Cricket stalwart calls an end to his playing career

Allen Thompson.
Allen Thompson.

It all started in a tiny backyard in Benwell more than 60 years ago, when a young Allen Thompson discovered his love for cricket.

The rest, as they say, is history. In more than six decades that have followed, this talented right-handed batsman has enjoyed a truly memorable spell in the game.

Hitting six sixes in an over, scoring 1,000 league runs in a season and being part of a record-breaking second-wicket partnership for Alnwick are just a few highlights.

Then there’s the ton of caps for Northumberland, countless accolades to his name, and not to mention playing against the likes of Boycott, Walsh and Wills.

But after devoting many years to the game, 75-year-old Thompson, who lives in Alnwick, has finally decided to say over and out.

He admits retiring from playing the sport was a tough call to make, but one that he felt he had to do.

“The final decision came because I felt I couldn’t perform the way I really wanted to,” says the grandfather of four, who most recently played for Alnwick IIs earlier in the season.

Thompson’s love for the game is clear to see, whether it be scoring runs or coaching youngsters.

It is certainly a passion which goes way back.

Thompson was born in Benwell in May 1939 and developed an interest in the sport at the age of 10.

He remembers: “There was this small stretch at home where we could play. If we hit the ball into a neighbour’s yard, then it was six and out. It wasn’t encouraged, but it felt great.”

It was also these very neighbours who invited him to watch England play test-match cricket on the television.

“We didn’t have a television so the lady down the street invited me round to watch the test,” he said.

Thompson’s talents at a young age were clear, but, while he was a pupil at Dame Allan’s school, he was initially knocked back for the county.

“They didn’t pick me,” he said.

“I had scored a century for the school’s first XI but the county coach thought I had a technical fault.

“My teacher disagreed, saying ‘but it always goes for four’.”

That same member of staff showed his faith in Thompson, predicting he would represent the county at the age of 19.

And in 1958, Thompson got his chance; called up against Cumbria. He grasped the opportunity with both hands and never looked back.

He would go on to play Minor Counties cricket for Northumberland until 1984, scoring more than 5,000 runs in the process.

He notched more than 100 caps, captained the side in 1982-3 and believes he is the oldest player to have represented the county.

He also skippered a Northumberland and Durham XI against a Callers-Pegasus International side which featured the likes of Basil D’Oliveira and Andy Roberts.

Thompson said: “At Minor Counties level we played friendlies with first-class counties, like Yorkshire and Kent, while the annual Pegasus fixture gave us the chance to rub shoulders with many of the best international test cricketers in the world.

“These experiences are no longer available to league cricketers so I count myself so lucky to have played in my era.”

Thompson’s loyalty to the county knew no boundaries, as he also coached Northumberland for a time, revitalising their fortunes in the process.

For all his achievements at county level, Thompson will also be remembered for his brilliance at a local level, notably Alnwick.

Having played as a professional for Percy Main from 1977-9 – a spell which included a league-winning triumph – Thompson moved to represent Alnwick in 1980. He has been there for most of the time ever since.

In 1991, the veteran batsman scored 1,000 runs in one Northumberland County League season.

Incredibly, he had only missed out on reaching the magical four-figure mark by 16 runs in the previous campaign.

In 2006, Thompson and Michael Brewis put on a club-record partnership of 242 against Whickham. Thompson ended on 110 not out, while his batting partner was unbeaten on 118.

Thompson’s ferocious appetite for runs was demonstrated when he captained Earl Percy’s XI (the Notables) against a BBC Radio Newcastle side at Alnwick’s Lindisfarne Middle School.

In a knock of 57, Thompson smashed six sixes in an over, much to the annoyance of a neighbour whose kitchen wall came in for a pounding, he jokes.

For all of Thompson’s efforts for Alnwick on the pitch, he has also done a lot off it, including working with the youngsters; a part of the game he really enjoys.

It isn’t just cricket that Thompson has a passion for. Among a list of football achievements, he coached Kenton School to the U16s English Schools National Championionship.

But reflecting on his cricket career – which included rejecting a trial at Northamptonshire when he was a teenager – Thompson said: “I love cricket, it is a great game, and I have been fortunate to have had some great battles over the years and made some great friends.”