April 13 2018: Matthews magic

Bulldog Billy Teesdale was sent off after ten seconds, playing for ENV Rovers in the Auckland and Distrrict League. He claims it a world record, though memory faintly murmurs of someone sent off before the game began. Any offers?

Make the most of it, anyway, because – yet again – that’s about all the football there’s going to be.

Blog reader Norman Robinson recalls Bulldog Billy in the same breath as Chris Matthews, one of those overseas cricketers who played in North-East leagues in the summer and for their countries in the winter.

A Matthews ball, insists Norman, once flew off the Bulldog’s head and went for six – “plausible with or without a helmet.”

In 1986 he was playing Durham County League cricket for Shildon BR. Two months after leaving those shores he won his first baggy green cap, taking 3-106 in a first innings at Brisbane in which I T Botham smote 138 of England’s 458.

Unlike one or two of the current Aussie crop, Chris was also a smashing guy.  At Willington, his batting proved so destructive that the club lost three balls and told the umpire the game would have to be abandoned.

Matthews ran into the pavilion, returned with a ball of his own. “The funny thing,” recalled Willington stalwart John Coe, “was that after that he seemed content to score in ones and twos. They hammered us, anyway.”

Ray Gowan, that familiar former Northern League manager, was Shildon’s captain in a cup match against a village side, played on a school field. The BR wicket keeper – “shy and retiring” – was Phil Owers, who kept goal for Shildon and others until pushing 50.

“This bloke’s capable of knocking your head off if you annoy him,” Phil warned the cocky young skipper.

“Bollocks,” quoth the youth.

They were 18-8 when a more senior batsman appeared, apologised for the aggro, explained that he’d forgotten his glasses and asked that Mr Matthews gan canny.

The Aussie did, bowled a few dollies, allowed the guy to reach double figures before wrapping up the innings and all but single-handedly knocking off the runs.

For the BR in that rain hit season he took 120 wickets and scored 1,100 runs. Two months after leaving these shores he won the first of his three caps, a test record of six wickets at 52.16.

He was a Perth lad, last I heard back there with Anne Parkes, a midwife he’d met when playing for Whickham in 1985. Goodness only knows what happened next, but tomorrow there may even be some football.