Today I’m delighted to welcome Harry Turnbull to TFT. He recalls the day that he saw the greatest sportsman that ever drew breath in the flesh …
Dad picked me up every Saturday when I was a kid. We would rumble off in the Ford Anglia with its gleaming white bonnet and black tail wings, invariably headed for the indoor bowling centre where he played every week.
I would watch him curling bowls down the artificial turf whilst nursing a Dandelion & Burdock and contemplating what time to have the establishment’s premier dish, a hand-crafted, hot pork pie. Every couple of weeks during the football season, at 2.50 p.m., I would walk 50 yards from the centre to watch Hartlepool united.
Saturday the 22nd of June 1974 wasn’t the football season, but the World Cup was on. I was somewhat surprised when dad picked me up and instead of the bowls centre, the car headed out of town.
“Where are we going dad?”, I asked.
“We are going to see one of the greatest sportsmen in the world, lad”.
“Oh” I responded, mystified.
“Is it Georgie Best?”.
I had been a Manchester United fan since the 1968 European Cup win, the first game I had ever seen on TV after a return from the colonies where dad was an RAF quartermaster. In 1971 dad took me to Newcastle where we saw Besty score the winner in the last few minutes. It was a game famous for an IRA threat to assassinate Best on the pitch. He later said it was the only game he ever played without standing still for a microsecond.
“George Best”, he said disdainfully, “this feller is better than Best, Law and Charlton put together.”
This gave me food for thought.
“Pele or Muhammad Ali”, I ventured.
“No lad”, he rejoined, as the Anglia speared it way towards the Transporter Bridge over the River Tees to Middlesbrough.
“It’s Sir Geoffrey Boycott”.
The only time I had ever seen cricket was watching dad play for the RAF once during a charity match at the Changi air base in Singapore.
“Who is he dad?”
“Yorkshire and England opening bat, the finest of his generation. And we are going to see him play today.”
That explained the bundle of corned beef sandwiches and sausage rolls broiling under the sun on the backseat. Food safety hadn’t been invented then so eating meat hours after it had festered in blistering heat was not regarded as harmful.
And then something struck me. Hard.
“Will it be finished by 5 ‘0’ clock?”
“Nay lad, Geoff will just be warming up by then”, he cackled.
I thought about this. Scotland v Yugoslavia was due to kick off at 6.30 p.m.
By the time we arrived at Acklam Park I was praying for rain.
Yorkshire v Middlesex, the home team to bat first.
After an hour of watching Boycott caress the occasional single, I was getting restless.
“Enjoying it lad? Better than footy isn’t it? Look at that forward-defensive, it’s a thing of beauty.”
By now I had gathered Boycott was not yet a Knight of the Realm.
After what seems hours of excruciating drudgery, the great man was dismissed for 24. Yorkies all out for 116 in 61.5 overs. Fred Titmus took 7-39, which in hindsight, was an awesome performance but not on appreciated by dad at the time. And I guess on a testing pitch, it must have been a typically resolute Boycott performance.
He insisted on staying till close of play. I got back home for the second-half of Scotland’s 2-0 World Cup victory.
As he dropped me off, he asked, beaming: “You going to support Yorkshire now?”
During the day I had got talking to another kid who seemed to know a lot about cricket. I’d asked him whether there was a team based in Manchester. When he told me there was, Lancashire, just a couple of hundred yards from the footballing Old Trafford, I knew where destiny lay.
I pretended to think about it and eventually said: “Sorry dad, I like Manchester United so I think I’ll support Lancashire.” And so I did – and still do. He drove off muttering to himself.
Published at Mon, 19 Jul 2021 23:33:03 +0000
This post originally posted here https://www.thefulltoss.com/england-cricket-blog/geoffrey-boycott-versus-george-best/