the O2 with a comprehensive victory for Novak Djokovic. I was there for the semi-final when he swatted aside Rafa Nadal in about the time it takes to swig your first pint. It’s the very non-Wimbledon-ness that makes it such fun. Big lights, big rock music, big hair and lots of shouting (and that’s just the announcer). And what other major sporting venue has a giant 6ft artwork in the gents containing some improving advice from Celine Dion? Since you ask, it’s: ‘Everything that I decide to do means something, other-wise I don’t do it.’ Spot on, Celine.

The Davis Cup is not genteel either, but it’s huge fun: the audiences go bonkers, the players are pumped to bursting, and the result really -matters. It’s what sport is all about. The atmosphere at the Glasgow semi was mesmerising, even on TV. With a bit of luck the Stirling Uni Barmy Army (our unofficial cheerleaders) will have taken their Union Jack suits to Ghent too. I am a huge fan, though I’m not sure how much time they spend in the lecture halls. Or indeed if they know where they are. But for sheer bottled-up fervour and unbridled excitement, the Flanders Expo in Ghent with its red-clay court will surpass just about anything else we’ve seen this year.

Everybody knows you can’t have too much grief these days (thank you Lady Di!), but the Premier League was in a rum old mood playing the Marseillaise before all the weekend’s fixtures. Quite what the boys at Chelsea made of it before their bottom-of-the-table clash with Norwich is hard to imagine. What are you supposed to do during the playing of the French national anthem at an ordinary domestic club match? At the Bridge the consensus was to clap along — now the default embarrassment-dispersing activity (as with the war dead, or Billy -Bremner) of a minute’s silence. At all events, it’s a good job the Premier League didn’t feel like this after the Mumbai shootings or Madrid train bombings: otherwise we could have had bhangra at the Hawthorns or flamenco at the King Power.

That distant tolling you can hear marks the end of one of football’s great traditions. In a small item of news last week, it was revealed that England players have agreed not to go on holiday between the end of the season and the start of the -European Championships next summer. If a rapidly-reddening Wazza can’t be snapped stripped to the waist and smoking in Las Vegas, or Jamie Vardy and three ‘friends from school’ aren’t getting wasted on tequila slammers in the Malaga branch of Hooters on the eve of a major tournament, then it really will all have changed. Still, maybe a stay-cation can save the day. Watch out Weston.

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