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‘You’re a donkey at football’ – The conversation that convinced Sidebottom to take up cricket

Sidebottom football
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

A young Ryan Sidebottom “desperately” wanted to become a footballer until an honest conversation with his father convinced him that he was not good enough, prompting him to turn to cricket.

Long before his left-arm pace helped England win the 2010 T20 World Cup, Sidebottom wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Arnie, who played as a defender for Manchester United and Huddersfield Town in the Seventies, and also featured in 228 first-class games for Yorkshire and Orange Free State, and one Test for England.

“I knew what dad was doing growing up and I always wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Ryan, who retired from cricket in 2017, told The Grade Cricketer podcast. “Being honest, I preferred football because he plays for Manchester United and Huddersfield Town in his early days when you could play cricket and football. So I wanted to desperately be a footballer.

“But dad one day, being an honest Yorkshireman, said ‘Look, son, you may have a chance of making it at cricket, but you are an absolute donkey at football. So, follow your second dream, and not your first!’ And I was like, ‘Cheers, father. Thank you for that vote of confidence.’

“It’s always nice to emulate your dad and I knew what he did. I had all these newspaper cuttings, of when he had done something very good. To play for England and do what he had done, obviously, it’s a nice story.”

Sidebottom admits that he was a decent footballer growing up, but knew somewhere that he wasn’t “good enough” to take his game to the next level, consequently shifting his focus to cricket.

“I did have a decent left foot and I absolutely love my football, but I was never going to be good enough,” Sidebottom said. “Even though I trialed at Huddersfield Town and I was [invited to trial] at Sheffield United, but when your father saw you being around, and you have those honest, blunt conversations, and … I knew I probably had a chance of making it at cricket.

“Of course, football was probably – I shouldn’t admit that being a cricketer – was my No.1 love and I love all sport. I had a chance of playing professional cricket, so I had to go down that path and football was not going to be my forte. But I loved the game in general.”

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