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on 30 August 2012
How refreshing, how vital, to read a cricket book about a man who mattered and still has something to say. In an age when players sell their first 'autobiography' in their mid 20s, Micky Stewart has waited until his eighth decade before printing his comprehensive thoughts on cricket and life. The wait has been well worth it.

Stephen Chalke has written an outstanding, exceptional book about a player who was part of the great Surrey side of the 1950s and stayed in the game long enough to become England's first coach 30 years later. There are few witnesses who have so much of value to say about the game and how it has changed, and the author has captured Stewart wonderfully. The tone and texture of the narrative is absolutely engaging and flows so smoothly. What is clear is that Micky Stewart is a man of substance and principle; a thoughtful man with belief, courage and humour.

Stewart's character was shaped by his race-track bookie father in South London who taught him that life was not about taking short cuts, even if what you are doing is unfashionable. Micky's childhood and development as a footballer and cricketer fill the first half of his biography and Chalke completely nails that world of cricket and society in which Micky grew up; readers cannot help but find it totally believable and genuine. To me it was a delightful education. The school years, the football chapters, the Surrey years and the observations about the amateur and professional branches of sport are brilliantly done. I should also say that the balance between the narrative of Micky's life and the subtext of what it all meant more widely is completed so deftly with considerable skill. These chapters are complete, revealing and humorous, that I was totally satisfied when I reached the point of Micky's professional retirement. What happens after - the modern chapters - are a brilliant encore, almost unexpected.

As a 'younger' reader, I found that the England manager section explained and answered so much that I suspected but didn't really know; the players' dissatisfaction, the lack of a grand plan, the difficult egos. These pages bring a fine balance to a book which is not all about Micky being a star, not all about living happily ever after.

Stephen Chalke and Micky Stewart have completed a complicated assignment brilliantly. Without hesitation, I would recommend this fine work to anyone who has an interest in the development of Engish cricket in the past half-century. And anyone who hungers after the endangered species of intelligent, thoughtful and perceptive cricket writing will relish this book.
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on 7 October 2012
It is always a delight to read a book by Stephen Chalke and this biography of Micky Stewart, one that has been a labour of love for the author for several years, is no exception.

Few cricketers can have seen such change in their professional lives as Stewart, a stalwart of Surrey through most of the 1950s and 60s. He led them through a difficult period in their history, when their outstanding side of the 1950s, one that had won seven successive County Championships, was breaking up. No side could survive the loss of such players as Bedser, Laker, Lock, Loader and May intact, yet Stewart oversaw a period of gradual improvement that culminated in championship glory in 1971, his final season as a player.

He led a pretty good side himself, of course. Geoff Arnold and Robin Jackman to open the bowling, Pat Pocock for off spin, Pakistan leg-spinning all-rounder Intikhab Alam and underrated all-rounder Stewart Storey made up an attack for all conditions, while Stewart, John Edrich, Graham Roope and Younis Ahmed ensured they rarely lacked runs.

Micky Stewart was an underrated cricketer, earning Test caps but never quite doing enough to cement a regular opening berth. Two half centuries in eight appearances perhaps did not reflect his true ability, although those old enough to remember his playing days will do so as much for the brilliance of his fielding close to the wicket. The Surrey side of the 1950s were renowned for catching what others wouldn't consider chances and, as Stewart explains, they fielded closer than anyone else, such was their confidence in the bowlers not to drop short and leave them in danger.

Stewart's passion for cricket shines through in the book and his return to cricket in a coaching role, first at Surrey and then with England, came as no real surprise to those who knew him. He introduced greater professionalism to the national team and memorably led them to success in Australia. It was a tour in which success was a result of forging strong individuals into a fine team, all of them coming to appreciate their role in and importance to the side. A subsequent tour was less successful, the off-field activities being highlighted by the infamous "Tiger Moth" incident featuring David Gower and Derbyshire's John Morris.

Nor were series against the West Indies especially successful, although given the strength of that nation's cricket at the time it was hardly a surprise. Yet Stewart and successive captains introduced new training methods and much of his work has become accepted practice in the modern game.

