By Graham Hardcastle
Knaresborough CC. The North Yorkshire club with two former England internationals in their squad and one who is desperate to play every week.
Nigel Martyn, the former Leeds United goalkeeper, is a cricket nut.
And, every now and again, he is joined in whites by another ex-national shot-stopper, Paul Robinson.
“A couple of seasons ago, Robbo played a couple of games,” explained Martyn as he discussed his love for cricket and his club’s hopes for 2022.
“I saw him somewhere, and he asked what I was doing. I told him I was playing cricket at Knaresborough, which is where he lives.
“His lad, Jack, is actually in the Yorkshire set-up – probably around under 12s or 13s.
“I said, ‘Look, you get the camaraderie we had in football dressing rooms, it’s good exercise, come and play a bit yourself’.
“But he has a lot of football engagements, like punditry in the Middle East. He’s not available much, but when he is we like to get him in.
“We actually played a game at Dringhouses away about two seasons ago. It was the first game we played together, and there were some Leeds fans in their team. They couldn’t believe it.”
Cornishman Martyn is – as you may expect – an accomplished wicketkeeper.
The first million-pound goalkeeper in British football when he moved from Bristol Rovers to Crystal Palace in 1989, Martyn played cricket for Cornwall Schools before being forced to give it up when he turned professional with his football.
“I just wasn’t allowed to play,” he said. “Managers were concerned I would break a finger.
“My last cricket was half a season in 1987, and that lasted right through to 2006. I probably played two games of friendly cricket in between.
“When I retired in 2006 with a stress fracture of my ankle, I didn’t think I’d be able to play cricket.
“So I sat at home a bit bored on a Saturday for a couple of years and then thought, ‘Let’s give it a go. I’d rather be happy doing something I love. If my ankle gives way, so be it’.”
Martyn, capped 23 times by England, started playing club cricket in Cornwall with St Austell before moving onto Fowey and St Blazey.
“I got persuaded to move by my now father-in-law,” he laughed. “The real reason, I was chasing his daughter (Amanda), who is now my wife.
“And 37 or 38 years later, we’re still going strong. She still comes along and watches – she’s long suffering.”
When he returned to cricket following football, the now 55-year-old started playing for Old (now Leeds) Modernians before a move closer to his North Yorkshire home.
He admits to retaining the competitive edge which saw him become an Elland Road legend, though he admitted: “Cricket’s all about enjoyment for me.
“Knaresborough’s a great club. Jonny Tattersall grew up here, and his father was a also a very good keeper by all accounts.
“There is a Yorkshire shirt of Tatts’ hanging very proudly in our room at the club.
“We’ve got a thriving youth set-up.
“If you’re up at the club on a Friday night, it’s so busy. There are hundreds of kids from different age-groups, from five all the way up to under 18s, enjoying the game.”
Martyn says cricket is definitely the first port of call when the TV is turned on at home, while he gets down to watch Yorkshire at Headingley as much as possible.
Prior to the Headingley Test against the West Indies in 2017, he was even invited along to participate in England training by Jonny Bairstow – though had to hot foot it back up North from a family holiday in Cornwall.
“I initially said, ‘No, I’m on holiday Jonny – thanks anyway’,” he recalled.
“But I put the phone down and Amanda said, ‘What are you doing, get on a train and get up there’. So I rang him back and went along.
“I really enjoyed it, though I was secretly a bit disappointed I was only heavily involved in the game of football they had.
“I wanted to know what it would be like to take some balls from the quicker bowlers. I’ve not actually done any proper wicketkeeping training, which is something I’d love to do.”
Martyn is not the only goalkeeper with good cricketing ability.
Steve Ogrizovic, formerly of Coventry, played for Shropshire, while ex-Scotland star Andy Goram was a very proficient league cricketer.
Martyn is a pundit on Leeds games for BBC Radio Leeds, though only on an ad-hoc basis.
“It’s cricket first,” he smiled, before discussing Knaresborough’s hopes of promotion from Division One West, the third tier of the Yorkshire Premier League North pyramid.
“It’s been a good start,” he added. “We beat Dringhouses on Saturday.
“Last season was really disappointing. We were playing so well and were probably top or second at the halfway point. But we kind of fell away in the second half of the season.
“Fingers crossed, this summer we can have another good go at it.”