East Devon all-rounder looks back on playing through a full season of football and cricket
PUBLISHED: 10:17 03 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:17 03 April 2020
Dunkeswell-based Brian Cann recalls a time when you could combine playing a full season of football with a full campaign of cricket.
It’s not so easy these days as there is quite an ‘overlap’ of the two campaigns.
Brian, who is now 54, has recently turned his sporting prowess to bowls, but he does have over 1,000 games of football and 2,000 games of cricket ‘in the memory bank’ after year upon year of service to both sports.
So, what about ‘Canny and cricket’.
He takes up the story saying: “I began, when I was 10, as a colt at Honiton CC.
“Bob Grove, my sports teacher at Honiton Secondary School, was my initial inspiration. Bob was a fine cricketer, and, indeed, a terrific all-round sportsman.”
A young Brian Cann played through the colt’s system and made his debut for Honiton CC 2nd XI as a 12-year-old in a 1978 fixture against Axminister.
His captain that day was Mick Baden and Brian says: “That first day taught me a very salient lesson, one that, to this day, I have never forgotten! I was batting at number 11 and the skipper’s instruction was clear – bat out the overs! I went to the wicket with four overs remaining, nervously took my guard and, as the first delivery came towards me I took an almighty ‘swoosh’ at the ball and turned in horror to see the stumps knocked out of the ground.
“I got ‘the stare’ from the skipper – I can still see that stare now! I was left in no uncertain terms that ‘you don’t do that’. I certainly learned a lesson that day, and from then, every time I go out to bat, I do so, intending to truly ‘value’ my wicket – and that logic has paid dividends over the years.
“Work got in the way of Saturday cricket for some time, but all that changed in the late 1980’s from which point summers’ have always been, cricket, cricket and more cricket!”
In 1993, ‘Canny’ was appointed captain of the Honiton CC 1st XI with the team playing in the East Devon League. They narrowly avoided relegation owing to a restructuring of the league, before winning the title in each of the next four seasons!
Brian explains saying: “That was some team I lead in those days. There were the likes of Connull Dunbar, Dave Harkness, Kevin Slynn, Paul Lapping, Gerry Carpanini, John Wheeler, Phil Holland, Paul Holland, John Connett, Jim Eastment, Paul Dimond, and probably the greatest bowler the club has ever seen, New Zealander, Phil Tansley.
“Phil was a remarkable player, and often, as we were allowed in those days, he would bowl 23 overs non-stop from one end.”
After a trophy-laden decade at Honiton, ‘Canny’ moved to local rivals Feniton who won the league in 1999 and then joined the Devon League where he played with Feniton for the next 15 seasons winning three divisional titles, three Richard Whiteway Cup wins, as well as several others cup and there were also a number of long runs in the National Village Cup.
Brian was instrumental in setting up a Feniton CC Colts section, something he did alongside Graham Tucker.
It was through the colts ranks at Feniton that another Cann got into cricket with Brian’s son Josh introduced to the game.
The younger Cann made his debut for Feniton at the age of 14, scoring his maiden league century against Whimple in a game in which his team captain was Francis Pyle.
In 2016, Cann senior – and junior – made the switch to Seaton.
Brian says: “Since the switch to Seaton I really have not looked back. Under the captaincy of Ben Morgan we have enjoyed Tolchards Devon League divisional wins on two occasions and would have been launching the new season in early May as an A Division team. We have also enjoyed success in the Corinthian Cup.
“However, with this on-going Covid-19 crisis we are unsure as to the 2020 cricket season. It might prove to be the end of the Brian Cann cricketing time – but who knows...let’s wait and see!”
On the more general side of cricketing things, when asked as to his worst injury experience in the game, Brian responds: “My worst moment in cricket was a serious facial injury whilst at Feniton.
“I was never a helmet wearer through the 1990s and the ‘noughties, but, just as my serious football injury in 1993 had been, this was another ‘game changer’!
“ I was very close to losing my left eye, too close infact and so, from that moment, it was a helmet for me every time!”
As to the high points of his cricketing career to date, Brian says: “Winning the Tolchards Devon League B Division last season would have to be the ‘stand-out’ season although, from a personal point of view that run of four successive title wins in the 1990’s while I was captain at Honiton remains ‘right up there’.”
He continues: “I made over 30 appearances for the league representative side through the 90’s, and still hold the record for amount of runs scored in the old Exeter Bank East Devon League, which of course, will never be beaten.
“My highest score was an unbeaten 150 scored against Countess Wear many, many years ago, and one other useless fact, I have always, for as long as I can remember, fielded at mid-on or mid-off for every over of every game that we have fielded, and taken a few catches along the way whilst doing so!
“I owe a great debt of gratitude in terms of my cricketing passion to my dear, dear friend, Terry Linsdell, and his late wife Sue who were the true-life blood of Honiton CC.
“My stand-out cricketing hero was Ian Botham to whom I had the honour of bowling to at the County Ground, Taunton nets when I was 10.”
So, what other sports has Brian Cann played – it’s quite a list as he explained saying: “As a 14-year-old I played in goal for the Honiton water polo team. I dived for Devon as a 15-year-old – the 10m high board was my discipline – and I was a mean swimmer with my main stroke being backstroke.
“I played basketball for Honiton and Clifton Hill and made three appearances for the Southern Counties team and I can also lay claim to being the Devon Under-14 tennis champion for 1978.”
Even now, at 54, ‘Canny’ continues to tread new sporting ground as he recently took up bowling and has impressed in a first season as a member of the indoor section at Honiton Bowls Club.
One thing the on-going Covid-19 crisis may scupper, is the 2020 cricket season which would deny ‘Canny’ of a novel ‘full-house’.
He explains saying: “I did play a Devon Premier Division game for Seaton in the mid 1990s. Also in the team was Greg Foxwell who still watches Seaton play cricket to this day. Greg does love to remind me of that Premier Division outing for he ran me out without me facing a ball! That one appearance means that I have played in the Devon League E, D, C, B and Premier divisions with only the A Division to complete the full set!”
Back to Covid-19 then, and, if this season is a write-off, then hopefully ‘Canny’ will be able to complete that full-house in 2021.
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