Please follow the link below where local Pudsey Cricket legend Ralph Middlebrook of Pudsey Congs explains how cricket developed in the Pudsey area of Leeds where Cricket is the number one sport and gives his views on the sport in the present day.
Ralph began his career at Pudsey St Lawrence but moved to Congs in his mid-teens. He has served Congs as player, captain, coach, supporter and official for 60 years. An all-rounder who bowled a little better than he batted, Ralph became a much-respected player who always applied his skills intelligently. Aged 26, he had a trial for Yorkshire at Bradford Park Avenue. ‘In the 1950s there seemed to be a cricket match on almost every field in Pudsey on a summer Saturday afternoon.
‘Congs was a little church team. The team sheet went up in the chip shop window and if there was a star against your name it was your turn to get the kitbag from the church to the ground. Very few people had a car and most of us walked to the ground.’
Ralph Middlebrook’s cricket memories begin in the late 1940s when, as a young boy, he was taken to Pudsey St Lawrence Cricket Club. Much of the cricket talk in Pudsey was about Leonard Hutton, who became the first professional to captain England in 1952.
‘Len was a national hero, but he was also our local hero. In 1953 he led England to their first Ashes win over Australia since World War II. Pudsey gave him a civic reception and I remember the speech he gave. I had the good fortune to get to know Len in later life.’
Herbert Sutcliffe was another England star who lived in Pudsey.
‘Herbert regularly went to the church, including one close to where we lived. He would knock on our door to ask if he could leave his car in our drive. Churches were a large part of people’s lives. Pudsey Congs Cricket Club was founded as the church’s team in 1892. In the 1950s it was a rule that players had to attend Evensong at least once a month.’
Ralph was one of the first amateur cricketers to pass cricket’s most advanced coaching award. He went on to become Leeds City Council’s first Cricket Development Officer and Yorkshire’s first Cricket School Manager. He has guided numerous future stars through Youth Training Schemes, including England’s Darren Gough and international umpire Richard Kettleborough.
Ralph’s son, James, played for Yorkshire, Essex, and Northamptonshire in a career from 1998 to 2015. Among his highlights was scoring a century at Lord’s and helping Yorkshire to win the County Championship in 2015.
Ralph has seen many changes in cricket and in society. Communication, transport, and cricket equipment are all much changed since the 1950s. He also believes that values do not change. Congs ‘try to do the job right. We give boys and girls the chance to play and help to make decent people out of ordinary kids. Cricket teaches you values of selflessness, concentration and to co-operate in twos, in groups and as a team.’