I have been a fan of Burnley FC since February 1964, when a mate invited me up to White Hart Lane to see his favourite team play. I had never been too interested in professional football, preferring the kick-arounds we had down the local park and out on the Butts. But I went with him, and then felt that I should support the opposition just to wind him up! Burnley were two-up inside four minutes in the FA Cup tie, and my heart was lost to the team! The fact that Spurs eventually ran out 4-3 winners did not dampen my ardour.
There have been times of thick and thin since then (yes, I know, more thin than thick!), but my support has never wavered.
This got me thinking about famous authors, as you would expect. I knew that Arthur Conan Doyle played in goal for Portsmouth, but what I didn’t know was that it was the original town team. In fact, the creator of Sherlock Holmes was one of the founding members of Portsmouth AFC, playing under the pseudonym of “A. C. Smith”. The club folded in 1896, two years before the present club was formed.
As a student at Dublin University, Irish author and playwright Samuel Beckett played in two first-class cricket matches (both against Northamptonshire) in 1925 and 1926. As a matter of interest, he scored a total of 35 runs and his bowling gave up 64 runs without taking a wicket. On receiving his 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature, he earned the double distinction of being “the only Nobel laureate to have played first-class cricket”. He also excelled at rugby and was a light-heavyweight boxer.
Author of titles such as “The Bonfire of the Vanities”, Tom Wolfe spent two years playing semi-professional baseball. Then, in 1952, he had a try-out with the New York Giants, but was cut after only three days for not being good enough. He subsequently concentrated on a PhD in American Studies and pursued a writing career.
Roald Dahl’s school report of 1929 gives us a fascinating glimpse into the young author’s sporting prowess. Under GAMES, it was stated that he was “A first rate forward for the First XV. Awarded school colours.” However, at BOXING he was “still rather slow and ponderous; will be good when quicker”. Unfortunately, he did not pursue a sporting future, and after flying fighters during the Second World war, he settled into a life of writing.
I have enjoyed my trip round the sporting authors, but I shall finish (as is only fitting) with my team.
I present a photo of the one and only time Burnley have won the FA Cup. We beat Liverpool 1-0. The year? 1914.
Until next time…