Alan Biggs: Blades and Owls fight for spotlight

England's Joe Root celebrates scoring 100 not out on day three of the Second Investec Ashes Test at Lord's Cricket Ground, London. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.
England's Joe Root celebrates scoring 100 not out on day three of the Second Investec Ashes Test at Lord's Cricket Ground, London. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.

Do anything other than kick a football and there’s every chance that residency of this region can carry you to undreamt of sporting heights.

Whether it’s a bat, a racket or a club, it seems all you have to do is pick it up. And do it quickly before the spell wears off.

More importantly and with tongue removed from cheek, the inspiration to do all the hard work that must necessarily follow is flowing like never before from the likes of Joe Root and now young Hallamshire golfer Matt Fitzpatrick, who took the silver medal at the Open as the tournament’s leading amateur.

It all made for a titanic battle between the TV and the remote control as Root swept England to another Ashes triumph and, for all but the back nine, Worksop’s Lee Westwood threatened to win his first major going into the last day atop the leader board at Muirfield.

Just when you thought – post-Jess and the Games – that this region’s sporting fairytale would finally come down from the clouds, along came a great double-header in which Root scored 180 and took vital wickets at Lord’s. Oh, and don’t forget Yorkshire are topping the county championship largely without England trio Root, Tim Bresnan and Jonny Bairstow.

People ask me why, and with good reason, football dominates this column when we have such excellence in other sports. The most honest answer is that I could put Ennis-Hill, Root, Westwood, Fitzpatrick, tennis champion Jonny Marray and squash star Nick Matthew into the same package (as I am doing!) and still get more reaction from some footnote on the Owls or Blades.

It was ever thus. But there is an important rider to add. The challenge for our two city clubs is to start muscling in on the area’s sporting glory and it is high time they did. Hopefully they can also draw inspiration.

The Blades have been eager to claim Root and Fitzpatrick as supporters just as the Owls embraced former England skipper and Ashes-winning hero Michael Vaughan. United can boast a clear lead in the sporting celebrity stakes considering Ennis-Hill has a stand named after her.

But what really matters is scoring points on the grass. Right now the city is defining itself in other sporting fields and rightly so.

The race is on. Sheffield Wednesday are sprinting the last lap to the new season with a couple of strikers and maybe a midfielder in their sights. Manager Dave Jones has pursued his former Cardiff marksman Michael Chopra, jettisoned by Ipswich and needing to convince his old boss that he is over a highly damaging gambling addition.

See. Told you there’s always something to talk about. Also, it looks like Jones has prioritised Chopra over last season’s successful loanee, Swansea’s Leroy Lita. Most fans on Twitter seem to prefer Lita, so more controversy there, although Jones is well placed to judge.

Then there is the takeover intrigue with Chinese interest remaining strong but with no deal as yet and Milan Mandaric likely to be wanting £30m at least after shelling out £20m plus so far.

Ex-professionals Winter and Turner at the forefront of preserving the sanity of football

Football is a business and yet the two components have drifted further apart in recent years.

Just look at the gulf between some managers and the executives who rule the roost above them.

Blackburn Rovers, Nottingham Forest pre Billy Davies, need we say more.

Which is all the more reason why the progress of Sheffield United and Chesterfield should be watched with some interest.

Both have ex-footballers as chief executives.

You may recall Chris Turner of the Spireites regaling us here with his view that his club’s interpretation of the role could offer a way to avoid the insanity that afflicts some clubs.

Julian Winter, of the Blades, had much less of a playing profile than the former Manchester United and Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper (not to mention manager) but also considers his background to be important to his job.

Does Winter now see himself as a football man or a financial man?

“Both,” says the one-time Huddersfield and United player. “I had a distinctly average career.

But having played helps you relate to the manager and his staff. You understand their needs and desires. Let’s be frank – it’s the most important part of the club.” You could be forgiven for thinking that some clubs, particularly those with foreign owners, have lost sight of the reason for their existence.

Football men in positions of power can remind them of this.