Neil Fraser’s Cricket Boots

I wrote yesterday of childhood haircuts in the narrative You’ll Thank Me One Day! In particular brother Ian and I having to sport short hair, a consequence of our mother (Maggie) strongly disapproving of styles longer than collar length.

Appropriate male grooming wasn’t mater’s only obsession at the time. Her appearance fixation also extended to the cleanliness of cricket whites – For the uninitiated, the snow coloured clothing donned by cricketers.

Ian and I could walk from a field post-game after a good team or individual performance, but congratulations for a wicket haul or a few runs occasionally got lost in the ether. An unfortunate result of maternal compulsion about any appearance flaws exhibited by Gateshead Fell junior cricket team (Class of 1980). Her obsession causing after-match observations/complaints along the lines of:-

“Look at all that mud on your trousers, Gary! They’ll take some bleeding cleaning!”………

“I noticed Neil Fraser’s boots needed whitening today!”;……..

“With the height of him, Godza’s whites must take some bloody ironing!….. Poor Margaret (his mum)!“;……….

“Michael Healy was out to a bad shot today. If he cleaned his glasses he might be able to see the bleeding ball!”………

“Tim Gray shouldn’t have chosen white for his wicket-keeping gloves. They’ll be a nightmare to keep clean.”,……..

“John Hutchison needs to tuck his shirt in when he’s batting!”……….

“That flaming umpire’s stretched the arms on the sweater I knit you. Not so much Dickie Bird (professional umpire at the time) more like Dickie Head!”……..

“Does our Ian have to take a bag of 20 jelly wrigglers out in his pocket when he’s fielding?!”………… and

“That Des Johnson could do with a haircut.”


“The Strachan lads are gonna get a right rollocking, Neil…..Have you seen the colour of their whites!….. I tell you summat else, Des needs a bloody haircut!” – Brian Gray 1980

Above – Gateshead Fell junior cricket team in 1980. It’s lack of clarity the result of utilising a photographic filter called ‘Mr Magoo Without Specs’:-

Back row (left to right) Neil Fraser, Brian Gray, Tim Gray, John Hutchison, Michael Healy, Des Johnson……….. Front Row (L to R) Peter Clark, Godfrey Keefe, Ian Strachan, Shaun Dodds, Gary Strachan.

None of mum’s pitch-side comments, delivered in her instantly recognisable Leeds brogue, were malicious. Moreover tongue-in-cheek jibes of self-parody – Playing the caricature of the miserable Yorkshire housewife. A Les Dawson-esque gossip, airing tittle-tattle while airing Monday’s laundry across the cobbled street of northern back-to-back terraced houses.

To be clear, Maggie hasn’t got a bad bone in her body. Her seven decades of mischievous comments never uttered to hurt a soul, their expressing merely to add light-heartedness to the scene. Adding colour to any landscape with an inimitable style of whimsy……. Although her comment about Neil Fraser’s mucky boots weren’t without foundation.

Disenchanted at Mr F started in dirty footwear, after the game an exchange akin to below took place between her and I:-

Mrs S (mum) – “I noticed Neil Fraser’s boots needed whitening today!”

Me – “Yep, he’d rushed over from Newcastle after finishing a mock ‘A’ level this afternoon. He didn’t have time to clean them.”

Mrs S – “Well, I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t let him bowl and make him bat number 11 for wearing mucky boots.”

Me – “Even if that was a good idea, which it isn’t, Neil’s the team captain mum….. He chooses the batting order and who bowls, making that highly unlikely to occur.”

Mrs S – “Well Tony Tait (one of the adult selectors) should have a word with him. It doesn’t reflect well on the club. It’s a rocky road that will lead to sledging and inappropriate appealing!”

Me – “Tony’s not here mum. He’s having a tooth out.”

Mum – “What on a Friday evening…… He’ll be out ale-carting it more like!”

Me – “I doubt it mum. Tony doesn’t fib. Well, apart from the time he said he’d hit a 50 while undergoing an out of body experience…….. Oh, and the time he said he’d hit the Pope for six runs during a match at Seaham Harbour.”

Mum – “What about the occasion he reckoned he could juggled eight cricket bats at once. There’s no way he could have achieved that!”

Me – “Alright then mum, he tells loads of lies. But I don’t think he was on this occasion.”

Mum – “Well if he spent more time checking the cleanliness of junior players boots instead of arranging a dentist visit on Friday evening, his captain’s boots would set a far better example to his charges.”

Me – “It’s a one off, mum. Neil had left them in his bag after last week’s game. He forgot and couldn’t rectify it as was in a rush. The rest of his kit was immaculate.

Mum – “I don’t trust him. When he was setting the field with our Ian, when he give him bowl at the end, they were acting furtively. Appearing to exchange something clandestinely.”

Me – “Yes our Ian was giving Neil a jelly wriggler sweet, mum!”

Mum – “Are you sure he wasn’t plying our Ian with drugs?”

Me – “Well he gave our Ian the cricket ball a few times between deliveries, but I’m pretty sure they have no recreational or performance enhancing qualities……. Even if they did, a Gunn & Moore corky ball would take some ingesting!”

Mum – “Ok then. Just keep an eye on him though. The team discipline is collapsing before Tony Tait’s eyes.”

At this point I left my mum stood outside the pavilion (my old man was in the bar). Proceeding to the changing room to swap attire and make sure our captain hadn’t given my 15 year old younger brother a crack pipe.

Shortly afterwards Tony Tait unexpectedly entered our changing room, leading to one of the lads asking him how it went at the dentist. “I didn’t go, son. I’ve been over in America having an audition for TV show Dallas – They want me to play JR’s English cousin Mulligan.”

After congratulating the lads on our victory, he headed towards the changing room door. Just before exiting he turned back at the door to announce “Fraser, your boots are a mess, son……. Tim, what’s with the white keeping gloves?……. Hutch can you tuck your flipping shirt in when you bat!…… Oh, and Des will you get your flaming hair cut, lad!!” 


  1. Love the historical retell. I never realized your mum was so critical of our attire! Strange how nobody ever TOLD Des he needed a haircut.

    1. She didn’t Neil, that bit was fictional. She was if me or our kid were scruffy… re Des, yep you’re right! I’d have maybe not have written that bit if I still lived close…. although that bit was fiction as well… honest Des

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