If he were a football player it’s a chant you’d have heard from the terraces a thousand times over. Tennis isn’t football. Its audiences are every bit as passionate but their enthusiasm is tempered by a different culture. Yet it’s a mantra that has a certain ring to it and in one sense it’s undoubtedly true.
Andy is simply irreplaceable — one of the great sporting icons of our time. That’s the big reason why his imminent departure from the tennis arena — as a top-flight player at least — has been met with such an outpouring of grief — and love.
And yet the magnificent thing about Andy Murray is that there is more than one of him. There is an Andy Murray for all of us. Andy the prodigious tennis player, Andy the exemplary sportsperson, Andy the pro-feminist, Andy the loyal son and brother, Andy the Brit, Andy the Scot. Andy, the survivor of the Dunblane massacre.
There are so many Andys — gloriously rolled into one peerless human being. A human being who, for all his brilliance on and off the court, is beautifully imperfect too.
There’s a debate from time to time about whether the title Sports Personality of the Year is the right one for those whose sporting achievements are beyond doubt but whose personality has been questioned. It may be an unfair judgement but it’s surely not one that could ever be levelled at Andy.
Andy the man who has matured in front of our eyes over the years. Found his voice. Overcome his evident awkwardness. Been unafraid to show his emotions; all the more powerful, because his willingness to do so has seemed at odds with his natural persona.
Small wonder, he has been garlanded with the Sports Personality of the Year award a record three times — in just four years.
All that despite being Andy the Eeyore. I love him for that. Anyone who knows me will know why only too well. But as is so often the case among those for whom smiling isn’t the default expression, his is such a winning smile.
Like all of us, I love every one of those Andys. And so making a choice is almost impossible.
But as a long time campaigner for equality, I can’t fail to applaud his retort to more than one interviewer over the years that in their reckoning of his success they had failed to factor in the achievements of women players — rendering the accolades of amongst others, the Williams sisters, somehow invisible. His wonderfully unfussy, intuitive responses are just the best advert for pro-feminism. Nothing flashy, no attention seeking. Just saying it how he sees it. How it is.
There have been so many winning moments to marvel at his sporting prowess. Yet I think my favourite remains an off the court, or at least post-match, moment. It was the occasion when Great Britain won the Davis Cup for the first time in 79 years in 2015.
And the first response of Andy, the victor, the man without whom it would have been impossible, was to applaud the efforts of the defeated Belgian finalists. And shake the hands of every one of them. Such chivalry in an age when it’s all too possible to imagine that courtesy is a forgotten art. I cried at that as much as I have at any of his triumphs.
It’s to taking nothing away from his immense talent — you don’t get to be world number one without that — to say that the thing I love most about Andy is the extraordinary sense of endeavour he exudes. After the last game in the Wimbledon final in 2013 — more than 12 minutes against the so often indefatigable Djokovic — the response from the commentary box was ‘you simply cannot give more.’
It was true then and remains so everytime you watch him play. The skill is superlative. But the effort — every last drop of sweat of it — is just unadulterated joy. It’s what makes his superstardom human. The sheer authenticity of it is breathtaking.
And in amidst all the stories which have cascaded through our timelines today it’s that quality — and our affection for it — which has shone through. Andy’s a trier to the last. And somehow he’s still one of us. We couldn’t hope in our wildest dreams to have his ability. Yet as we listened to him this morning we could relate. We could cry with him as well as for him.
Now, unbelievably, it’s almost done. He’s nearly spent. Andy, the people’s champion. Andy, the man who couldn’t give any more is calling time. Because he doesn’t think he can give any more. And it’s heartbreaking. His heart and ours.
It’s almost absurd for me to write about Andy Murray today. So many others have done so and so many of them are more informed and eloquent than I can hope to be. But I had to. How can you say nothing at a moment like this?
And, for me, the reason why is all there in that one word — endeavour — unshakeable, unquestionable, indisputable. Always.
There’s only one Andy Murray.