AN EXTRACT FROM: TAKING IT ON THE CHIN onsıde| ISSUE 39 41 ABOUT THE AUTHOR How did you find the experience of writing your book? It was invaluable. Several years ago I had no intentions of writing one, but so many people kept saying that I should that eventually I decided to have a stab. I experimented with a couple of ghost writers early on but they weren’t quite right, so I then just got stuck into the writing myself. It took a long time, but I found it a valuable experience and, ultimately, it appears that it has been well received. Promoting sport and its benefits has been a feature of your career. If you could change one thing about sport, what would it be? One of the things that motivates me to be associated with grassroots sport is to give children the opportunities that I wasn’t able to have. Youngsters of my generation did not have the opportunity to use the sorts of facilities that we are now providing through the Football Foundation. Sport is a great leveler. It allows children of all backgrounds to work and play together and become better citizens. It is a healthy pursuit for youngsters to participate in sport to get off their couches and away from their video games. Certainly that can be done in ONSIDE editor, Rory Carroll asked him some questions about his career and experience of writing the autobiography. parallel but not excessively to the detriment of sport. That is changing and I am pleased that. Is there a particularly valuable piece of advice that you received in your career which sticks out? My mother, a great socialist and Catholic lady, was a member of the Labour Party. She knew of my interests in politics and advised me that if that is what I wanted, I should pursue it. At a Labour Party conference in 1950, she introduced me to Bessie Braddock, a notable MP from Liverpool, and my talk with her galvanised me enormously. My advice is that you should follow your ideas of advancement and don’t let up. You can accomplish whatever you wish if you believe you are capable of doing it. MY ENCOUNTER WITH MUHAMMAD ALI In December 1999, the boxing legend Muhammad Ali was crowned Sports Personality of the Century at the BBC’s final ceremony of the millennium. Ali, the three times world heavyweight champion, received a standing ovation as he collected the trophy at the event in London. Despite Muhammad’s ailment – Parkinson’s disease – he overcame his impediment on the night with charisma and charm. After the ceremony, Jarvis Astaire, a former boxing promoter and a good friend of mine and of Muhammad’s, came to me and said: ‘Tom, I’m taking Muhammad, his wife and a friend of theirs to the Savoy for supper – would you like to join us?’ Would I like to join them? Gosh! ‘Of course I would!’ I said. What an honour. So, there I was at the Savoy, enjoying the conversation when it was interrupted by Jarvis who said to Muhammad: `Did you know that Tom was a boxer?’ Muhammad turned to me and said: ‘Show me your left hand.’ I thought, my God, my last fight was for Oxford University about forty years earlier and here I am, expected to show how good my left hand was – although to be fair, it was always my best hand and I won most of my fights because of it. When I showcased what I thought was a very good jab with my left hand, Muhammad’s wife, Yolanda Williams, who was sitting to the left of me, exclaimed: ‘You nearly knocked me out then!’ I then turned to Muhammad to find him nodding in approval. It was a praiseworthy comment indeed, but what I could not tell Jarvis’s guests at the time was that I had actually dislocated my shoulder as a result of that demonstration of my left jab. I refused to let on, so I finished my meal with a pretty brave face, eating with the fork in my right hand. The next morning, I ended up having my shoulder sorted out before I went on to meet Muhammad’s wife and her friend to show them around Parliament. I remember saying to his wife: ‘You know your friend around the table last night had a camera and I was stupid in not asking if he would take a photograph of me and Muhammad.’ She replied: ‘Don’t worry, when he comes back to London next I’ll make sure a photograph will be taken of you both.’ A few months later I received a phone call from someone in my constituency asking my whereabouts. This person then said: ‘Muhammad Ali is here in your constituency and he has been told to look out for you to be photographed as his wife so instructed.’ Muhammed was there in my town seeing one of my constituents, the famous local boxer and world champion, Ricky Hatton. Unable to get away from London, I missed out on the opportunity to have that picture of Ali that his wife promised me at that earlier encounter.