South Yorkshire cricket legend predicts warm welcome for Tour

Cricket umpire Dickie Bird of Staincross, Barnsley who is to be presented with the OBE ' See Story Tom Richmond  Picture by Chris Lawton'30 Dec 2011
Cricket umpire Dickie Bird of Staincross, Barnsley who is to be presented with the OBE ' See Story Tom Richmond Picture by Chris Lawton'30 Dec 2011
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SOUTH Yorkshire cricket legend Dickie Bird reckons it’s ‘marvellous’ the county has clinched part of the Tour de France in 2014.

Former cricket umpire Dickie, aged 73, Barnsley born and bred, was thrilled the world’s premiere cycling race will have a leg in Yorkshire.

He has also revealed he reckons England will retain the Ashes when they take place in the country next year.

And he thinks former England cricket captain Andrew Flintoff – who is now boxing professionally – could become heavyweight champion of the world.

Dickie, speaking at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in London, also said he thought Sheffield Olympic-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis had done ‘tremendous’.

Yorkshire will host the start of the 2014 Tour de France and part of the route is set to weave through Sheffield.

Dickie said: “It’s coming in a couple of years’ time. It’s going to be a fantastic event and it’s marvellous for Yorkshire.

“They’ll get some support, I tell you, from the Yorkshire public, the Yorkshire people. And yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

Dickie is also thrilled at how Yorkshire – the ‘county of champions’ – did at the Olympics.

Had Yorkshire been its own country, it would have come 12th in the medals league table above the likes of South Africa, Russia and New Zealand.

Dickie said: “Yorkshire especially did well because you look at all the gold medals they won and there’s been some wonderful, wonderful performances.

“Which is why it was a very difficult choice for people to pick the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

“I would have liked to see Jessica Ennis win it – that girl’s done tremendous. She’s been very unfortunate because she’s finished second and third in previous years.

“It’s a very special occasion and I think it’s been one of the best Sports Personalities of the decade because it was such a difficult choice.

“There have been so many great performances this year.”

Dickie also thinks England will trounce Australia in the battle for the Ashes next year.

He said: “I think England will retain the Ashes because they are the best side in the world at the moment, even though they’re not number one, South Africa is number one at the moment.

“But we’ve done well – we were number one until South Africa took over.”

Dickie also has high praise for Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, who he reckons could become a world boxing champ after his recent ring success.

“You never know – he might win the heavyweight championship of the world. Well who is there to be in that category? Nobody! Freddie Flintoff – champion of the world.”

Are you looking forward to the Tour de France coming? Email: letters@thestar.co.uk