That England are set to lose the Ashes does not come as a great surprise.
But I for one am not jumping on the backs of the players and bashing them over the head with all manner of criticism.
Cricket is not my game. So I will leave it to those more expert in the sport to comment on who did what wrong and when.
But please! Save me from Geoffrey Boycott.
I first met the master of Yorkshire cricket (his words, not mine) in 1980.
Being London born and bred, I moved to Leeds to be sports researcher for Yorkshire Television without any real understanding of what Boycott meant to the followers of Yorkshire cricket. Without doubt the most boring sport I have spectated in my life was cricket when Geoffrey was at the crease. And yet, at Headingley, he could do no wrong.
To criticise Boycott in Leeds 6 was akin to telling Leeds United fans that, in all honesty, Don Revie might not be as pure as driven snow. Indeed, years later, I produced a programme that alleged exactly that to Revie himself. In Leeds you would have thought World War 3 had broken out in the self proclaimed ‘God’s own county.’ The presenter took the blame (that’s when the front man or woman comes in most handy.)
As sports researcher, and thereafter as a producer, I had regular dealings with Mr. Boycott. Not least because he was a good friend of my best friend of the time, the late, lovable Yorkshire and England cricketer, David ‘Bluey’ Bairstow.
For David’s sake I tried to like Geoffrey. I really did. But too many incidents turned me off him.
The day when we went to what was then the only wine bar in Leeds worth visiting. It was a planning meeting for some filming. His long suffering lady of the time was with him. But she wasn’t allowed to come into the wine bar.
Said Geoffrey: “Now luv, you go off and do what it is you women do at times like this. This is men’s business. Go shopping, but don’t be buying owt.”
There was a not scintilla of irony in his remarks.
There was the time he swore at a trainee director. Irene was the wife of the late gentleman, and former colleague of mine, Sid Waddell. Now Irene cared less for cricket than I did. She was given the job of filming some opening titles for that new series of films to be called ‘Boycott Masterclass.’ For the title she had to get the cameraman to film Geoffrey in action at Headingley.
The only problem being that he was out first ball. Off he trooped swearing and complaining.
Irene had the idea of knocking on the dressing room door and asking Saint Boycott to come out at lunchtime. One of the crew would throw him up some balls and she could film him batting as “you weren’t out there long enough last time.”
Yes, Irene was off her trolley to ask. And we, the crew, were wrong to let her approach the fuming Boycott.
But the language he used towards a lady that day has lived long in my memory. Irene, Sid and I recalled that day often in years after and laughed at the memory. But Irene still doesn’t know the meaning of some of the words Boycott aimed at her.
However, it was the filming of the Masterclass series itself when I really went off the man.
Back on his home patch in South Yorkshire he was to teach young primary school boys how to play cricket.
Were that series of films to be aired today, I doubt Geoffrey Boycott would work again.
He bullied some of those children into tears. He clipped them around the head, told them off in a manner that was never going to instil the type of confidence he says the current England cricket team lacks. I found it horrid to watch and felt for the children.
Like all bullies, he targeted the weakest link. The lad most likely to cry on camera.
Now I am all for Dixon of Dock Green days returning to the social fabric of the UK. They never will, of course. No policeman will ever again clip a child around the ear, as was genuinely the case when I was growing up.
But Boycott’s verbal assault alone was torrid. I very much doubt any of those young children, wherever they might be now, took up cricket as a sport.
Boycott’s personal life was exposed when he was found guilty of punching Margaret Moore. The case was heard in France. Boycott initially received a three month suspended sentence and was fined £50.000. The Sun newspaper dropped him as a columnist and, in the immediate aftermath at least, the BBC ditched him as a commentator.
That the BBC once again employ a man who has been convicted of hitting a woman is a gross error of judgement by the corporation.
The judge in that French case wrote about the behaviour of Boycott she herself witnessed. She said: “In the court, the accused didn’t hesitate to rudely interrupt Miss Moore’s barrister thereby tarnishing the image of the perfect gentleman which he brought his old friends and witnesses to testify to.”
Why was I not surprised to read that? It took courage for Margaret Moore to take Boycott to court. She went where others before her may have feared to tread. In South Yorkshire he’d have been found not guilty. In the south of France, they dealt only in the facts of the case.
In my dealings with the man he was the very worst type of misogynist. Nobody ever made the mistake of labelling me as politically correct but, even allowing for it being the 1980’s, Boycott had an attitude towards women that belonged in the dark ages.
Boycott is always keen to accuse England players of disloyalty should they make themselves unavailable for test matches. Odd that. For Boycott turned his back on English cricket for three years. He thought he should be captain and, when he wasn’t appointed in that role, he took his bat home to his mansion in South Yorkshire.
He was once discovered playing golf when he claimed to be “too ill” to field in a test match. That’s Boycott, the team member for you. Truth is he never was part of any team. Not in his head. He was Geoffrey. He was the team. “Without me, they’re nothing” was his constant refrain in the YTV green room.
I can imagine Boycott’s reaction when told of cricketers who have gone home because they are suffering from clinical depression. He doesn’t sympathise or understand. He is the type of fella who calls Radio 5 live phone-ins and says things like: “These sportsmen who say they suffer from depression… they want to pull their fingers out.”
He persistently has a go at Kevin Pietersen for letting his ego get in the way of the team. Now then… pot, kettle, black.
I do not doubt that Boycott can call on plenty of experience to comment on the current England cricket team. But the man is a hypocrite.
When he was playing any commentator who dared say anything negative about the team, or his own play, was rounded on in no uncertain terms. The personal abuse he aimed at critics of a side in which he played was vile. While all the time, off record, he’d continue with his mantra that neither England or Yorkshire could win a match without him.
Today I heard the man on the radio. It seems he is now classed as entertainment value by those who employ him. The BBC seem think we should hang on his every word and laugh at his so called witty asides. I have never found him in the least bit clever or funny.
How is he allowed to be so personal and so damming about individual cricketers without anyone at the BBC reminding him of how he reacted when Boycott the player was the subject of such criticism? And he was. Often.
For the first few years at Yorkshire TV I thought being a Yorkshireman meant being like Geoffrey Boycott. Fortunately, living in the county for 22 years, I learned that not every man there is a ‘professional Yorkshireman’ – like Michael Parkinson (who I also worked with). And very few Yorkshiremen are as boorish, obnoxious and conceited as Geoffrey Boycott.
When he comes on the radio now, I switch off. When he comes on the television, I do likewise. But not before my mind goes back to how Geoffrey wanted paying by Yorkshire Television. For appearances on my programme ‘Calendar Sport’ and for that terrible, hide behind the sofa Masterclass series of films.
“Get some more betamax tapes in my boot, Vernon” were the words Boycott would often direct at me.
Far be it from me to question why he didn’t want paying by the usual method. But he wanted paying in blank betamax tapes. To record himself, I always presumed.
I wonder if he got them transferred to VHS. And now has had them copied to DVD.
I have a mental picture of him sat there each night watching himself in action. Alone. Talking to himself: “Nice shot there Geoffrey… ah yes, now I remember that shot, knocked ’em for six I did. You’ll not see Pietersen play a shot like that.”
Clearly the England cricket team have let themselves down, down under. They know that only too well.
They don’t need to be on the receiving end of a verbal diatribe from a bully who continues to do what he has always done.
Bore for his country.