Hard to believe that at the height of the cricket season that football kicks off this Saturday with two Sussex’s professional clubs, Brighton & Hove Albion and Crawley Town, starting their Football League campaigns.
With the seasons overlapping so much, and football - at the highest level at least - awash with money, it might come as a surprise that as recently as the 1970s there were still a few sportsmen playing both football and cricket at professional level.
Chris Balderstone famously did both on a September day in 1975. He scored an unbeaten 51 on the second day of a Championship game for Leicestershire against Derbyshire at Chesterfield, got changed and then drove 30 miles to Doncaster to play for the Rovers in a 1-1 draw against Brentford. Next day, he put the cricket whites on again to complete his hundred!
Perhaps the most famous cricketer-footballer in Sussex was Cuckfield-born Tommy Cook. After making his Sussex debut in 1922 he went on to play 460 games over the next 15 years, scoring more than 20,000 runs. He also took 80 wickets with his medium-pace bowling.
He was also a good enough footballer for Brighton and Hove Albion to win selection for England, as a Third Division player, in 1925. He started life as a central defender but was converted to striker and scored 123 goals in 209 games. He was Albion’s top scorer for three seasons in the 1920s.
He was a hero in both world wars, first in the Royal Navy, where he was decorated, then in the South African Air Force, where he sustained serious injuries in 1943 in an air crash that killed all of his colleagues.
He had moved to South Africa in 1929 to take up a coaching position but when the war ended he returned to Sussex and had a brief spell as Albion’s manager. He was unable to show the same ability as he had on the pitch and was sacked after a demonstrations by supporters.
His injuries in the war had wounded him both physically and mentally. He suffered from depression and in 1949, ten days before his 49th birthday, he took his own life.