Sadly, in 2021, we had to say goodbye to many sporting legends.
From cricket trailblazers to football heroes, and Formula One pioneers to boxing icons, we detail the stars who died in the past 12 months.
Until her death in December, Ash was the world’s oldest living cricketer and one who played seven Tests for England between 1937 and 1949 in a playing career impacted by the Second World War. A pioneer for the women’s game, she was rewarded with MCC life membership for her 100th.
One of the greatest players in Manchester City’s history, the West Stand at the Etihad is named after Bell. In all, he represented the club around 400 times, winning the league title and FA Cup as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup, plus playing for England 48 times, including at the 1970 World Cup.
The left back was best known for his time at Leeds, which began at the age of 18 and spanned 14 years and 250 club appearances. A league title and two European trophies – the Fairs Cup – followed as well as 20 call-ups for England. He later managed both Bristol clubs, Birmingham and Exeter.
The centre famously captained both Wales and the British and Irish Lions, the former to the 1971 Five Nations Grand Slam and the latter to the only series victory in New Zealand in the Lions’ rich history. As a coach, he won the Five Nations four times in five years, including two Grand Slams.
The former England Test captain guided the national side on 30 occasions and was regarded as one of the most graceful batsmen of his time with an average of 47.89 during his 62 Tests. He recorded one double century with other notable innings 70 off 75 balls against West Indies’ pace attack and a 52 to steer England to victory over Australia in Melbourne for the 1962-3 Ashes series. A later England chairman of selectors and journalist, he was also central to creating the ICC player rankings system.
The Scottish international right half’s playing career quickly merged into that of his managerial one. After stints with Preston and Arsenal, he ended playing for Chelsea who he would quickly go on to manage. It was the first of 15 managerial appointments and he liked to joke he’d had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus.
Flowers was a non-playing member of England’s 1966 World Cup squad and, at 31, the eldest member of the squad. He had already won 49 England caps by then and was central to the dominant Wolves side of the late 1950s winning three league titles and the FA Cup.
The darts player and former pub landlord was the game’s larger-than-life character. He found glory on the oche as the 2004 world champion but the latter part of his life was beset by health problems, later admitting to drinking as much as 25 bottles of lager and half a bottle of spirits a day.
Greaves’ goalscoring records were a match for any of the greats: 422 goals in 602 games, 266 for Spurs and 132 for Chelsea. For England, he was no less prolific, finding the target 44 times in 57 international appearances. At the 1966 World Cup, he was England’s first-choice striker but suffered a gash to his shin and was replaced by Sir Geoff Hurst.
‘Marvelous’ Marvin Hagler will be best remembered for just eight minutes of boxing against Tommy Hearns in which the pair pulverised each other in a captivating middleweight bout. He had famously beaten Roberto Duran a few fights earlier but only boxed twice more, a split decision to Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987 so disgusting him he never fought again.
A central member of the 1966 World Cup-winning England squad, Hunt played in all six games during the tournament. His captain Bobby Moore described him as the players’ player and he scored 18 goals in 34 international appearances. A Liverpool great, he won the league title and FA Cup.
Another Liverpool great, Kennedy first made his mark for Arsenal before becoming Bill Shankly’s last signing for a then record £200,000. He took just 22 minutes to score his first goal for the club. A league and FA Cup winner at Arsenal, he won five league titles at Liverpool as well as three European Cups.
Despite not being a striker, the Scot remains Leeds’ all-time leading goalscorer, renowned for his thunderous strikes as the club twice won the league title in the space of five seasons. He shone under Don Revie at Elland Road and was part of the Scotland side to qualify for the 1974 World Cup.
It was in July that Mariner lost a brief battle to brain cancer at the age of 68. As a player, he shone as a striker for Ipswich Town with whom he won both the FA Cup and the Uefa Cup, flourishing under Bobby Robson. He made 35 appearances for England and scored 13 goals including playing at the 1982 World Cup.
A realisation he was not among the very elite inspired Mosley to make the move from being an accomplished racing driver to co-founding his March Engineering F1 team. But it was as FIA president and F1’s joint powerbroker with Bernie Ecclestone where he most made his mark. Hugely intelligent, he could also be incredibly ruthless to those who crossed him.
The Welshman’s biggest moment came with his passage to the World Snooker Championship final in 1981 where he met a young Steve Davis, who would win the first of his six world titles in the Eighties. He won two ranking titles: the UK Championship and the Classic as well as 15 other non-ranking titles.
One of the great international goalscorers in history, Muller ended his playing days for West Germany with a ratio of more than a goal a game. It was his goal that gave his side the World Cup trophy in the 1974 final. His scoring was nearly as prolific for Bayern Munich with whom he was European champion on three occasions as well as winning the Ballon d’Or in 1970.
As England captain, Pullin led his side to victory against South Africa, New Zealand and Australia all in the space of virtually a year – a feat not replicated until Martin Johnson some three decades later. He was also part of the British and Irish Lions touring party to beat New Zealand in 1971.
The Belgian sports administrator was a three-time Olympic sailor in the Finn class as well as a rugby player before becoming president of the Belgian Olympic Committee. He rose to become president of the IOC in 2013 and the orthopaedic surgeon became famous during his tenure for setting up the Youth Olympics.
The Spaniard famously once said that “grass was for cows” such was his initial disdain for a surface on which he would go on to famously win the Wimbledon title in 1965. By then he already had three Grand Slam titles to his name: two at the French Open and one at the US Open.
A defender for Dundee United as a player, Smith’s biggest accolades came as a manager, notably for Rangers with whom he enjoyed unprecedented success over two spells. Ten league titles followed, including two domestic trebles. He also managed Scotland, taking them up 70 places in the world rankings and was integral in bringing Wayne Rooney to Manchester United when he was Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant.
Spinks was responsible for one of the biggest shocks in heavyweight boxing history when, in only his eighth professional fight, he defeated then undisputed heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a split decision. An accomplished amateur, the American was also the Olympic light-heavyweight champion.
Ian St John
Bill Shankly used to claim that Liverpool’s renaissance coincided with St John’s arrival for £37,500. He helped guide the club to the Second Division title in his first season and enjoyed two subsequent titles in the top flight. He was also one of the first former players to make the crossover to broadcasting in a successful double act with Jimmy Greaves.
Long considered the voice of Formula One. Walker, a former advertising executive, radio broadcast the British Grand Prix for the first time in 1949. He retired from full-time commentary in 2001 but made a part return four years later.
Williams was a trailblazer for the independents in F1, repeatedly recovering from the brink of bankruptcy to turn his eponymous team into the envy of the sport. His drivers won seven world titles and the team nine constructors’ crowns despite their team principal being confined to a wheelchair following a crash on his way home from the French Grand Prix in 1986.