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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Cricketing Footballers

The return to our screens of the game show Superstars, in which sportsmen and women from differing backgrounds compete in a range of disciplines, brings to mind a different age when it was possible to play more than one sport at the highest level.Cricket and football provided the ideal opportunity to do this with until relatively recently there being little overlap between the seasons.

Supporters may recall that the likes of Dave Harrison, Steve Croxford and Andy Morley had a twelve month presence in the local sports pages thanks to their performances for local cricket teams, but did you know that up and until the 80s it was not uncommon for players to pursue a career playing professional football and cricket. There is even a select group of individuals who played for England at both sports.

Appropriately enough the double internationals number twelve. They are headed by the Edwardian superstar CB Fry (pictured right). Fry excelled in the summer game scoring over 30,000 runs for Sussex, and captained the England team. His record of eight consecutive centuries still stands. His football career was somewhat shorter but nevertheless in 1902 he led Southampton to the FA Cup Final and was selected for the England team. He also found time to equal the world long jump record, and following retirement sought a solution for world peace by trying to teach the Nazis how to play cricket! It’s hardly surprising that the Albanians asked him to become their King.

Fry was slightly outdone by one of his peers Tip Foster (Corinthians and Worcestershire) who is the only man to captain England at both football and cricket.

The other double internationals, a club to which I guess membership is now closed, were Andy Ducat (Surrey and Arsenal), John Arnold (Hampshire and Southampton), Leslie Gay (Somerset and Corinithians), Billy Gunn (Nottinghamshire and Notts County), Wally Hardinge (Kent and Sheffield United), Alfred Lyttleton (Middlesex and Old Etonians), Harry Makepeace (Lancashire and Everton), Jack Sharp (Lancashire and Everton), Willie Watson (Yorkshire and Sunderland, and Arthur Milton (Gloucestershire and Arsenal).

Milton was the last double international, and was a teammate of Denis Compton at Highbury. Compton, a member of the 1950 FA Cup winning side and the Kevin Pietersen of his day, was only denied double international status by World War Two which deemed his England football caps unofficial.

Following Milton, cricketing footballers tended to fall into the category of solid professionals rather than international stars. Notable names of the 60s and 70s included Jimmy Cumbes (Lancashire and Tranmere Rovers), Phil Neale (Worcestershire and Lincoln City), Chris Balderstone (Leicestershire and Carlisle United) and Ted Hemsley (Worcestershire and Sheffield United).

The odd superstar did mix his sports though, Geoff Hurst played the odd game for Essex, whilst Ian Botham gave rise to the perennial 80s quiz question “Name three England captains who have played for Scunthorpe” when he played a handful of games for the Iron. Viv Richards even played in the 1974 World Cup qualifiers for Antigua before he focused on becoming the best batsman in the world.In latter years cricketers have often trained with football clubs to maintain fitness in the close season, Graham Gooch and Steve Harmison being two famous examples.

The last word however falls to referee Martin Bodenham who has this season graduated as a first class umpire.

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