This is "a biography of England's most successful double international" who won 4 caps for England's Soccer team and 23 caps for England's cricket team and who must be the only person ever to have been to a soccer World Cup finals (although he never played because England were sent home after the first round) and on an Ashes tour of Australia.
I found the endless sporting statistics a little mind-numbing (I am not a great fan of sports) but I was intrigued by the picture Garrick built up of the life of a professional sportsman before the era of big money. Willie Watson combined professional soccer (mostly for Sunderland) in the winter with professional cricket (mostly for Yorkshire) in the summer; both clubs were very understanding when seasons overlapped and when international duties called. But he also ran a sports' outfitters business with his brother and a chicken farm with his wife. He was miffed when his World Cup tour netted him only £60 when a season playing cricket for Yorkshire would have earned him £300. His biggest source of income was a Yorkshire benefit season.
It was also interesting to learn about life at the bottom. Willie Watson rarely brought luck to his teams. Sunderland tended to bumble around the lower half of the First Division (now the Premiership) and Yorkshire around the lower half of the County Championship. When he moved to Leicestershire they had a spell at the bottom of the Championship; when he became a football manager of Halifax Town they had to apply for re-election to the league. Whilst he played soccer for England the team suffered its most humiliating 1-0 defeat to USA in Rio and his test cricket career was mostly draws and losses. His greatest achievements were gritty defences of losing positions, scoring incredibly slowly but staying at the wicket. Moreover, the clubs he played for had repeated financial crises. There was little glamour in this sporting superstar's career.
The book is well written and, despite the parade of depressing results, mostly held my interest. I would have liked to know a little it more about his life away from the pitch but I imagine that sporting fans would not. Although I had never heard of Willie Watson before, there are a huge number of sporting giants in this book from Stanley Matthews to Ian Botham. So, if you are interested in the history of soccer or cricket, I recommend this book.
June 2014; 229 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57