Alastair Cook re-wrote the England Test cricket history books this week with yet another century against India in the third Test.
The Essex man hit 190 in England’s first innings and became the first Englishman to notch 23 Test centuries.
It was also his fifth century in his five Tests as England captain, and saw him become the youngest player in history to pass 7,000 Test runs, getting there at a more tender age than the all-time great Sachin Tendulkar (although he has played more innings - the advantage of being an opener).
Cook is still only 27.
He turns 28 on Christmas Day, and for a batsman, he hasn’t even reached his prime yet, which is a frightening thought.
It’s conceivable that Cook could open England’s batting for the next 10 years or more, and it seems inevitable he will end up as this country’s all-time great Test batsman.
As it stands, England’s all-time leading test run scorer is Graham Gooch with 8,900 at an average of 42.58.
Cook now has 7,102 runs at 50.36, and barring injury or a calamitous loss of form, he will surely cruise past that total.
So how far could Cook go? How great can he become?
Well, the title of top Test run scorer of all time is a long, long way off with Tendulkar out in front with an astounding 15,638 runs at 54.67.
But the little master is now coming to the end of his career.
He is approaching his 40th birthday, and if Cook (who has got to 7,000 runs in 86 Test matches over six years) can show the same longevity and play at the top level for another 10 or 12 years, then he surely has a great chance of breaking every batting record that has ever been set.
Cook may not be the most attacking batsman the game has seen, he may not be the most easy on the eye, but he could yet turn out to be the most productive.
He is a run machine that shows no sign of grinding to a halt any time soon.
GROUNDHOG DAY AS WENGER’S ARSENAL STRUGGLE YET AGAIN
It‘s groundhog day all over again... I am sure I am not alone in being bored of what is now an annual Arsenal early-season slump, followed by a lengthy list of excuses rattled off by Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.
The Frenchman has been at it again over the past few days following the defeats to Swansea City in the Premier League and Olympiakos in the Champions League.
Apparently the Arsenal players are ‘tired’ just four months into the season (bless their cotton socks...) and the club is in ‘good shape’.
This despite the fact the Gunners haven’t won a trophy since 2005 (if any Cobblers fans want to know exactly how long ago that FA Cup triumph over Manchester United was, it was on the same day that Colin Calderwood’s Cobblers team lost 1-0 at Southend United in the league two play-offs. I had hair and everything...)
Wenger and the Arsenal board just seem satisfied with finishing in the top four every season. They seem to think that doing that is the be all and end all, and that winning trophies doesn’t matter.
And there are, amazingly, Arsenal fans that feel the same way, although that number has to be dwindling with each disappointment of a season.
It seems to be all about the money for the Frenchman, and the really frustrating thing with Wenger is it never used to be that way.
Listening to the Arsenal boss now, trying to justify his team’s inability to win anything, it’s easy to forget that this is a manager who in his early days at Highbury was a trophy-winning machine.
This is a man that oversaw his ‘Invincibles’ team going through a whole league season unbeaten.
Now he is lucky if he manages to guide Arsenal through a week without losing!
And this oft-used excuse that the Gunners can’t compete financially with Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City just doesn’t wash with me either.
‘“We’ve had to build a new ground’ they bleat... How do they think the revamped 80,000-capacity Old Trafford was rebuilt? By magic?
I mean, where is all this money that Arsenal keep earning from qualifying for the Champions League every year? Isn’t it about time they spent some of it on bringing in new players of the same quality as the ones they sell every six months, rather than cut-price lower grade ones?
Now, I am not an Arsenal fan, and I appreciate that Wenger’s teams have played some fantastic football and he has discovered and produced some brilliant players over the years, but how long can this man live on past glories?
Surely it is time for change at the Emirates.
BECKHAM SHOULD PLAY ON FOR HIS ‘LOVE’ OF THE GAME
David Beckham has just completed his five-year stint in Major League Soccer in the USA, and is now angling for a new club to play for in England, Europe or wherever he ends up to continue his career.
Good luck to him, and I hope he finds a club that will provide him with the playing challenge he needs.
But I do hope that money is not going to be an issue when Beckham sits down to talk contracts.
Because, among all the fanfare and plaudits heading Beckham’s way as he led LA Galaxy to a second successive MLS play-off success, there was one mind-boggling stat that caught my eye.
Beckham’s five-year deal with LA was worth £125 million - an enormous £25m a campaign - and in his time Stateside he played 115 matches for the Galaxy – which is a staggering £1,086,957 per match. More than £1m a game!
Or, and this is worked out with Beckham having played every moment of those 115 games (which he didn’t), an amazing £12,077 per minute... £12,000 a minute!!
I mean, how much money does a player need to earn?
Now, I’m not having a dig at Beckham for that, he after all didn’t twist Galaxy’s arm to pay him the money, and the club’s rulers seem pretty pleased with what he has done for them and ‘soccer’ as a whole in the USA.
But all I am saying is I don’t want to be reading that Beckham couldn’t agree terms over signing for whatever club it may be.
Because that really would stick in the craw.
Beckham always rattles on about how much he loves football, about how much he loves just playing the game.
Well here’s his chance to prove it.
Here’s his chance, on this occasion, to prove that how much he is paid to play has got nothing to do with him extending his career.
Fancy turning out for the Cobblers, Becks?
COBBLERS STILL ON COURSE FOR PROMOTION
It’s back to league action for the Cobblers this weekend following the mini mid-season break enforced on them by their failure to reach the second round of the FA Cup.
With almost half of the npower League Two season played, Aidy Boothroyd’s men find themselves two points off the play-offs, and six adrift of third-placed Cheltenham - who they play at Sixfields this weekend.
And if you are searching for some sort of form guide for how things might end up for Town come next May, you might want to know that in the Cobblers’ most recent promotion season (2005/06) Colin Calderwood’s men had also amassed 29 points from their opening 20 matches.
That season the Cobblers went on to finish second in the league two table.
Here’s hoping history can repeat itself.