Stan was deeply devoted to cricket

For John Terry (seen with his wife), whose £150,000 a week wages, beautiful wife, huge house in Surrey, and enviable car, seem to have brought him nothing but trouble.-AP For John Terry (seen with his wife), whose £150,000 a week wages, beautiful wife, huge house in Surrey, and enviable car, seem to have brought him nothing but trouble.

Stanley Johnson, who passed away at the age of 72, has spent almost 30 years travelling round the world watching cricket. A life to be envied you might think and you would be right. By Ted Corbett.

I was going to write about one of the key issues of the day: the importance of a captain at cricket, rugby or football, Andrew Strauss’s decision to have a holiday while his England were in Bangladesh and the England football manager Fabio Capello’s sacking of John Terry after a flood of stories about Terry’s personal life.

(If you don’t know what the tabloids believe Terry has been up to, ask any guy nearby. I promise you he will know all the details but I neither wish to repeat this sordid story nor add my own theories. Like many a tabloid story, you cannot be sure where the truth begins and invention ends but if you can accept the most recent tales Mr. and Mrs. Terry are back friends, as we used to say on the school playground.)

Instead let me tell you about a friend who has spent almost 30 years travelling round the world watching cricket. A life to be envied you might think and you would be right. Stanley Johnson has died a happy man aged 72 but his cricket wanderings are far from over.

You might think that Stan — a schoolboy athlete and champion games player, with a first class honours degree from Oxford and a fortune from his main business as a chartered accountant — had watched the game in luxury.

Rather he boasted that his record of 230 Tests as a spectator cost him less than £10,000 a year. “Cheaper than living in England,” he told me as we met at a Test in Australia during the series captained by Nasser Hussain in 2001-2.

Stan stayed in the cheapest accommodation he could find, mostly in south east Asia travelled in what seasoned passengers call the “cattle class” wherever he went and did not eat two plates of food for his dinner if he felt full after one.

Sadly Stan’s touring days are over, except for one last trip. He died in his sleep on the third day of a Test in New Zealand in December and when his will was read recently it was discovered that he had left money to his special bunch of mates so that they could scatter his Ashes on his 12 favourite grounds round the world.

A tour of his Ashes although not an Ashes series. That is the way for any cricket enthusiast to end his days.

Those grounds are Queens Park, Port of Spain, The Oval, Old Trafford, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, Wankhede, Mumbai, Premadasa, Colombo, Westpac Trust, Wellington, Sydney Cricket Ground,, St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, Harare Sports Club, Zimbabwe and, of course, the clubs where he learnt his cricket at Church and Accrington.

His sister Christine said: “He was a character. He left Lancashire to go to Oxford University and he has not lived in the town of his birth since. Now he wants his friends to take him on what he calls the Stan Johnson Ashes Tour 2010.”

Another friend said: “Stan was a one-off. He studied languages at Oxford and finished by speaking eight fluently, including Russian. He loved Accrington and never ceased to boast about the town even though he never lived here permanently after he went to university.

“Once a year he returned to visit his sister and take a look at the town that meant so much to him.”

I will remember him as a shy man, reluctant to talk about himself when I tried to interview him ten years ago but with a deep knowledge of cricket. “I just enjoy my life,” was all I could get out of him.

There is only one picture of him in existence — and not a very flattering one at that — and many fans who travelled with him say that he was such a private person that they knew virtually nothing about him.

That will not surprise anyone from Accrington, home of the famous Accrington Stanley football club. The town is also one of a kind. There are many guys like Stan Johnson in this old-fashioned town.

I know the town well after living in that area for 25 years. It is wild country, not far from Burnley where the present England fast bowler Jimmy Anderson was discovered and home to people who care nothing for anyone else’s opinion.

They might be described as “cussed” or even “bloody-minded” — and that certainly fits Stan Johnson.

He wanted his pals to remember him as a man who loved his cricket, who was keen on the Ashes like every English and Australia enthusiast and who was willing to travel round the world to fulfil his ambitions.

To make sure his wishes were carried out he did not trust his will to a solicitor. He wrote his own and now it looks as if the plans he outlined in his careful writing are coming to fruition.

I will always think of him as typical of the many cricket fans around the world. Eccentric, maybe. Single-minded, certainly.

All of them are in love with cricket, prepared to undergo any hardship, live a strange life and travel anywhere to watch this game. It is, after all, a team game that depends heavily on solo performance and is best suited to those of us with a touch of madness in our make-up.

Stan, scrimping and saving and making do on next to nothing to watch his sport, is a dramatic contrast with John Terry, whose £150,000 a week wages, beautiful wife, huge house in Surrey, and enviable car, seem to have brought him nothing but trouble.

There may even be a lesson there for all of us.