The Lighter Side
By B4thB4ck
June 4 2019

I was told recently that a current English Football League manager I know does not want his son to go into professional sport. It’s a shame that the pressures he faces up to could result in his son missing out on a dream career and it got me thinking about how much fun it really might not be for some of the players and coaches we comment about on a weekly basis.  I never played rugby after school. Basically I was rubbish and hated being rubbish so naturally played the only sport I showed any talent at – cricket.     

I see today’s top cricketers and whilst marvelling at the skill levels, I do not envy their lifestyle. Constantly travelling, long tours away, 4 or 5 day games. It is no surprise to me that many are turning to, and specialising in, the white ball game as the rewards are higher, the games and tours generally shorter. With the latest technology, the TV cameras can show every success and failure in ever more detail and slower motion, techniques are dissected in high definition. 

All I did was play typically 45 overs a side, somewhere around the upper divisions of the Wiltshire League for most of my playing days of 30 years, watched by a man with a dog. We took it very seriously on a Saturday and enjoyed getting a mention maybe in the weekly paper. Invariably whatever the result we still enjoyed the sport for what it was and had some great laughs and team spirit along the way. 

In the same way that sportsmen at after dinner speeches recall their tales, it is no surprise that the games I remember best are not necessarily the big wins and promotion seasons but the games with a funny twist. If I could pick one out it would be going back around 10 years ago. Picture the scene, an idyllic sunny Sunday, the middle of summer. The friendly match was away to a team on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, a popular fixture in a great location that attracted many of the Saturday league die-hards who might not usually play twice in a weekend. The opposition were a good team and enjoyed an after match BBQ. 


I remember about an hour into the game I was brought on to bowl. I seemed in good rhythm and after a few overs of defensive batting the skipper decided to put some pressure on. ‘Neil, come in close on the catch please’. 

Now, Neil (we’ll call him that as it is his real name) had a great sense of humour and always kept us entertained, but he didn’t seem all that keen on being close to the bat, he had seen me bowl before…. He wandered in slowly, eventually he was cajoled into position by the smiling skipper. 

Sure enough the inevitable happened. Within a few balls, I had succumbed to the pressure and delivered a horrible full toss on leg stump. The batsman took the opportunity and made a huge swing, connecting perfectly with the sweet spot of the bat, the sound of leather on willow echoing off the nearby trees. 

Unfortunately for Neil, 3 yards away, the next sound we heard was that of leather on flesh and bone as the ball, travelling at vast speed, hit him a nasty blow on the thigh. 
Of course, we laughed. A lot. Neil didn’t, he yelped and groaned, then muttered something I can’t repeat about my parentage.

The ball flew into the air whilst Neil collapsed to the ground. The batsman, a bit miffed at missing out on a boundary, called for 2 runs. Enter stage right our best fielder – Ian. Now Ian is a big chap, tall, broad shoulders, in rugby terms, probably sized as a blind side flanker. He took his cricket seriously and charged around the boundary looking for a run out. The batsmen hesitated mid-wicket, Ian picket up the ball near the boundary and hurled a bullet throw at the stumps. 

As our eyes followed the trajectory of the ball towards the wicket keeper, our attention was drawn to Neil who had now started crawling away, face down from where he had fallen. ‘Look out Neil!’ came the shout…. Too late. Before he could react the ball had hit Neil full on again, this time in the small of the back and worse, this time from friendly fire. 


Everyone was in hysterical laughter apart from poor Neil. He got no sympathy whatsoever as we blamed him for missing the impossible catch and then preventing the run out, this would surely mean a club fine. We tried to stop laughing and continue the game but I found I could not bowl whilst laughing, it was like trying to keep your eyes open whilst sneezing. 

Eventually the match continued. Around 10 minutes later, the only evidence was Neil’s repeated cursing. I then noticed at the end of the ground a car had poked its nose into the entrance off the leafy lane. Between overs, the driver who I would say resembled a retired civil servant (no offence anyone),took his chance to drive around the outfield to park up with no play in progress. We could all see why he did not want to take any risks, his big Rover saloon car was immaculate, the sunshine gleaming off every surface. We could picture his plan for the day; wash and polish the car in the morning, Sunday lunch, then off to watch a bit of local cricket. Perfect. What could possibly go wrong? 

He drove carefully around the ground perimeter attracting admiring glances from the pavilion but he did not stop there. No, he had a better idea. To avoid the chance of the ball damaging his car (had he seen me bowl too?) he drove off to the furthest corner of the ground, maybe 100 metres from the boundary edge. He was taking no chances with hard cricket balls, no sir. Smart thinking. 

As I ran up to bowl the first ball of the next over there was the unmistakable sound in the far distance of breaking glass and a heavy crunching sound. I stopped, we all looked over to the shiny car in the very long, uncut grass. 

Unknown to the unfortunate driver, some rusty old gang mowers had long since been abandoned in the corner of the ground and overgrown by grass and nettles. Our unsuspecting gent had inadvertently wrecked his car whilst doing his very best to look after it. 

So, whilst Neil nursed his bruises (sorry Neil) and the dismayed driver pieced together the remains of his broken fog lights and number plate, another Sunday friendly was played out in the summer sun. Great memories. 

I am sure you all have (better) funny stories to tell from your amateur club days as an antidote to the strains of professional sport. I am guessing a few might involve Deep Heat or hair remover. Please tell them here, make us all laugh and add to our Sports Network income. Thanks.