June 2008 Archives

NICKNAMES are commonplace in sport and a quick scan down the club profile of Warwickshire's teenage sensation Chris Woakes shows that he's not without his own alternative tag or two.

Being dubbed 'Woaksy' or 'Jokes' is fairly understandable given his surname but the 19-year-old is also interestingly known as 'Cheetah'.

So does that mean that he's known for his pace in the field?

Or does he bear down on his batting prey like a wildcat homing in on a hapless gazelle?

Well, as Mercury Sport found out recently, the nickname doesn't relate to his physical attributes - it's because his teammates once thought he looked like a cheetah!

The bizarre comparison happened during a 2005 tour to Cape Town in South Africa with Warwickshire's Academy where the Bears' rising stars took a day trip to a cheetah farm.

"James Ord reckoned that I looked like one of the cheetahs at the farm and the name stuck," said a puzzled Woakes.

"It's so random, I wish it was something to do my speed." At least it's safari so good for Woakes after a purrfect start to his Warwickshire career.

Imagine if Stuart Attwell was the rising star of Midlands football and, just a few years after learning his trade on park pitches in the region, he completed a dream move to Aston Villa.

However, instead of being paraded in front of the nation's media to tell fans all about his fairy-tale rise from Sunday League to the Premier League he refrained from uttering a single word.

We might be spared a few classic clichés like him being 'over the moon' and that it was his 'dream come true', but besides that we'd all be left wanting to know more wouldn't we? Well that was precisely the feeling Mercury Sport got last week.

Only Stuart Attwell isn't a football player, he's a football referee. And he's not just any football referee, but the youngest match official ever to make it onto the Premier League list, at the tender age of 25.

Since he was a teenager Attwell has gone from the NIC Nuneaton Sunday League to English football's top flight via the Midland Combination, Southern League, Conference and Football League.

It is a remarkable feat for the Warwickshire man in black. And, in an age when referees are about as popular as Scottish prime ministers, we felt it was an achievement worth celebrating.

Therefore when our attempts to set up an interview with Attwell were thwarted by the Premier League we were disappointed to say the least.

But, in fairness to league officials, rather than simply blocking our requests they deserve credit for giving a full and frank reason why the fast-tracked official is off-limits for now.

They explained that Attwell subscribes to the adage that the best refs are the ones who go largely unnoticed and, as such, he is keen to keep a low profile before his big-time bow.

At a time when the Respect the Ref campaign in gathering momentum we must respect this highly-rated ref's right to remain silent and wish him well for his toughest challenge yet.

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Andy Walker

Andy Walker - Sunday Mercury sports writer
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