Sports photography is a neglected art so Andrew Strauss is to be congratulated in selecting 200 photographs to celebrate Lords in this pictorial celebration. It traces the history of Lords from its founder Thomas Lord to the era of the bearded doctor WG Grace and the present day.
Lords is unusual as an iconic ground (it is not a stadium) if not unique in its architecture for mixing the old and and the new. The pavilion is red brick Victorian, the Warner and Grandstand post-war modern and the Mound stand, my favourite place to watch, more airy and spacious. There are smaller stands like the Allen whilst the Tavern houses fine banqueting rooms. Its eccentric diversity is reflected in the real tennis court. All this and much more is celebrated pictorially.
Lords is not just the the home of cricket but of of the MCC. One of my favourite photos features one of its less noble hours -that of the committee meeting to discuss the d’Oliveira affaire. It said the minutes no longer exist but there is clearly a lady taking them.
It brought back many memories as I lived near Lords for much of my life. I recall ony too vividly Garry Sobers and his cousin Davd Holford scoring centuries in what started as a rearguard action against England in June 1966; the Gillette Cup final between Somerset and Kent; and the World Cup Final of 1975, all of which I witnessed there and the golden era of Middlesex cricket under the two Mikes: Brearley, who writes an eloquent introduction, and Gatting. Aside from the action on the square the photographs show the crowd with its changing sartorial fashions – that in 1961 pictured male spectators all entirely in suit and tie – and the grandeur of the Eton v Harrow match.
In my dotage I have begun to collect sporting memorabilia, especially of cricketers. I have signed photos of three of the greatest: Sobers, Bradman and Grace and of England’s greatest openers Hobbs and Sutcliffe. A little corner of my study is devoted to the greatest year in English sport – 1966. I have a signed photo of the Geoff Hurst final goal against West Germany, immortalised by Ken Wolstenholme’s “they think it’s all over, it is now!” I had the privilege of knowing Ken and he was rather miffed that this was the title of a sports quiz. Incidentally his argument that the crucial third goal should not have been allowed, was that Roger Hunt wheels away after seeing the shot over the line. Hunt was a predatory striker and Ken said to score in a World Cup is as great a honour as any striker would achieve so Hunt would only have done so if he thought the ball had not crossed the line. It may have landed on the line but Ken is certain that between cross bar and goal line it do go into the net area. My other photo is the second Cooper v Clay title contest at Highbury in 1966. Cooper certainly made a fight of it as this picture of a crushing blow to Clay attests but Clay could always take a punch whilst Cooper’s soft tissue didn’t survive the battering. To complete my own celebration of 1966 is a poster of The Italian Job with Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill which in its own way celebrates England in the sixties and had an equally memorable final line.
The Rust has often debated the issue ths you do not have to be physically present at a sporting event to enjoy it. I add my three ha’porth by saying that to sit in my favourite armchair, nice glass of burgundy at hand and Mozart piano concertos as background music turning the pages of this sumptuous celebration is as enjoyable a sporting time I can recall.