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The Wicket Men: The Last Rites of Minor Counties Cricket

By Tony Hannan

PUBLICATION DATE 31 JULY 2020 – PRE-ORDER NOW

It’s Britain’s hottest summer since 1976 and cricket is in a sweat of transformation. Audiences no longer care for long-form County Championship fixtures, traditional touchstone of the calendar. They prefer flash, bang, wallop! Or so the experts suppose.
Where though does that leave those twenty minor counties from Newcastle to Norfolk who for the last 125 years have provided a stepping-stone between recreational cricket and the first-class county scene?
Come 2020, the venerable Minor Counties Championship will be blown away like dandelion seeds on the breeze, to be replaced by a freshly branded and ‘more marketable’ National Counties Championship.
Well, that was the plan. In 2018, few had yet heard of Covid-19. What they did know was that their beloved competition was under existential threat and those to blame were at Lord’s, more interested in such innovative concepts as the promised new ‘Hundred’ than bolstering that which had stood the test of time.
Tony Hannan, author of Underdogs, spent what turned out to be the penultimate Minor Counties campaign in the company of Cumberland CCC, amid the dramatic lakes, fells and mountains of Cumbria. And echoing that dramatic terrain, tells a story of ups, downs and a few surprises.
A team of journeymen skippered by Gary Pratt – who famously ran Australia captain Ricky Ponting out during 2005’s Ashes series – are but one thread in a tapestry that is by turns earthy, lyrical and amusing.
The Wicket Men draws stumps on a mostly ignored but emblematic level of cricket, a pastime whose arcane rhythms and rituals are rooted in English folk tradition.

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25 Years of the PDC World Darts Championship

With an introduction by Barry Hearn

Darts fans will not want to miss this official commemoration of the PDC World Darts Championship – which enters its 26th year in December 2018.

Readers will discover a vast collection of statistics, memories and images from a quarter of a century of darting excellence, with the results and player details of every match and player over that time, along with a comprehensive reference source for lists and records, contained in its pages.

Since the first match between Dennis Priestley and Jocky Wilson in December 1993, over 1,300 matches involving more than 350 players have been played. Colourful quotes and photos add to the celebration in a book compiled using data from Sportradar, who have collected live dart-by-dart data from events around the globe as official data partner to the PDC.

Numbers are a large part of a tension-filled, fast-paced, mentally-draining sport. So whether you are a fan, player, media professional or just a darting geek, 25 Years of the PDC World Darts Championship is a must-have publication.

The author, Steve Morgan, has worked for Sportradar at PDC tournaments since 2015 with responsibility for ensuring data speed and accuracy to the PDC and betting industry.

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The Greatest Sacrifice

FALLEN HEROES OF THE NORTHERN UNION

By Jane and Chris Roberts

They were among the sporting elite of 1914 – the stars of the Northern Union – idolised by thousands of enthusiastic men, women and children up and down the land.

Yet despite their heroic status in what was soon to become known as rugby league, these warriors of the playing field were willing to sacrifice their careers – and then lives – on the World War One killing fields, for King and Country.

Other sports have honoured their Great War fallen over these past 100 years, producing Rolls of Honour to ensure that their ultimate bravery is never forgotten; not so rugby league – until now.

The Greatest Sacrifice – Fallen Heroes of the Northern Union – rights that wrong. It tells the story of talented sportsmen who, when war was declared on 4 August 1914, duly departed for France, Belgium and beyond, never again to see the rugby league towns and grounds they once so famously graced.

Among those who fell were three members of Great Britain’s 1914 summer tour to Australia and New Zealand. A number of other former internationals died too, as did many more who had earned top domestic honours with their clubs. Some of the youngest players were just embarking on professional careers and therefore never able to fulfil their potential.

Each player featured has a different tale to tell – from childhood to rugby stardom to enlistment into the British Army and, finally, the greatest sacrifice of all.

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No Final Whistle

By Seth Burkett

“A great story for all football fans…” – Willian, Chelsea and Brazil

With an introduction by Sam Clucas, Swansea City

Alfie Bennett is going to be a superstar. He is absolutely sure of it. Every second of his life is dedicated to football. And when he gets signed up by the famous Borough Academy, it looks as if he’s well and truly on the way to achieving his dream. Yet life at Borough isn’t all that it seems…

‘A passion for the beautiful game shines through in this wonderful title…’ – International Soccer Network

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Touchstones

Rugby League, Rock’n’Roll, The Road and Me

by Steve Mascord

Steve Mascord – born Andrew John Langley – was obsessed with rugby league and rock’n’roll. Long after almost everyone he knew, he clung to these things like twin teddybears, turning at least one of them into a career and making a bit of money out of the other.

At the age of 47 he owned precisely nothing aside from hundreds of records and CDs and almost every edition of Rugby League Week ever printed. He was unmarried, had no car or property and was the proud owner of $50,000 of credit card debt. Then one day he discovered the truth about himself.

He always knew he was adopted but it turned out he was part of a bohemian family, his mother forced to give him up after suffering a mental breakdown. She searched for him until her dying day. Steve met uncles and cousins and aunties he never knew existed and for the first time in his life he felt whole. And he looked around that storage room full of CDs and football magazines and felt sad; a sense of loss. He appeared in newspapers and on radio and television and people thought he was successful but had he really created a life for himself? Or was he living in a childhood fantasy, compensating for what had been missing, ready to fall down on top of him as traditional media imploded?

Steve thought ‘enough of being Steve Mascord, who is not a real person. Time to finally be Andrew John Langley’. Having figuratively thrown all his toys out of the cot, he decided to conduct an audit. Which ones to pick up off the floor and keep in his new life, and which to leave laying there forever.

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