AS Andy Murray signed his last autograph before leaving the court in the wake of what could prove to be his final outing as a professional tennis player earlier this week, thoughts immediately turned to what he will leave behind.

Memories. A rush of magical memories, from Grand Slam triumphs at New York and Wimbledon to Olympic victories at London and Rio and on to that remarkable Davis Cup success when he turned what was supposed to be a team event into perhaps his finest ever display of individual brilliance.

He leaves behind lessons for others to follow, both in terms of the technical excellence that enabled him to succeed in an era that featured three of the greatest male tennis players ever to take up a racquet, and the mental fortitude that saw him overcome a series of obstacles to achieve a level of success that had eluded British players for the best part of a century.

The Northern Echo:

What he does not leave behind, though, is a legacy. So while senior figures at the Lawn Tennis Association will say the right things and roll out the red carpet if Murray is able to make a farewell appearance at Wimbledon this summer, they should be hanging their heads in shame at the way in which one of the greatest sporting opportunities of a generation has been squandered.

This should be a golden era for British tennis, awash with cash from its Wimbledon dividend and Sport England hand-out, and presented with the most inspirational of role models despite having done precious little to aid its poster boy’s development.

At the elite end of things, there has been a small degree of progress. There were eight British players in the main draw of the Australian Open this week, although only three made it beyond the first round. Kyle Edmund, who suffered first-round disappointment at the hands of Thomas Berdych, has risen to number 14 in the world rankings, while Johanna Konta, Britain’s female number one, is ranked 38.

Interestingly, though, just as Murray succeeded in spite of rather than because of the LTA’s development system, spending most of his formative years in Barcelona, so Konta spent the first 15 years of her life in Australia and Spain while South Africa-born Edmund was self-funded by his family for years before the British authorities finally dipped their hand into their pocket. They boast British passports, but the LTA cannot claim any as a ‘home-grown’ success.

Look beneath the elite level, and the full extent of British tennis’ wasted decade becomes clear. In 2008, when Murray was embarking on his fourth season as a professional, Sport England figures show 487,500 people played tennis at least once a week. By 2016, after a decade of Murray enjoying sustained success at the highest level, that figure had fallen to 398,200.

That should not have happened. Not only was Murray blazing a trail on the world stage, but the LTA was being showered with the kind of money that most other national tennis authorities can only dream of.

Just because Wimbledon – an event the LTA does not run – takes place in England, the governing body receives around £30m a year. Over the past decade or so, Sport England grants to tennis have totalled more than £50m.

The London Olympics, staged in 2012, resulted in a huge influx of money into British sport, with the expressly stated intention of raising participation levels across the board. Tennis, with Murray winning Olympic gold, was at the forefront of that drive. Instead, participation levels fell dramatically.

Why? Because like so many sporting bodies in this country, the LTA’s prime motivation appears to be cementing its own position rather than acting as a genuine force for good at the grassroots. When people criticise the ‘blazer brigade’ in British sport, they should have tennis firmly in their sights.

Too much time and money are spent on bureaucracy and empire building, endless data assessments and glossy PR. Not enough is poured into the things that really matter at grassroots level – new public courts, enthusiastic and well-trained coaches, programmes that will inspire and excite a generation of youngsters who increasingly view tennis as an unattractive option.

As a proud Scot, you would imagine Murray would at least have left a physical legacy in his homeland? Instead, not a single indoor tennis court was built in Scotland between 2006 and 2016.

Blane Dodds, chief executive of Tennis Scotland, was forced to admit this week that building a legacy had “not quite happened”. That is being kind. Judy Murray has spent the last couple of years securing planning permission for a new sports centre, featuring 12 tennis courts, close to Dunblane, where Andy grew up. An inability to raise the £6m needed to fund the tennis part of the project means it is yet to properly get off the ground.

That seems ridiculous, and if they do nothing else before Murray formally confirms his retirement, the tennis authorities in England and Scotland need to get together to ensure that proposed development happens.

Beyond that, it is probably fanciful to imagine that the sport’s rulers will be shamed into more radically transformative action, but as their greatest asset completes his long farewell, the time for that has probably already passed anyway.

Cling on to the memories then, because Murray leaves precious little else.

The Northern Echo:

WHAT do we make of Marcelo Bielsa’s spying then? The Leeds United boss probably overstepped the mark when he sent a member of his backroom staff to Derby County’s training-ground, but you have to admire the chutzpah of his response. “Yes, I did it. And I’ve been doing it all season.”

His hour-long demonstration of his meticulous research was another masterstroke, and while an FA sanction is probably pending, much of the wailing from within the English game is simply the result of embarrassment at the shortcomings that Bielsa has exposed.

Too many managers in this country continue to rely on their ‘old-school’ credentials. One famously boasted in court that he couldn’t operate a computer.

Bielsa has exposed their lack of insight and creative thinking. Even if it did need a pair of binoculars to do it.