"Football will look after you better"

David Seaman is one of the greatest goalkeepers England produce but he now admits he almost plays cricket for Yorkshire. His headmaster wants him to turn to cricket but his sports master, a former footballer, makes him take up soccer, writes TE D CORBETT.

June 12 — Back on the road. One of the reasons I write this diary is to convince talented young men and women that there is a fascinating career in sports writing. Well, lads and lasses, as those awful comperes always put it, there is a downside. We set off for East Midlands Airport for the flight to Belfast with plenty of time to spare and are three miles from the car park when we run into those music lovers who just spend three days at a Download festival nearby. It takes us two hours to complete the journey while these weird creatures — complete with tattoos, green and red hair and metal staples through every part of their face and body — make their way slowly home. Not all of them appear to be in complete control of their minds or limbs. By the time we reach the check-in desk the gate is closed. Still we make the flight in time and, oddly, land in Belfast 10 minutes early. That city still has plenty of reminders of The Troubles including a huge piece of graffiti on a wall next to our hotel, advising travellers not to wander into the nearby streets. Over the road there is the Europa Hotel, which has the unwanted distinction of being the most bombed hotel in Europe. But, as I have to remind myself more than once during this long, long day, if you travel you will have adventures.

June 13 — On the road part two. We leave England in scorching sunshine and, without taking the simple precaution of looking at a weather forecast; we imagine Belfast will be the same. How wrong. A chill wind penetrates the press tent so that by lunch-time those of us foolish enough to wear short-sleeved summer shirts have to seek ways to keep warm. I scrounge a television cameraman's fleece but two of the best-known cricket correspondents resort to stuffing newspapers under their shirts and still complain of the cold. England win the match convincingly but the Irish put up a fight like their cousins in soccer who beat England in the run-up to the World Cup. Take a tip from me. They may cause even more bother when the side — led by four Aussies who all marry Irish girls — take part in the World Cup. It will be a surprise to the Irish because, as two taxi cab drivers tell me: "I didn't even know we have a cricket team." It is an historic match in several ways but noticeably because it is the first broadcast in Britain for seven years that does not include advertising breaks — after six years of Channel Four and now four more beginning this year on Sky.

June 14 — In a great London hotel on September 18 a company of spin bowlers will sit down to what I have named The Spinners' Dinner. It is the brainchild of Brian Downing, who holds the OBE for his services to cricket and particularly to securing the first large television contracts. In conjunction with The Lord's Taverners, he puts together a gathering of some of the best spinners the world has known, including Shane Warne, Derek Underwood and Richie Benaud. In all, the 20 bowlers have 2300 Test victims to boast about. It is in part to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jim Laker putting down the ultimate marker — 19 wickets in a Test, against the Australians at Old Trafford. But Mr. Downing wants more. He invites five of the six surviving Australians from that match — all Laker victims, of course — as well as Trevor Bailey, Peter Richardson and Alan Oakman, the three surviving England players from that Test. He hopes the money raised — tickets are �100 a head by the way — will, as part of the Lord Taverners' "Spin to Win" campaign encourage young cricketers to bowl spin. Just one regret. Where is Muttiah Muralitharan among all these great bowlers? He really ought to be there because he is one of the few who can break Laker's incredible return.

June 15 — The 20-20 international at the Rose Bowl began early in the afternoon for the 13,000 spectators who watch England's soccer heroes defeat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 on big screens kindly put up by the England and Wales Cricket Board to encourage people to turn up early and be in the right mood to back England. Quite how happy they were at the end is another matter.

The car parks, which cause problems already, become gridlocked so that local spectators fume as they arrive home at 1.15 in the morning and those with some distance to travel are able to see day break as they finish their journey. Later, the Rose Bowl authorities issue an apology but a Test match at the ground is now unthinkable.

June 16 — David Seaman is one of the greatest goalkeepers England produce but he now admits he almost plays cricket for Yorkshire. His headmaster wants him to turn to cricket but his sports master, a former footballer, says, "Football will look after you better" and so young Seaman joins Leeds United at the start of a career which eventually leads him to a place with Arsenal and England. Seaman may be keen to catch up with the former umpire Dickie Bird who turns out to be a betting man now that his days in the long white coat finish. He reveals that he predicts the winners of the FA Cup and the Champions League this winter and now he fancies Argentina for the World Cup. "I want England to win," says Dickie, "but Argentina are better." If he's right the umpire who makes a million pounds from his autobiography will be another �1,500 better off.

June 17 — As England throw away their chances of winning the one-dayer against Sri Lanka at Lord's I wonder, not for the first time, if they prefer to lose. Less pressure the next time; fits the modest English character better; and, after all, that is what their fans expect. So their record of four wins in 13 one-day games and two wins in nine Tests since the Ashes triumph may sit more comfortably with the side than all that stomping through central London, all the triumphalism, all that champagne.

By the way, Andrew Flintoff is at home resting his injured ankle with wife and two small children and still fails to complete his 100 one-day matches for England. They must forget their injury problems. As David Graveney, chairman of the selectors, says: "It is time to stop using the team's long injury list as an excuse. If we continue to play the way we have this summer we will not retain the Ashes or win the World Cup." Will all those who think they can win the World Cup put their hands up? Oh, as many as that!

June 18 — Lovely Liz Hurley, the British film star, is raising a side to play against the Royal Household on the Windsor Castle grounds for charity. Sounds like a nice day out in a good cause but there is a way she can raise even more money. There is a chance she will play, I hear, and I suggest she raffles a special prize. The winner can have a spot in her team's dressing room.