Hampshire Cricket History

Knowing Stuff
June 22, 2016, 8:33 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I earned my living by looking as though I knew stuff. Now I pursue my cricketing hobby by doing much the same. I happen to know, for example, that Hampshire’s first-ever county championship match was against Somerset in 1895 at Taunton.

I know that without looking anything up because it’s been with me over the decades in so many ways. It’s a bit like the old days when we learned poetry by heart at school. It’s never struck me before but that’s an intriguing phrase isn’t it? Learning by heart. I spend much of my life playing music and singing and I guess it’s not much use without heart although these days I struggle to remember words in my head, and generally use crib sheets (so does Bob Dylan and he wrote his songs).

But there are different kinds of stuff to know. When I’m doing the BBC ball-by-ball commentaries I’m often sharing it with Kevan and sometimes over the years with Raj Maru, Don Topley and other former players. I love that – absolutely love it. I can chuck them a question about the subtleties of what goes on ‘out there’ and get perspectives that I don’t spot. It’s a cricket kind of ‘knowing’, an intelligence that comes through ability and experience. I played cricket for a long time, hold a coaching qualification and I’ve probably watched more cricket than most county pros. But there are things I don’t know about the professional game, and never will.

For me there’s an analogy with music. I’m just one of thousands of unknowns out there who work regularly and have done for decades. There is ‘stuff I know’ about playing my kind of music and performing on stage that I suspect you can’t know unless you’ve done it. You can read/hear other people’s accounts of what it’s like, as I do with the cricket commentaries but it’s not the same as a certain kind of experiential knowing.

All of which brings me to corners (change of sport alert!).

I was watching England’s 0-0 draw on Monday and they kept showing stats to prove as Hoddle said that they had dominated in “every aspect”. So there I am shouting at the TV that goalscoring is a fairly important ‘aspect” of the game in which they don’t seem to be dominating, and my wife is stroking my forehead when they show the stats about corners – England 387, Slovakia none, or something like that.

And it reminds me that very recently I bought a bundle of Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly magazines from about 1960 and it one of them, a regular columnist advocated abolishing corner-kicks because they hardly ever lead to goals and waste lots of time. I was intrigued. During my elevated footy career in the lower reaches of the Portsmouth Sunday, Wednesday and Dockyard Leagues I was a centre half; subtle as a flying chain saw, but tall and ok in the air. I would be mad as hell if we ever conceded from a set-piece and that experience made me reflect on the piece I’d read. Was he a man before his time?

Then today in The Times there is a piece (by Rory Smith) which pretty much makes the same case. Not only is there always the danger of a breakaway retaliation goal from a corner (central defenders up for the kick) but in every match in the Premier League last year, there were 4,107 corners yet only 140 goals (3.4%). Raise the standard of defending higher and in the Euros so far 2% of corners have led to goals.

This is not a football site – my point is that sometimes those who watch and ‘don’t know’ from the inside, can nonetheless intuit and articulate stuff (the columnist of 55 years ago) or demonstrate stuff statistically, through the careful assembling of evidence, that the insiders don’t ‘know’ or haven’t taken the time to consider. In sport, in politics and in life, the challenge for us in this country in particular is how much we trust and act on certain kinds of knowledge, information and stuff generally. We don’t much like the clever buggers do we?

“How many countries can you think of where a corner kick is treated with the same applause as a goal? One – it only ever happens in England” (José Mourinho)


12 Comments so far
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Knowing Stuff: Albert Camus: Democracy is “the system that relies on the wisdom of people who know that they don’t know everything”

