S.N. Don's blog

I have already missed one deadline!

Don’t you just hate bank holidays? The stupidity of the TV schedulers has forced an 8pm kick off of Watford v Liverpool just as the Snooker World Championship Final starts to get exciting – well, into its final session. Now, I am not aware of any cricketers that have appeared in a world ranking snooker event but I do know that Gary Lineker, apart from being a dab hand 6 feet from goal also has a snooker century break and a Leicestershire 2nd XI century under his belt. I also know that there are two cricketers to have played football for Watford and Liverpool – but not for both clubs.

This got me thinking back again to the 1970s and once being the proud owner of a bubble-gum card of Jim Cumbes when he played either for West Brom or Aston Villa. I also had an extremely old Playfair Cricket Annual and I noticed there was someone who played cricket called Jim Cumbes. The one and the same that would later go on and play a leading role in Lancashire’s resurgence. Was it at all possible that there would be sportsmen that have made their name in both sports?

There are dozens of examples of cricketers also playing football and the bulk of these towards the end of the 19th Century and early 20th Century. Probably the most famous was C. B. Fry yet he was not alone in representing England in both games. There have been 11 others to gain national honours in both cricket and football.

The list of cricketers to have played test cricket for England and professional football is somewhat longer. Some could argue that Ian Botham blundered through a handful of league games for Scunthorpe and others may well point to an incident outside a Scunny nightclub which afforded the aforementioned Botham even more headlines.

Denis Compton is a name that stands out from the list. The original Brylcream Boy long before some floppy-haired twat from Barkingside got jiggy with a wannabe pop star. Compton had it all including an ability to run out batting partners at will. Brian Close also played professional football for Bradford City and it did make me wonder whether he bothered with boots let alone shin pads. Whereas Compton turned out for Arsenal, Arnie Sidebottom made 16 appearances for Manchester United. One claim to fame for Arnie being that in 2007, he finished fifth in a Times poll of the “50 Worst footballers (to grace the top division)”.

Keeping the fifties theme going, how many can claim to over 400 first class cricket matches for Gloucestershire, score in a 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United in the FA Cup AND umpire 26 Test matches in England including THAT test at Headingley in 1981? Step forward Barrie Meyer.

How about the one who played cricket AND football at Bramall Lane when it was used as a county cricket ground? Ted Hemsley can claim that particular distinction whilst playing for Sheffield United and Worcestershire.

Perhaps it is reassuring for us old ‘uns that the likes of Joe Gatting have helped keep the flag flying even though it does feel as if there has been a marked choice of either or. The days of the cricketer playing football in the winter to keep fit, and probably paid, seems to be another aspect of life left in the past.

Perhaps it is best to leave the most obscure to last. Chris Hollins is the only cricketer (Oxford University Blue) to have played professional football (Charlton Athletic, QPR and Aldershot Town) AND won Strictly Come Dancing. Not even Darren Gough or Mark Ramprakash can claim all three.

S.N. Don

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