Harty on Sir Henry Cooper and The Albion

BRITISH sport sadly lost one of its giants at the weekend with the passing of Sir Henry Cooper.

I was very fortunate to have worked with the great man when I compèred an evening at the Pavilion Theatre with him just over five years ago in aid of Chestnut Tree House.

Despite retiring in 1971, he was still revered by the whole nation, and it was the way he conducted himself both inside and out of the ring that endeared him to the general public.

He was on the wrong end of a couple of incidents in the ring that would have had lesser men moaning to their graves. Could he have beaten Cassius Clay, or did he beat Joe Bugner in his last fight?

Even when questioned about these episodes years later, he showed no bitterness or bad sportsmanship – a classic example of how a real sportsman should conduct himself.

I heard a story in the last couple of days that sums the magnitude of the man up. From his first flushes of fame, right through his life, he never refused an autograph.

A few years ago, with his hearing failing, he misheard a young girl’s request, it was only his late wife, Albina, who went and brought the girl back to Sir Henry for an autograph.

People present at the event said he was visibly upset at the thought of it appearing that he’d refused the young girl her request, is that not testament to the man on its own?

He was also a man of principle. Whenever at a guest amateur boxing show, if a ladies’ bout was on, he always made a point of going to the bar as he did not agree with women fighting each other in the ring.

He had local connections as a result of being evacuated to Lancing during World War Two and when I spoke to him about it, he recalled days playing football with all the other local youngsters on Tower Road.

With this connection in mind, and his stature as one of the most famous and respected sportsmen this country has ever produced, will Adur and Worthing Councils think about renaming a road in his honour?

He will certainly be remembered this Friday with the traditional 10 bell salute when Adur Boxing Club host a boxing dinner at the Charmandean Centre in aid of local footballer George Dowell, who sustained serious injuries in a road accident just over a year ago.

Dinner tickets are £40 with spectator seats priced at £10. For more details, contact Dave Binns on 07803 190313.

l Championship trophy presented, farewell to Withdean and Gary Hart, and a special mention to Lee Clark and Huddersfield Town for the way they conducted themselves at the final home game on Saturday.

The phrase “real football people” is often over-used, but the respect that Clark showed the Albion team with the guard of honour and the way he conducted himself towards the Albion faithful in a high-octane game, earned him the ovation he and his team received prior to the championship presentation.

Perhaps certain other League One managers should take note . . .