Comment by pompeypop

The problem with the argument that corners don’t lead to goals so get rid of them is that the sole purpose of a corner is to get the ball back in play. It is not some sort of penalty, it is nothing more than a method to restart play after the ball has left the playing surface. How many throw-ins lead to a goal? Not many so let’s abolish the throw-in! That would be a spurious argument wouldn’t it?
The problem is that teams use the corner kick as an attempt at goal. Why not just use it to keep possession and build an attacking move rather than an attempt to score by heading the ball etc. direct from the corner kick?
It is the frame of mind that needs to change, not the law that covers ‘out of play’ behind the goal line.
Blame Creswick and Prest and their ‘Sheffield Rules’. Sheffield Football Club (a bit like Hambledon in cricket) codified rules that were adopted by the Football Association when it was formed. Corners, throw-ins and free kicks are all down to Creswick and Prest.
Love the history of codification of the sports we gave to the world – shame England can’t play the games we invented as well as other countries (most of the time).
Oh well, it is the cricket season so we have nothing but football on most of terrestrial television and it’s raining.
C’est la vie!

Comment by Terry Crump

I remember a great throw-in that led to a goal. Back in the late 1970s when I still watched football, Pompey were crap. I realise they’re often crap but I mean CRAP. Ian St John was manager. In goal was Steve Middleton who also played for Saints. It was a wet Tuesday evening, floodlights glistening in the puddles and Pompey had a throw-in deep in their half. So one of the defenders threw it to Middleton who was coming to the edge of his box. No forwards close but Middleton slipped and fell over. The ball trickled past him and stuck in a puddle around the penalty spot. The first guy to arrive was one of the opposition who smacked it into the net! As for corners, I wouldn’t abolish them, I’d simply make legal what is currently ignored, wrestling, shirt pulling etc. All corners to be hit into the box, and anything goes until it’s cleared out of the box or a goal is scored. Fight on!

Comment by pompeypop

I’m with you on that-are we being too controversial?
Maybe do away with the slippers they play in today; leave that continental influence behind and return to playing in what were nothing more than hobnail boots. That would mean that it really hurt when players got kicked and they would have good reason to roll around on the floor.

Comment by Terry Crump

Steve Middleton also played for Saints? At the same time? No wonder Pompey were crap

Comment by Ageas

Maybe it is them and it may be the time available in cricket commentaries but the insights from former players are often more illuminating than from those from ex-footballers, although Glenn Hoddle comes across as being at the more thoughtful end of the spectrum.

The statwash that pervades punditry is a by-product of sorts of betting markets so does say something about the odds of a goal coming/final result, but it is moot how much if at times anything it really adds to those who don’t bet.

Would an adaptation of hockey rules help football? Passing acquaintance with highlights and goals often seem to follow corners.

Comment by StephenFH

It’s a very interesting point about sporting professionals knowing more about what is going on in their respective games than us enthusiastic watchers.

However as one of the latter I know one very important thing – the professionals are only playing for the benefit of the watchers. Without us (watching live or on TV) they wouldn’t be professionals.

Some of them, particular in certain sports, should remember that a little more often.

Comment by James

VERY good point James!

Comment by pompeypop

Dave, I think you’ve missed your vocation. If you were employed by the BBC they could get rid of useless pundits such as Shearer, Kilbane Savage, Danny Mills etc.etc.

Comment by Dave Wilson

I think we should distinguish commentators and summarisers (as BBC call them for cricket). Personally I think the commentators should be professional journalists – wordsmiths – with the power to describe, although clearly they need to have a knowledge and fondness for the sport they’re commentating on. Arlott was the supreme example, but CMJ was up there too. Summarisers should be the ex-players, for the reasons you give (Vic Marks, Mike Selvey and, a minority choice I fear, Trevor Bailey all excellent). Then you have the best of both worlds: informed, fluent commentary interacting with informed comment. The tendency now is for ex-players to be given the commentary role as well – are they seen as marquee names? – and that means we’ve lost something

Comment by Ageas

Middleton clanger was v Plymouth on the night we were relegated to then 4th division for the first time. The goal scorer was Steve Perrin who later played for us. I remember his beaming smile when he scored that goal.

Comment by Alan Edwards

The things you know Alan! I liked Steve M having played cricket with him in Southampton for a team called Cosmopolitan – but I preferred Dick Beattie in goal!

Comment by pompeypop

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