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Footballing cricketers Published: 02 September 2013

Dennis Compton played cricket and football for England
Dennis Compton played cricket and football for England

I don’t mind a bit of tennis but apart from that cricket is the only sport I like. However, that puts me in the minority and one sport that has often gone hand in hand with cricket is football.

I found an example of this in my latest Taking the Field story, where two Wimbledon CC members discuss the club’s strong relationship with other sports.

While that is at a lower level of the game, at the highest level the relationship between football and cricket used to be especially close in the days before both sports became a 12 months of the year occupation.

Football was seen as a good way for county cricketers to keep fit in the winter and some players even played to a professional level in both sports - with 12 even representing England at the highest level.

Denis Compton

The most famous example is probably Denis Compton who, on top of his cricketing heroics, played football for Arsenal - winning the League in 1948 and the FA Cup in 1950, and wrote a coaching manual on football.

He also made 12 wartime appearances for England - though these matches do not count as official internationals.

He cites one of the main draws of this dual career - aside from love of the game - as the financial benefits.

Writing in his 1949 book, Playing for England, Compton said: “Professional football, providing you make some headway and join a good club, can be a most happy medium by which one earns a living. 

"Especially, from a financial point of view, is it worth dove-tailing with cricket, for a man at the top of the ladder receives £12 a week during the soccer season, plus £2 for a win, and £1 for a draw, and during the summer – again if he is on top pay – £10 a week.”

I guess sport didn’t pay quite so well back then! These days it's almost impossible for players to play both cricket and football professionally due to the nature of modern sport and contracts.

For instance, the former Manchester United, Everton and England footballer Phil Neville was a quite brilliant schoolboy cricketer who was considered among the best of his generation.

In days past he would have been allowed the chance to play both sports at the highest level, but by the time he turned professional in the 1990s, this had long ceased to be an option.

However, the list of footballing cricketers from days-gone-by does include some of the very best.

Famous footballing cricketers

Former England all rounder Ian Botham played eleven times for Scunthorpe United in the football league and his good mate Viv Richards represented Antigua in the 1974 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

We have a football medal in the MCC Museum collection that was presented to Jack Hobbs by the Cambridge Football Association in 1906. Hobbs was a keen footballer in Cambridgeshire during his youth. 

Hobbsx600

Jack Hobbs' football medal - currently in the MCC Museum


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