Geoff Boycott takes guard at Southampton’s Mayflower

Boycott and Aggers
Boycott and Aggers

It’s not often you turn up to a home game wanting an opposition batsman to take a stack of runs off your own bowlers.

But that batsman was Geoffrey Boycott, and whichever team he was playing for, he was god as far as we were concerned

And on his descent into Southampton on June 28 1980, he could bat for as long as he wanted, we decided as we bussed and trained it to the ground, full of excitement.

Sadly, however, it was not to be. Ten minutes and two crisp twos after the start, the legendary Yorkshire opener was back in the hutch, lbw for four to one of the more obscure of Hampshire’s bowlers of the early 1980s, one Shaun Graf - a name Geoff doesn’t even remember now.

But the good news is that, 34 years later, Boycott’s stay at the crease is likely to be a much longer one as he returns to the city to take guard at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre on Monday, September 22.

His batting partner will be Jonathan Agnew as they take to the stage for an evening of cricketing thoughts and reminiscences.

Geoffrey is sure to be in good form. His beloved Yorkshire have just been crowned county champions 2014.

“They have been threatening it for a couple of years,” says Geoff. “They were quite close last year, which was our 150th year, but Durham came in with a late surge. This year, the team has been a little bit wiser perhaps but I did feel that it was coming ever since we got relegated. The chairman blew his top, and I was made president, and I set them a challenge ‘We have got to get out of division two; we have produced more people for England than anybody; we have always been a big club.’ I told them this was no good, that we had to start winning. The real crux was the shake-up.”

And former Aussie fast-bowler Jason Gillespie as coach has played an important part too: “He’s old school. He doesn’t get people mixed up. He keeps things simple.”

And he’s helped with the enjoyment: “I was a technically correct player, but I was taught to enjoy the best time of my life when you are young and healthy and getting a lot of fresh air and playing a fantastic sport while millions have got to go a job that they don’t want to do. It’s a fantastic privilege. My father was a coal miner. He worked down the mines five or six days a week. He would have taken a life playing cricket any day of the week.”

Sadly Geoff’s father died in 1967, not living long enough to see Geoff’s major career highlights: “He just saw the early part of my career. He had a mining accident when I was about ten, and that affected his life and health. He was never that well. Eventually he died of his injuries.”

But as Geoff says, he’s not a person - and nor was he a player - who liked to look back: “The game, everything, is just different now. We had three-day games. Now it is four. We had uncovered pitches. Now they cover them.”

But one way or another, it has all added up to an impressive Yorkshire team just at the moment, thanks in part to the academy system which feeds through plenty of good young players to Yorkshire and to other counties. Witness the wealth of Yorkshire players in the England team at the moment - plus the other Yorkshire boys who probably could and should be in the England team.

Sadly though, the England team is loathe to listen to the likes of Geoffrey: “They won’t take anything from anybody in a media job, and so they are missing out on a lot of good people. Michael Vaughan was a great captain; the England team could take some help from him.”

Instead, the team is run by people with little or no international/touring experience. James Whitaker is ‘a lovely man’ but played one Test; Mike Newell did a ‘wonderful job for Notts but never played an international’; ditto Peter Moores who seems ‘very energetic’ but lacks that crucial experience.

So no, Geoff doesn’t feel that England have turned a corner with their Test series turnaround against India this summer.

They’ve got problems with Robson as an opener; they don’t have a left-arm spinner; and their second-string bowlers - Woakes and Jordan - ‘aren’t exactly going to frighten you.’

So no, if Mitchell Johnson is fit next summer, you won’t find Geoffrey putting money on England regaining the Ashes...

Tickets for Southampton on 02380 711811.