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Regional sports writer chronicles cricket ‘civil war’

Wars of the White RosesThe story of a “civil war” at one of England’s most illustrious cricketing counties has been told in a regional daily journalist’s new book.

Stuart Rayner has penned The War of the White Roses, which chronicles Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 1968 and 1986.

The book looks at the damage done by 18 years of infighting centred on one of Yorkshire and England’s most brilliant but most divisive players, Geoffrey Boycott.

Stuart covers cricket for NCJ Media – which includes Newcastle-based titles The Chronicle, The Journal and the Sunday Sun.

The Journal and Sunday Sun landed the Regional Newspaper of the Year accolade at the England and Wales Cricket Board’s fifth annual County Cricket Journalism Awards in December, with Stuart’s coverage of Durham CCC cited among the reasons for the award.

Stuart was inspired to write the book after reading the diary of Yorkshire’s 1984 season by wicketkeeper David Bairstow, the late father of current England player Jonny Bairstow.

Said Stuart: “I wanted to learn more about that period in the county’s history. When I could not find a book written from a neutral perspective, I decided to write one myself.

“The book starts in 1968, when Yorkshire were the dominant force in English cricket. In the last couple of years they have regained that position, but in between time there were probably more highs than lows.”

Many of the former players, supporters and committeemen Stuart approached for interviews were reluctant, not wanting to rake up the past.

Fortunately some, including Boycott himself, were more willing.

He added: “The period from 1968 to Boycott’s retirement in 1986 saw some extraordinary infighting and some ridiculous incidents as the club tore itself apart. It was a difficult period for everyone involved, so I have tried to handle it with sensitivity and fairness. I hope that comes across.

“Not everyone I spoke to about it thought it was a great idea, but stubbornness is one of the themes of the story, and once I got the idea in my head, I decided to try and go ahead.

“I’m very grateful to Pitch Publishing for giving me the opportunity. Some people suggested I write a book on Durham cricket, but I preferred to do something that was not an extension of my day job.”

Stuart has worked for NCJ Media since February 2005, and worked as a sports sub-editor on the Liverpool Echo for six years prior to that.

The Wars of the White Roses, release next month, is his first book.

He said: “I’ve been very lucky to have the support of some great friends and family. Paul Cunningham and Rich Neale, two excellent subs, have helped me with the final draft and I’ve had fantastic assistance from David Warner – president of the Cricket Writers’ Club, who reported on Yorkshire at the time – and Chris Waters, the Yorkshire Post’s cricket correspondent who kindly wrote the foreword.

“I was also fortunate NCJ Media allowed me to take a sabbatical to finish off the final draft during the last three months of 2015.

“It’s been two years of hard work but really enjoyable to do. If anyone actually enjoys reading it, that’s just a bonus.”

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  • January 21, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Terrific subject for a book and a story that deserves to be told – I will certainly be buying a copy!

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