On August 3, 1966, Warwickshire began a championship match against Kent at Canterbury.
It was a gritty day’s play. The Bears chose to bat and, with the ball seaming around, fought their way to 250 all out in 108.3 overs. Only Dennis Amiss passed 50.
They then nipped out Brian Luckhurst, bowled by Tom Cartwright, before the close to leave Kent 18 for one and the game finely balanced.
It was an intriguing rather than thrilling day. But it had one young spectator hooked. A 12-year-old cricket fan, on holiday from Devon, had thoroughly enjoyed his first taste of county cricket. The seed of a lifelong affection for cricket – and the Bears – was sown.
The name of that little boy? Trevor Francis.
“I was always a keen cricket follower,” he recalls, “but mainly on television because I lived in Plymouth who didn’t have a county team.
“We used to go on holiday to Broadstairs in Kent and my parents wanted to go and look round Canterbury. Kent happened to be playing Warwickshire so they dropped me off at the ground and went sightseeing and I watched the cricket for the day.
“It was coincidence that it happened to be Warwickshire. But when, three years later, I joined Blues as an apprentice, suddenly I had a great opportunity to watch county cricket.
“I couldn’t get to every game, of course, but went to Edgbaston as often as I could, especially on Sundays.
“I remember one Sunday afternoon travelling to Moreton-in-Marsh to see Warwickshire play Gloucestershire.
“Warwickshire had a very strong team: John Jameson and Dennis Amiss, who I still see regularly, Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran, Mike Smith, Deryck Murray, David Brown, Lance Gibbs.
“One thing that stays in my memory is the power John Jameson’s hitting. The only other guy who played like that was Colin Milburn.
“Amiss was a fabulous player. Kallicharran and Kanhai were two of the greats.
“It was a star-studded side and I used to really enjoy watching them.”
Stardom lay ahead for Francis too, of course, in a dazzling football career. Brilliant for Blues for a decade, he became the first £1million footballer, scored the winning goal in a European Cup final, won 52 England caps, played in Italy and the States and went on to manage, above others, his beloved Blues.
Francis achieved much and travelled far. But, throughout his odyssey, he retained the passion for cricket which beats now as strongly as ever. The other week he was at Edgbaston to see Warwickshire close their home campaign with victory over Surrey.
“After I went on my travels as a footballer, Warwickshire always remained the club I had the biggest feelings for,” he said. “When I was at Forest I went to Trent Bridge a few times and I took a bit of an interest in Lancashire when I was at Manchester City but never build a bond like I have with Warwickshire.
“I have always been a great follower of the national team too. When I was a Sheffield Wednesday player I was staying in a hotel that didn’t have Sky Sports so I went down the Eccleshall Road until I found a pub which had Sky - not many did in those days.
“I would be in the pub all afternoon by myself watching the cricket. The lengths I went to!
“Then when my playing career was over I came back to manage Birmingham in 1996 and the players had changed at Warwickshire but not too much else had. I started watching again and still am.”
Francis is a regular in the Edgbaston committee room and a very welcome guest. But there is one thing that his fellow spectators need to be wary of – the former Blues star, while happy to chat up to a point, is not there for the company. It’s the cricket.
“I am one who likes to watch every ball,” he said.
“I can watch a Test match from first ball to last without missing anything.
“This summer I have spent a lot of time at my home in Marbella and it seems strange to some that they are all out by the pool and I’m inside watching the cricket.
“But that’s my affection for the game. People who don’t have any feeling for cricket can’t quite understand how I can spend so much time watching it.
“I really enjoy getting down to Edgbaston in the summer. I have been very fortunate because I am always made to feel very welcome there and I am very grateful to the committee for that.”