Kent Cricket in Conversation: Derek Ufton

Sunday 31st May 2020

Men’s First XI

Kent Cricket in Conversation: Derek Ufton

Premiering on his 92nd birthday, Kent sporting legend Derek Ufton, who made over 200 appearances for Kent & Charlton Athletic, FC talks to Paul Downton & Sam Billings about his career in the latest edition of ‘Kent Cricket in Conversation’.

Watch the full interview in the video below:

Kent Cricket in Conversation: Derek Ufton

Kent sporting legend Derek Ufton, who made over 200 appearances for Kent & Charlton Athletic FC talks to Paul Downton & Sam Billings about his career in 'Kent Cricket in Conversation'

Posted by Kent Cricket on Sunday, 31 May 2020

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 played 263 matches shoring up the defence of Charlton Athletic.

Andrew Lang, the Scots novelist, once wrote: “Cricket is a very humanising game. It appeals to the emotions of local patriotism and pride. It is eminently unselfish; the love of it never leaves us, and binds all the brethren together, whatever their politics and rank may be.”

Lang’s words, written in 1893, also encapsulate the cricketing ethos of Derek Ufton, and his selfless approach to sport. Yes, local pride at being a Kentish Man (he hails from Crayford), played a role in his participation but, what matters most to Ufton are the numerous, life-long friendships forged while playing the games he loves.

Derek has crammed more into his 86 years than most sportsmen you might care to meet.  He has lunched with Mick Jagger, met prime ministers and royalty, and has wined and dined stars of stage, screen as well as major sporting celebrities.

A member of Kent Cricket’s staff from 1949 through to a testimonial season in 1963 – in which he banked a deserved £4,000 – he also graced The Valley from 1949 to 1960.

In 1953, Ufton did ‘the walk’ – the term professional footballers use for winning an England cap at Wembley – which he achieved against The Rest of Europe in front of 100,000 in a match to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the FA. He played alongside legends like Billy Wright, Alf Ramsey, Nat Lofthouse, Stan Mortensen, Stanley Matthews and Gil Merrick in a 4-4 draw.

Ufton also featured in Charlton’s most famous match, the 1957 clash against Huddersfield Town at The Valley that ended in a 7-6 home win. Charlton, reduced to 10 men after Derek went off with a dislocated shoulder, and soon 5-1 down, fought back to win, but not before Ufton had tried to discharge himself from hospital, albeit unsuccessfully, in order to play the second half.

Derek somehow found time to play cricket and soccer while serving in the Army and then, in later life, to take on administrative roles, thus creating his own unique legacy by ensuring that the clubs he graced as a player were handsomely repaid with unstinting, behind-the-scenes service.

At Kent, he was co-opted onto the general committee in 1975 and acted as chairman of cricket for almost a decade [1991-2000], only retiring to become the club’s president in 2001. As for the Addicks, he served on Charlton’s board of directors for 25 years from 1984 to 2009 and still attends most home games.

Ufton also managed Plymouth Argyle [1965-68], having taken over the reins from his life-long friend Malcolm Allison, and has spent the last 40-odd years working in London’s casino and hospitality industry.

With an amazing memory and a seemingly endless list of anecdotes, it is safe to say that sport in Kent will never see the likes of Derek Ufton again.

By Mark Pennell – ECB Reporters’ Network

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