Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Worcs And West Ham Player Standen – A Genuine Sporting ‘superstar’

Worcs And West Ham Player Standen – A Genuine Sporting ‘superstar’

The description 'superstar' is often mis-used but there is no doubt it would apply to Jim Standen if his incredible achievement of 1964 – at cricket and football – was repeated in today's media driven world of endless TV cameras.

Standen has celebrated his 80th birthday this year and it seems an appropriate landmark to recall his heroics with Worcestershire and West Ham United.

Apart from the occasional magazine feature, or a look back piece on the Hammers website, his heroics of more than half a century ago have largely disappeared into the mists of time.

Standen did not even warrant a mention when the annual BBC Sports Personality Of The Year awards for 1964 were staged.

Today he would be on a par with the likes of David Beckham and Kevin Pietersen in terms of his media and TV status after what he achieved.

Imagine if the crowded sporting schedule allowed England goalkeeper Joe Hart to also open the bowling in county cricket or for England wicket-keeper Jos Buttler to play upfront in the Premier League – and win trophies at both sports.

That is what Standen achieved at the height of Beatlemania in 1964, lifting the FA Cup as West Ham keeper and then topping the national bowling averages and winning the County Championship with Worcestershire.

Twelve months later Standen was in goal when the Hammers won the European Cup Winners Cup, defeating Munich 1860 at Wembley, and Worcestershire retained the Championship although increasing football commitments meant he only made one appearance that summer.

But it was the previous summer for which Standen will be most fondly remembered.

He had already turned down the chance to be part of the first Gillette Cup final in 1963 against Sussex in September to play for West Ham and at the end of that season his club, including future World Cup winners Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst, defeated Preston 3-2 in the FA Cup final.

Standen then linked up with Worcestershire and, with Jack Flavell and Len Coldwell called up by England to face Australia, his right arm seamers brought him 52 wickets at 14.42 runs apiece and he played a key role in the first Championship pennant being secured at New Road.

His 6-45 against main title rivals Warwickshire in the match at Edgbaston was a major contribution to a crucial victory.

He ensured Worcestershire had the kind of strength in depth so vital for sustaining a Championship challenge over five months when international calls and injuries came into play.

Standen's goalkeeping skills also meant he was a crucial fielder who pulled off many fine catches close to the bat.

Born in Edmonton, London,Standen joined Arsenal in 1953 but made only 35 senior appearances in seven years as understudy to Jack Kelsey before moving to Luton where he was again predominantly a number two, to Ron Baynham.

But his big footballing opportunity came when he joined the Hammers in 1962 after Lawrie Leslie had broken his leg.

He was first choice keeper for the next five years, until Bobby Ferguson was signed from Kilmarnock for then a world record fee for a goalkeeperof £65,000.

Standen signed for Detroit Cougars and finally finishing his career at Millwall and later Portsmouth. In all, he made 236 appearances for the Hammers.

He joined Worcestershire in 1959 and three years later enjoyed his best ever season haul of 78 wickets as his County were agonisingly pipped for the title on the final day of the season by Yorkshire.

After the glory of 1964 and 1965, Standen continued to play for Worcestershire until he retired in 1970 with 313 first class wickets to his name.

The cricket-football baton was passed from Standen to Phil Neale who combined playing and skippering Worcestershire through another golden era with playing for Lincoln.

But to win major trophies like Standen did at the highest level in both sports is something, with the over-lapping schedule of cricket and football today, that will never happen again and his place in sporting history is surely worthy of greater recognition.