Book Review: Five Trophies and a Funeral by Stuart Rayner

Book Review: Five Trophies and a Funeral by Stuart Rayner

Picture courtesy of Pitch Publishing, with thanks.

I must confess to having a soft spot for Durham County Cricket Club. I was born in Stockton On Tees and, as a child, was able to cross the road from Stockton Sixth Form College to Stockton Cricket Ground where Durham played some of their earlier games. So I was pleased to be given the opportunity to read this book, which surprisingly turned up on my doorstep (I was expecting something completely different).

The book, unsurprisingly, is a history of Durham CCC, from its beginnings at the Three Tuns hotel in 1882 through financial troubles and on to the appointments of Marcus North and Tim Bostock; from its change of status from a Minor to a County Cricket team and to where we are today.

The foreword, fittingly, is written by Durham legend Paul Collingwood. Bordering on self-deprecating, it not only shows his humility (he clearly appreciates the timing of Durham’s status change, rather than its benefit to his own career) he also embraces the ideals and philosophy of the club – the ideals and philosophy that are the spine of the history of Durham CCC, and which are apparent as you read this book.

The humble beginnings of Durham into the venture of becoming a County Cricket Team, and the process that followed, is written in great detail and is very interesting to read. Bearing in mind that they were the first team to make this step up since Glamorgan in 1921 – who, incidentally, just had to put up a fixture list to get in – gives us a different insight into the behind the scenes workings at the ECB and of course at Durham. 

Naturally, there are problems bedding into County Cricket such as finding a squad capable of playing to a suitable standard. There were problems attracting the right type of player from other counties, and bridging the gap between being a minor county and having first class status proved difficult when only using local, young talent.

The events leading to the ECB’s decision to deduct points due to financial difficulties, and the county’s relegation, are covered here in great detail. Ultimately it is left to the reader to decide where the responsibility lies in this episode; whether the punishment adequately reflects the events leading up to it.

Picture courtesy of Pitch Publishing, with thanks

Ian Botham’s tenure is, of course, mentioned here: “one of the worst mistakes I ever made”, as was the fact that within a week of that line being published in Botham’s autobiography, Durham granted him lifetime membership.

The sacking of the Captain Will Smith after he had led them to the Championship is also well explained, and there are contributions from Geoff Cook, David Boon, Tom Moffat, Chris Middleton, Andy Fothergill, Don Robson and many others. All combine to give a really good insight into the early days of Durham.

Although this is an in-depth history of Durham CCC, it is written very well and is not weighed down with pointless facts and statistics, making it very readable and at a comfortable pace. It’s straight down the line at you and is definitely written with the reader’s enjoyment in mind.

Despite my personal history, the truth is you don’t have to be a Durham supporter to enjoy this book. Although it encapsulates the ups and downs of a relatively new team, it also explains the inner working of a typical County Cricket team and, in some areas – changing status, finances, building a team, carrying an ethos and disciplinary processes – the inner workings of the ECB. Anyone interested in Cricket will appreciate the macro/micro workings of Cricket, written in a way that it may not have been before.

It’s a good read, it’s an easy read, it’s a fabulous book. And it’s published by Pitch, who have a good record when it comes to its cricket publications (See there other publications 28 Days DataAmbassadors of GoodwillandCaught in the Middle). And no, sadly, I have not been paid to say that.

“No one at the club is content with what we’ve achieved, remarkable though it is. Right from the day it turned first class, Durham County Cricket has always wanted to be the best – not just the best team, but the best coaches and the best academy. If we didn’t have that drive, we wouldn’t be Durham.” Paul Collingwood

Five Trophies and a Funeral: The Building and Rebuilding of Durham County Cricket Club
by Stuart Rayner
Pitch Publishing 2019, RRP £19.99

Available to buy here.

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