Willie Watson was one of the twelve players to have represented England at both cricket and football, and while CB Fry is probably the best known, Watson was by far the most successful. He played four times for the football team as an attacking right half and 23 times for the cricket team as an elegant left-hand batsman.
It was as a cricketer that Watson enjoyed his finest hour, sharing a fifth wicket stand with Trevor 'barnacle' Bailey that occupied most of the last day of the Lord's Test of 1953, and foiled what had seemed a certain Australian victory. The duo's epic defiance effectively enabled England to regain the Ashes - for the first time in more than 20 years - when they won the fifth Test at The Oval.
Watson had played football for England against Ireland in 1949 (a game which England won 9-2), and also against Italy, Wales and Yugoslavia. In the latter game England manager Walter Winterbottom, told him to play defensively, totally against his natural style, and he was not a success.
Watson never played football for England again, though he was a member of England's World Cup squad that went to Brazil in 1950 and lost to the USA. His international cricket career, however, proved longer lasting.
Willie Watson born in Barnsley, was the second son of another Willie Watson, the left-half for Huddersfield Town and a member of their winning Cup Final side in 1922. At 16 the young Willie signed as an amateur with Huddersfield Town and the next year became a full-time professional. Meanwhile, his efforts with the bat came to the notice of Yorkshire and n 1939 he made his debut for them.
He was transferred in 1946 to Sunderland for a fee of
This might be enough for any sportsman, but while representing England at cricket, Watson was also Halifax Town?s player-manager and later managed Bradford City after retiring from first class cricket. A fascinating tale of a bygone era, Watson?s feat will never be repeated which guarantees his place in Britain?s sporting pantheon.