With 23 Tests for England and a member of the national squad for the 1950 World Cup, Willie Watson was perhaps the greatest footballer among Test cricketers.
His 109 at Lord’s against Lindsay Hassett’s Austrlians in 1953 has gone down as a landmark innings. A few months later he scored 116 against West Indies at Kingston, adding 130 for the first wicket with captain Len Hutton.
On the field he was electric, bringing off saves that left all breathless but him.
However, before all that he was a formidable wing-half. Before The War, he had played 11 times for Huddersfield Town in 1938-39. In the summer of 1939 he had also made his cricket debut for Yorkshire.
Originally an inside-forward, Watson became a wing-half after the War when he signed for Sunderland in 1946. By then, he also showed signs of blossoming into a dependable and attractive left-handed middle-order batsman.
For Sunderland he played for eight years, and represented them 211 times. He scored 16 field goals and one more off a penalty kick. In November 1949, Watson made his debut for the England football team as Northern Ireland were defeated by a huge 9-2 margin. The following year, he made it to Brazil as a part of the England World Cup squad. He was not fielded as a player, with the English think tank opting for a defensive rather than an attacking wing-half.
It was in November 1950 that Watson appeared for the England for the fourth and final time, playing in a friendly against Yugoslavia. It was only after his last appearance for the English football team that he made his Test debut against Dudley Nourse’s South Africans at Nottingham, scoring 57 in his first innings. His cricket career took over after that.
Willie Watson born March 7, 1920.