Glamorgan and England cricket star Matthew Maynard talks to Blue View about cricket, football and supporting Manchester City.
A virtuoso right handed batsman, Matthew Maynard was born in Oldham but raised in Anglesey. His allegiance to Manchester City was born of sibling rivalry with his elder brother who was and is a Manchester United supporter, so when it came to choosing his team young Matthew wisely sided with his father:
“I guess really it was because my older brother was a United supporter and as brothers do we used to argue about everything and also dad used to bring home merchandise and stuff from City so that really got me hooked into it with posters of the team and things like that.”
The adopted Welshman has shown remarkable consistency over a long career. In 1998 he received the highly prestigious Wisden “Cricketer of the Year” award, ten years after picking up the “Young Cricketer of the Year” gong.
His England career could be likened to that of a Dennis Tueart; where obvious natural ability was not reflected in a cabinet full of international caps. Maynard’s sporadic international career started in 1988 and has spanned three decades, his last outing coming in a One Day International in the summer of 2000.
Predictably a fair proportion of County cricketers are MUFC plc glory-hunters but City do have their fans among the ranks of the men in white. Lancashire’s Gary Yates and former England captain Bob Willis are well known City supporters and Maynard knows of others:
“There are some City fans on the circuit. Martin Ball at Gloucester – he’s a big Blue and so is Nick Speak, captain of Durham. I think he gets down to a lot of games.”
Though totally committed to his profession, there have been occasions when cricket has, well, got in the way of more important things. Maynard recalls the Gillingham play-off final and the Blackburn promotion clincher. Both games were played on a May Sunday and he had the misfortune to be playing on both occasions. Despite being marooned on the field of play, he was determined to keep up with the action:
“I have a facility on my mobile where I can set it to buzz rather than ring. I actually took it onto the field with me and I just made sure I didn’t have to dive to my right too much!”
One of Glamorgan’s longest serving and most successful captains, Maynard led the Welshmen to the County Championship in 1997 – a feat his native Lancashire are still striving to emulate. Maynard is well placed to comment on the attributes of a good captain:
“I think he has to be a good listener, he has to be positive, a good communicator and treat all individuals differently. Everyone has their own ways, some people like to go out and socialise of an evening, others people are quiet and you have to treat everyone accordingly. As long as people don’t upset the team rules and it’s important to set parameters within the team as to what is allowable and what is stepping over the mark. As long as you set clear definitions of what people can and can’t do then they are usually pretty good and adhere to them.”
Maynard doesn’t see a natural leader of men among the ranks of City’s current squad:
“There doesn’t seem anyone in the City team that fills that rôle at the moment. Alfie Haaland is an aggressive player and maybe Joe Royle just thought I’ll give it someone like Alfie who will set the tempo and be aggressive in tackling and hopefully the guys will follow in that mode, so perhaps he has used him as a leader by example more than anything.”
County cricketers are poorly paid compared with the riches on offer to even the average Premiership player, but Maynard is not jealous and believes the modern footballer is entitled to share in football’s success.
“Football has come on leaps and bounds since the Premiership took off with all the TV rights, merchandising and packed crowds – City were even getting thirty odd thousand in the Second Division.”
Maynard acknowledges his sport will never catch up with football in terms of financial rewards, but sees areas where the gulf between cricket and football has narrowed markedly in his fifteen year career:
“There’s a much greater emphasis on fitness now, on diet, re-hydration, carbo-loaded drinks and so on. There is a greater concentration on the sports science side of things and bio-mechanics. In that regard cricket has become a lot more professional, and with that I think the players’ attitudes have become more professional as well.”
“It’s a slightly different type if fitness; in football you have to be legging it around for 90 minutes whereas in cricket it’s a slower game in certain aspects and then every now and again it’s incredibly fast for 20 seconds. Plus you have to be strong and have to keep coming at 5.30 on the last day of a four day game when you may have been in the field for over 200 overs during the course of the game. Your bowlers and fielders have still got to leg it in and be sharp, so it’s a concentration aspect that it vital in cricket as well as the fitness levels.”
One of the most naturally gifted English batsmen of his generation, Maynard has thrilled crowds the world over with his dashing strokeplay and he believes strongly that professional sportsmen have an overriding duty to entertain the public:
“We class ourselves as entertainers, well I do anyway. That’s the way I was brought up to play the game. “
Given his Botham-like philosophy towards his own sport, it comes as no surprise that Georgi Kinkladze ranks high on his list of City legends. But he does lament the dearth of flair players in the current game.
“There are not as many these days. I was fortunate enough to have a good conversation with George Best and Peter Osgood a few years ago and they were saying Gazza at that stage was the most skilful player in British football – it was just before or just after he had gone to Lazio. But they said in their day every side would have had two or three of those kind of players, whereas now it is more down to incredible fitness levels and discipline. Just every now and then you get flair players and I hate to say it but like Ryan Giggs obviously being a Welsh man and following him when he plays for Wales the team just looks so much better.”
In common with most City fans, Maynard rates Bell, Lee and Summerbee amongst his all-time greats and from the current era he has particular admiration for Shaun Goater:
“I like Shaun Goater, he has good ethics – works hard, does his best and is an honest bloke”.
Matthew Maynard made his Glamorgan début as a teenager back in 1985, scoring a century in 87 minutes against Yorkshire. Now in his 35th year, his passion for City and cricket has not diminished and this summer he will once again grace the country’s finest grounds with his exhilarating strokeplay. Mobile phone at the ready… just in case.
First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #697 on