Kent Cricket is truly saddened to learn of the passing of a true sporting icon of the county, Derek Ufton, at the age of 92.
Born in Crayford on 31 May 1928, he won a scholarship to Dartford Grammar School, where he was taught P.E. by Joe Jagger, Mick’s father, and where his love of all sports, especially cricket, took root.
A stalwart one-club man, both as a professional cricketer and footballer, Derek Ufton made 149 first-class appearances as Kent’s wicketkeeper-batsman and represented Charlton Athletic for a decade.
As understudy to Godfrey Evans, he scored 3,915 runs for Kent at 20.01 and claimed 313 victims (269 caught and 44 stumped). He was awarded his County Cap (Cap no. 128) in 1956.
By far his most successful season was 1961, when he scored 668 runs and accounted for 90 opponents behind the stumps (76 caught, 14 stumped). After he dropped out of the first team, he went on to mentor the Second XI, playing 54 games for them, many as Captain.
For most of this time, Ufton was also playing football professionally for Charlton Athletic, between 1949 and 1960.
He was a solid centre-half, playing 277 games for the Addicks and winning one England cap, in 1953 against the Rest of The World. At the time of his death he was English football’s oldest international.
After retirement from both sports and a stint as manager of Plymouth Argyle, he also became involved with the Lord’s Taverners, the cricket charity that helps young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. He was appointed National Chairman from 1990 to 1991. He was also a Director of Charlton Athletic for 26 years.
He was a member of Kent Cricket’s main Committee from 1978 to 1983, and from 1985 to 2000, and President of the Club, in succession to Colin Cowdrey, in 2001.
Despite his success in football, he always maintained that cricket was his first love. He was once quoted as saying: “Though it’s treasured, I’d have swapped my England football cap for an England cricket one.”
He and wife Judy were very regular visitors to The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence from their home in Elham, and all the many people who wanted to stop and talk to him were greeted with a cheery smile and a tremendous fund of stories. Kent will be a much poorer place without him.
The thoughts of everyone at the Club are with Derek’s family at this difficult time.