Dinner for Roger Uttley
Ivan Conway kindly invited me to a dinner as part of the Mike Yardy benefit.
His career needs no introduction: 22 games for England, 5 as captain and 4 tests for the British Lions on the 1974 tour to South Africa. From there he went into coaching, managing the England side of 1997. In later life he was involved in physical education as a teacher at Harrow. These dinners, which take place in the museum at Hove Cricket Ground, are most enjoyable as there are only 3 tables of 10 guests and the Mike Yardy and Roger Uttley circulated around the tables. I was sitting next to both at various stages.
Roger does not conform with prototype of a 70s player. He drank no alcohol and at 65 was clearly physically fit. He is courteous and interested. Analysing sportsmen across eras is a fascinating if pointless exercise as the conditions are rarely the same. I once met Johnny Haynes, courtesy of Alan Tanner, who said he would love to play in the modern game of lighter balls, better pitches and more protection. Roger said the big difference is that in his time rugby was far less organised and nowadays you have to play in a system. This does not allow for the late developer.
He fielded questions on the invincible Tour and the famous 99 call, where each player attacked the South African nearest.
Perhaps the modern referee would take a tougher line but the Springboks pack led by Moaner Van Heerden were hard bruisers and the physical confrontation had to be won. It was Gordon Brown – Broon from Troon – who sorted out Van Heerden at the cost of a broken hand.
When asked to nominate his best English players, Roger came up with susprising choice of Alan Old, Will Greenwood and Simon Shaw.
I also had the opportunity to speak to Mike Yardy.
He occupies that space between a test aspirant and county stalwart and is a worthy beneficiary.
At the auction I bid successfully for a signed print of Gary Sobers, and signed photos of Don Bradman and Hobbs and Sutcliffe. The greatest cricketer ever, the greatest batsman and the greatest English openers would embellish any museum, let alone my study.