Former England cricket and rugby captains Alastair Cook and Bill Beaumont headlined sporting personalities in the New Years Honours List with both men receiving knighthoods from Queen Elizabeth II.
Cook – who has more Test centuries (33) and runs (12,472) than any other England player accrued during a record 161 Test matches – is the first cricketer to be knighted since legendary all-rounder Ian Botham in 2007.
The 34-year-old opening batsman finished his Test career in the best possible manner with a century against India at The Oval despite having declared there “was nothing left in the tank”.
“It’s a fitting tribute to a man who has led with distinction on and off the pitch ever since he made his England debut,” England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves said in a statement to Press Association Sport.
Beaumont – chairman of the sport’s governing body, World Rugby, – skippered England to the 1980 Five Nations Grand Slam as well as captaining the British and Irish Lions.
Following his retirement as a player the 66-year-old became a much loved face on BBC television, his avuncular style adapting well to captaining a team in Question of Sport.
“I am honoured and humbled to receive this accolade from Her Majesty the Queen for services to rugby,” Beaumont told World Rugby.
“I have always viewed my work in the sport as an administrator as that of a guardian, driven by a passion to do the very best I can for rugby.”
Football did not miss out, with England manager Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane rewarded for the national side’s run to this year’s World Cup semi-finals.
‘Thought something was wrong!’
Southgate, whose sartorial elegance in Russia saw sales of waistcoats rocket, received the middle-ranking Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) whilst Tottenham Hotpsur sharpshooter Kane garnered the lesser Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Kane, who won the World Cup Golden Boot for finishing top scorer with six goals, said he learnt of his award from his fiancee Kate just prior to a Premier League game with Southampton in early December.
“We got a letter to the house, Kate opened the letter.” he told Spurs TV.
“Normally we’d talk a little but she would never call me just before the match. I had a missed call and she texted me ‘could you answer?’.
“I thought something was wrong! But Kate was excited and told me that we’d had a letter from the Queen saying we’d get an MBE.”
Another British sporting success story of the year Welshman Geraint Thomas received an OBE after winning road cycling’s showpiece event, the Tour de France.
Beaumont was not the only rugby personality to be honoured with former Scotland lock Doddie Weir, whose courageous battle with motor neurone disease has helped to raise its profile through his ‘My Name’5 Doddie Foundation’, being awarded an OBE.
Irish rugby legend Willie John McBride – like Beaumont a Lions captain having skippered the combined outfit’s most successful side of all time on the brutal 1974 tour of South Africa, which saw them win the four-Test series 3-0 with one draw – adds a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) to his MBE.
McBride’s fellow Northern Irishman former Manchester United goalkeeper Harry Gregg, who survived the Munich air crash that killed several of the Busy Babes in 1958, received an OBE.
Horse-racing, was acknowledged as well with Richard Johnson, who has been British jumps champion jockey the past three years after being runner-up on 16 occasions to legend AP McCoy, receiving an OBE.
But, as ever Johnson, has to give second best to his old rival as McCoy was knighted in 2016.