MINOR County cricket legend Steve Greensword is currently between landmarks – celebrating the 40th anniversary of his Durham side’s great sporting triumph over first class giants Yorkshire, while preparing for the arrival of his 70th birthday in just under two months’ time.
And the former all-rounder admits to GRAEME ANDERSON that he cannot believe it is so long since the first took place and so soon before the second arrives!
FOR those of a certain vintage, mention of the name Steve Greensword brings back rich memories of a bygone era when Durham were a Minor Counties side graced by his consistent excellence from 1972-90.
The Gateshead-born all-rounder’s photograph regularly appeared in the Sunderland Echo, usually in connection with another fine cricketing exploit in those years.
And as the club began its long-running campaign for first-class county status, finally granted in 1991, Greensword became emblematic of the sort of home-grown talent denied a bigger stage purely by geography.
Indeed, Greensword was good enough to play first-class cricket, having been with Leicestershire from 1963-66 before deciding to return to the North East.
His club cricket was widespread, playing for Philadelphia (1959, 1973-1980, 1989-1991), South Northumberland (1966-1968), Gateshead Fell (1969-1970, 1993-1994), South Shields (1971-1972), Hartlepool (1981), Whitburn (1982-1983, 1987-1988), Sunderland (1984), Eppleton (1985-1986) and Wearmouth (1992)
He had a long career in minor county cricket, first with Northumberland and then of course with Durham and he has been recalling the high point of that career in recent days because of the 40th anniversary of Durham’s famous win over Yorkshire in the Gillette Cup.
That win represented one of domestic cricket’s greatest sporting upsets and for life-long Sunderland fan Greensword it could hardly have been better timed – coming just weeks after the Rokermen’s stunning victory over Leeds United at Wembley.
“It was incredible, really,” he recalls with a broad grin.
“People thought it was pretty much impossible for Sunderland to beat Leeds United at Wembley – but they did.
“And then just a few days later we became the first minor counties side to beat a first-class one.
“People thought that was pretty much impossible too, until little Durham beat mighty Yorkshire.”
This was a Yorkshire side which boasted five full international players at the time, including an all-time great, one Geoffrey Boycott.
It is the most golden of the many golden memories Greensword has from his time playing with Durham.
And although he missed out on playing first-class cricket for Durham – his career ending shortly before Durham’s first-class life was born – he has no regrets.
Like many footballers of the same era, he appreciates the greater financial rewards would have been nice, but would not swap that, for the life he was lucky to lead.
“I had a great time in my own career and wouldn’t change it,” he says.
“But I’m absolutely thrilled at the way Durham have come on since then.
“They got first-class status, which was fantastic in itself, but how they have come on as a club, as a team and as a venue, is really amazing.
“They’ve achieved so much, on and off the pitch, but what pleases me most is the success of their academy – which could teach some football academies a thing or too!
“They had a team out recently which had eight home-grown players and that’s a tribute both to the local talent and the depth of coaching ability.”
Greensword retains his love of cricket though he admits: “I was involved in it for pretty much 60 years and loved it but one thing I’ve never been is a great watcher of it.”
He was in his late 40s when he finally retired – pretty much the same age he packed in playing amateur football – and was still involved in cricket at a high level in his 60s, umpiring games.
“I enjoyed umpiring but I packed it in when I realised I was too old to progress further up the tree,” he confides.
Now approaching his 70th year, he admits to the aches and strains earned from an active sporting life and has had to undergo an operation or two to deal with wear and tear.
But he remains spry and sprightly, his mind as active as his body, and even today is instantly recognisable as that sportsman who helped minor county Durham make the most major of impacts on the cricketing stage.
SCOREBOARD – JUNE 30, 1973
G Boycott b Wilkinson 14
RG Lumb c Old b Lander 4
PJ Sharpe c Cole b Inglis 12
JH Hampshire c Inglis b Lander 10
C Johnson hit wicket b Greensword 44
RA Hutton b Lander 0
CM Old b March 5
DL Bairstow lbw b Greensword 11
P Carrick b Lander 18
HP Cooper not out 10
AG Nicholson b Lander 0
Extras (b 1, lb 6) 7
Total (all out, 58.4 overs) 135
FoW: 1-18, 2-32, 3-34, 4-49, 5-49, 6-80, 7-100, 8-121, 9-135, 10-135.
Bowling: Wilkinson 12-3-33-1; Old 7-2-10-0; Lander 11.4-3-15-5; Inglis 8-3-23-1; March 8-3-18-1; Greensword 12-4-29-2.
R Inglis c Cooper b Carrick 47
SR Atkinson c & b Carrick 14
S Greensword not out 35
JG March run out 7
AGB Old c Bairstow b Cooper 6
NA Riddell b Nicholson 15
DW Soakell not out 10
Extras (lb 4) 4
Total (5 wickets, 51.3 overs) 138
DNB: PJ Crane, BR Lander, JS Wilkinson, R Cole.
FoW: 1-58, 2-63, 3-87, 4-96, 5-123.
Bowling: Old 8-1-15-0; Nicholson 11.3-3-27-1; Cooper 12-3-25-1; Carrick 12-4-32-2; Hutton 8-1-35-0.