It has been a long held belief of mine that generally speaking cricketers live longer than footballers.
The month of January 2018 perhaps proved my point as at least nine well known football league players died, notably the much respected Jimmy Armfield, whereas not one former first class cricketer died in this country. There were in fact three former South African Test players who died in January, Jack Nel, David Pithey and Clive van Ryneveld. Nel was a batsman who played six test matches, all against Australia from 1949-50, but never really made a substantial score.
Pithey, an all rounder, was an Oxford Blue and played one season for Northants in the 1960s. No doubt the best known of this trio was Clive van Ryneveld, another Oxford Blue at cricket and rugby union, who had the distinction of playing for England at rugby union, while at Oxford, as well as representing South Africa at cricket. He was an outstanding all rounder, mainly a batsman, but also a useful leg break bowler and a brilliant fielder.
The only English first class cricketer to have died this year so far was Richard Doughty on 6th February. He had spells with both Gloucestershire and Surrey during the 1980s, but originated from Bridlington and apparently did play some cricket for Scarborough while studying at Scarborough College.
On the 10th February another notable overseas player, Bev Congdon of New Zealand died on the day before his 80th birthday.
Although perhaps not a natural flowing batsman he was a grafter with great determination and became an inspiring captain of New Zealand when he took over during the 1970s during a long period of poor performances by his country. He did not make them into a winning team but he scored several important centuries and managed to get just one win, the country's first ever against Australia, and nine draws during his seventeen match tenure.
Congden was also a useful medium pace bowler and often took vital wickets. He was also a good one day player and had considerable success in New Zealand domestic cricket as well as his Test career.
He certainly had a great influence on New Zealand cricket and helped turn them into a far more competitive team than they had been in the immediate post war years.
To return to my opening remarks it is a sad fact that many footballers have died from long standing problems caused by heading the old fashioned leather footballs. Probably the saddest of all the most recent football deaths was Cyrille Regis at only 57, who I remember well at West Bromwich.
On the other hand two former centre forwards who would have headed the ball a lot were Ted Phillips and Vic Keeble, who managed to reach 84 and 87 respectively.