A fifty-year career is always going to witness change and Stewart's is no exception. Perhaps the greatest was around the role of the media. Things happened on tour and around the county circuit back in the 1950s and this book has plenty of amusing anecdotes that are always one of the delights of a book by the author. His question to a team mate about how to play during a follow on was met with amusement, before the realisation dawned that such was Surrey's dominance that in three seasons of the first-class game he'd never had to do so...

Characters abound, from former Surrey masseur "Sandy" Tait ("I could really hurt you with these hands, son...") through Jim Laker "...you heard the snap of his fingers then the zzzzzzz of the ball coming down the pitch" to spectators "Call theself a selector? Tha couldn't pick a fine day..."

It is, yet again, a joy to read Stephen Chalke's work. While Stewart comes across as a man of cricket par excellence, the author makes you feel that you are sitting across a table in a local pub listening to him recount his tales, which is no mean feat. Having established a niche in cricket writing with his outstanding oral histories, Stephen Chalke has moved seamlessly into biography, this book following similar worthy efforts on Tom Cartwright and Bob Appleyard.

I have no hesitation in recommending it for a Christmas purchase.
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on 4 September 2012
As both a publisher and writer of superior cricket books, Stephen Chalke has given me more pleasure than anyone else in his field over the last 15 years, and this collaboration with Micky Stewart, one of the most influential figures in the game for half a century, comfortably maintains that impeccable standard.
Let me make it clear from the outset that, contrary to a widespread perception, Stewart is anything but a dull subject. It's fair to say that during his marathon career as a Test and county cricketer (one of the most brilliant fielders who ever lived and an excellent batsman), the England team's first full-time manager and finally as an administrator, he was never flamboyant.
However, he emerges here not only as a sporting giant - he was a fine footballer, too, winning England amateur caps and playing for Charlton Athletic - but also as a strong, passionate, intelligent individual, highly opinionated, invariably insightful and often drily humorous, a man of integrity whose story and thoughts truly do matter.
Particularly vivid to me are Stewart's recollections of the incomparable Surrey side which lifted the County Championship seven successive times in the 1950s. There are revealing vignettes of all his team-mates, the likes of irascible skipper Stuart Surridge, wise-cracking Cockney Bernie Constable, the Bedser twins, spin maestros Jim Laker and Tony Lock, the great Peter May and, my own favourite batsman as a cricket-obsessed youngster, Ken Barrington. Stewart is penetrating in his assessment of their characters and their capabilities, and his memories are not all rosy-hued.
The same can be said of his time in charge of England, his candid takes on such household names as Botham, Gower, Gatting and Gooch making for a compelling read.
There can be few people alive with such a comprehensive overview of the game as Stewart, now in his 80th year. All he needed was a tip-top communicator to do justice to all that accumulated knowledge and wisdom - and he found him in the splendidly fluent Chalke.
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on 22 August 2012
A must for any fan of English cricket, particularly during the 70s and 80s. This books gives some remarkable insights into some of the bigger stories of that period, along with lots of interesting tales from behind the scenes. Well written and informative, would definitely recommend.
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on 10 September 2012
This book is written in quite an unusual style. The bulk of the text reads like a long interview with Micky Stewart in which his opinions and memories are teased out by Stephen Chalke. Having watched my first County Championship match in 1962, the majority of Stewart's career is familiar to me, including his roles as manager of Surrey and then England, so in some ways I would have liked the 1950s covered in greater detail with more anecdotes about some of the more bizarre characters playing the game then.
I did enjoy the openness in the section about his England managership (eg Stewart & Gower not getting along) and the the testimonials written by England players of the time were interesting.
I would recommend this book to any cricket (history) lover, particularly if they support Surrey.
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on 23 September 2012
The book gave an interesting insight into the life of Mickey Stewart, and describes how the game of cricket has changed over the years. Well worth reading for all those cricket lovers (and football lovers - Mickey was a talented football player too)
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on 25 July 2014
An excellent book about an influential man in the cricket world and a perfect gentleman
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on 11 November 2013
I really enjoyed this book and it reminded me of how cricket used to be when I was growing up in the same area that Micky Stewart grew up.
I would say that any cricket lover who grew up in the 1960's would enjoy this book.
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on 2 July 2014
A lovely read about a man who has been involved at many levels of English cricket over several decades.
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on 16 July 2016
Fantastic. Great writer. Love re-reading his book.....A1++++
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