Down but certainly not out

By Danny Caro, December 1, 2011

If you'd have said there were no Jewish athletes on the shortlist for the top honours at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year a couple of years ago, you may have got a raised eyebrow at best.

But now, the response is a little closer to 'are you serious'?

It's good to see so many punching their weight on the world stage. Amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen and golfer Sam Little are just two of the names who would not look out of place for the top prize.

As I reported, powerlifter Shachar Head was nominated for the Junior award but she just missed out. That certainly won't take the gloss off a memorable few months for a girl who is certainly going places. I'm sure her time will come.

I also expect to see long-distance runner Richard Goodman on the roster in the next few years.

● What's the next best thing to playing at Wembley? Refereeing at Wembley. Three Jewish officials recently took charge of a match to celebrate ESPN's coverage of the FA Cup. Warwick Blake, the double winner of the JC MSFL Referee of the Year, took charge of the match, with Dan Cohen and Simon Cudner running the line. Scotsman Blake, a Liverpool fan, described the experience as "a day I will never forget". He said: "Walking out of the famous Wembley tunnel with names such as Robert Pires, Chris Waddle, Kevin Keegan and John Barnes standing behind me, I really had to pinch myself.

"Being heckled constantly by Barnes for 90 minutes and watching the silky skills of Pires dribbling through the opposition was no different to a cold Sunday morning at West Hendon Playing Fields."

Blake went on to say: "Actually, Keegan's team tactics were just to get the ball to Pires and let him do the rest."

Blake told me he found it hard to keep a straight face when Waddle "got irate at the fact he was not allowed to slide-tackle" and Martin Keown "staring at the assistant-referee, making sure he was in line and shouting for offside every minute".

But the greatest compliment was paid by King Kev, who told Blake, "you know when to blow your whistle and when to leave it in your pocket". Blake said: "This is something I will use for the rest of my refereeing career."

● Norman Bright has done it again. The pedal-pushing pensioner won gold for the 75-plus age category at the Gateshead Cyclo-Cross. Bright, 75, from Hackney, braved testing conditions to win in 55 minutes. Anything to avoid a freedom pass, Norman!

Last updated: 3:22pm, December 1 2011