Following On: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession and Terrible Cricket
If meeting your idols is dangerous, meeting them and writing about it is even worse. Especially if you’re then planning to admit, in print, the full extent of the teenage crush you had on them.
My love for the catastrophic England cricket team of the 1990s was weird enough at the time. As a teenager, my bedroom walls were covered in posters I’d crafted from newspaper cuttings and photos of players like Mike Atherton and Mark Ramprakash and Phil Tufnell. It would have been a strange, almost
It wouldn’t have occurred to me to reveal this rather
But he must have planted a seed in my subconscious, because later that week, as I was falling asleep, I suddenly envisioned the home-made cricket posters of my youth. I remembered the emotional rollercoaster of hope and despair that the 90s England team had taken me on. I had never considered before why on earth, as a
Very few of those players had talked about what it was like to endure such
It took about a year to reach and meet them all. As someone who’s covered the Olympics, Wimbledon and World Cups, I’ve quizzed plenty of famous sportspeople. But this was different: this was personal. Nothing had prepared me for how strange it would feel to sit in front of men I had once worshipped, listening to them talk about events that had shaped my adolescence. If you’d told my
I was surprised how happy the players were to talk about some pretty
There was something else I didn’t expect. I had thought that as I weaved my own memories around the players’ tales, I’d learn something about the relationship between sporting heroes and their fans. In fact, a completely different story emerged, of my relationship with the person who had introduced me to cricket in the first place – my mum. The more I wrote, the more it became clear how cricket had grown and shaped our relationship; and how it had helped us through the awkward transition from mother and child to mother and friend.
Being a sportswriter and being an author are very different propositions. One thing I’ve learned from writing Following On is that you have to really commit with memoir – you can’t hold back. Knowing that the very subjects of my
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