Blackpool cricket stalwart and friends recall a century of the legendary Bill Alley

Three elder statesmen of Fylde coast cricket teamed up in Blackpool to celebrate a “true great” of the game.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 10:03 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 11:13 am
Bryan Moore with fellow former players Jim Andrew and George Diggle remembering the great Bill Alley

Three elder statesmen of Fylde coast cricket assembled in Blackpool to celebrate a “true great” of the game.

The late Australian all-rounder Bill Alley, whose exploits for Blackpool CC and Somerset have passed into cricket legend, was born 100 years ago.

It is over 60 years since the left-hander left Stanley Park to achieve further record-breaking feats in county cricket. But Bryan Moore, his captain at Blackpool in the mid-1950s, still recalls Alley’s amazing performances vividly.

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And Bryan invited two cricketing contemporaries to his home on Blackpool Old Road last week to pore over his collection of memorabilia and reminisce about the glory days of Alley, who died in 2004 at the age of 85.

Bryan was joined by Jim Andrew, a spinner in Moore’s Blackpool team which won back-to-back Northern League titles in 1954 and 1955, and George Diggle, who had the “pleasure” of bowling at Alley as a young player with Blackpool’s derby rivals St Annes.

Born in Sydney, Alley arrived in Lancashire in 1949 to play for Colne, moving on to Blackpool four years later.

Alley’s impact was nothing sort of sensational as he scored 4,845 league runs for the club at an average of 115, also taking 179 wickets with his seam bowling.

It was estimated that Alley was among the best-paid players in world cricket as Blackpool’s one professional at a time they regularly played in front of packed houses of holiday-makers. “They would queue outside the turnstiles,” Bryan recalls. “I remember playing in front of more than 3,000 in a Slater Cup final against Kendal.”

It helped Alley to resist the overtures of Somerset until 1957. He went on to score 19,612 first-class runs and take 738 wickets. In his testimonial season of 1961 he scored 3,000 runs (the last player to do so) and topped 300 in one game against the touring Australians.

On finally retiring at the age of 49, Alley served as a top umpire for 16 years, fittingly officiating in his final match at Stanley Park in 1984.

Bryan recalls: “Bill Alley was something else and we kept in touch until his death.

“Bill was a great player to captain and we got on great. We worked things out together and never had a cross word.

“It was such a strong team, full of personalities, and it made captaincy very pleasurable. We also had two top-class spinners in Jimmy and Norman Langfield.”

It was also a pleasure for Bryan and Jimmy to watch Blackpool win the Northern League title once more last season and they look forward to a repeat this year.

Bryan added: “Yes, we’ll be going to watch and I think Blackpool will walk away with the title. They have some very good young players and strength in depth, and I think only Netherfield can compete with them.”