Cider & Rosey

Brian Rose is the man that Alec Stewart calls ‘Mr Somerset’.

One of the most endearing images I hold from my childhood days watching Somerset County Cricket Club was the sight of our two ‘blond bombshells’ walking out to open the batting in an era before the wearing of helmets became mandatory. Brian Rose – the captain of the crew – strolling out to the middle with partner-in-crime Peter ‘Dasher’ Denning.

1976 – when I first became a regular at Somerset games – was a different time and era for our club. In fact it was an entirely different game to the one we acknowledge today. Ian Botham (now a Sir, of course) said in the foreword of Vic Marks’ book Somerset County Cricket Scrapbook that when he joined Somerset the club was “neither fashionable nor successful.” He went on to add: “Being unfashionable never bothered me, but being unsuccessful has always been painful.”

Somerset was a club desperate for success after a century of underachievement; a club previously merely happy to survive. The arrival of Brian Close helped change this mentality, as he literally took the club by the throat and set the vision for us to win games having tasted many glories at Yorkshire. But when he left Somerset at the end of 1977 his replacement as captain needed to be the right choice; a leader who could take Closey’s vision and drive it forward.

Vic Marks says now that, on reflection, Rosey was always the right man for the job but his choice as captain was less obvious back in 1978. Quiet, studious, unassuming – Brian was someone who kept himself to himself and was certainly not an extrovert. Could he successfully lead a dressing room full of such colourful characters? The answer became emphatic. Yes he could and Rosey did.

Sometimes you know of people who you believe to have a story worth telling but, strangely, they don’t always want to. Too modest to believe there is anything extraordinary about their life and achievements. Too shy. Too cautious. I am told Brian is one of these people.

It was the highly-esteemed cricket writer Scyld Berry who deliberated with local publisher Stephen Chalke that someone should tell Rosey’s story. It would, he said, “offer the most fascinating and detailed insight into Somerset County Cricket Club over the past 50 years.” Stephen agreed. Brian didn’t. It was only when cricket commentator, author and lifelong Somerset supporter Anthony Gibson was asked to become involved that Brian agreed to sit down and document his memories of Somerset cricket.

And I for one am so glad he did. It is most definitely a tale well worth telling.

Brian Rose remains Somerset’s most successful ever captain leading the county to its first ever trophy successes in 1979, and three more followed under his tutelage from 1981 to 1983. And he played under Ian Botham when the John Player League was won in 1985. He managed a dressing room of huge characters – most notably the big three of Botham, Richards and Garner – and earned and retained their utmost respect.

He was a classy left-handed batsman for the county, capable of scoring over 13,000 first-class runs, including 25 centuries and 53 fifties. He played in nine Test Matches for England, most frequently against the fiery West Indian pace attack, against whom he scored 243 runs at 48.60. And he should have played many more.

After retiring from the first-class game he retained contact with his beloved Somerset. He returned and once again enjoyed great success, initially as Chairman of Cricket and then Director of Cricket. During that time the club enjoyed some fantastic times on the pitch. He is now the Club President.

As a captain and DoC he never shied away from making difficult, sometimes controversial and often unpopular decisions if he believed they were made in the best interests of Somerset CCC.

His ongoing and lasting legacy will be that played a major part in the development of the club’s now highly successful academy, one that produces international cricketers and augers well for future success for Somerset. His vision was always that Somerset should produce local talent. Rosey cast the net, he built up his contacts and made sure that Somerset had first option on all the best local youngsters. Daz Veness once said to me in an interview: “If there was a 13-year old in Seaton with ability then Rosey knew all about him!”

Now Fairfield Books have published Rosey: My Life in Somerset Cricket about the life and career of Brian Rose and it is a book that promises much from the second you pick it up and, I am delighted to say, it doesn’t disappoint. It is a must read for all cricket fans.

Brian Rose is Somerset through-and-through. In fact one of the first myths he puts right is that he is often referred to as a man of Kent. He is not. It is factually correct to say he was born in Dartford but his family were passing through and he was born earlier than expected so, apart from a few weeks there after birth, he was raised in Weston-super-Mare and is proud to be called a Weston boy.

Rosey is indeed well-placed to offer a unique insight into Somerset CCC, the club he joined fifty years ago in 1969 and played initially under Brian Langford. His wasn’t a particularly happy start as a professional cricketer, with some suggesting he was thrown in a bit early, but he overcame this initial disappointment to forge an excellent career.

Growing up as part of a military family, he recites his admiration of Closey, the man he calls a “one off” as a cricketer and a man. He tells us how he kept the dressing room in check, including the aforementioned Richards, Garner and Botham, the latter a man he says was “not easy to captain.”

There is the controversy of “that” declaration at Worcester – undoubtedly the primary reason why Rosey didn’t wear the Three Lions on more occasions. The joy of the cider county finally winning trophies thereby making Somerset arguably the most glamorous side in the country. They were certainly the most televised and talked about.

But it wasn’t all champagne and chocolates. There is the descent of the team (and club) after the glory years, and the internal rows that descended into the so-called Battle of Shepton Mallet.

There is so much to this book and far too much to summarise. And it is all told with honesty and intellect. I am so glad he was persuaded to share his life with us all. In many ways it is a tribute to his time with Somerset. A testament to so many achievements. A chance for those that were there – like me – to fondly recall those halcyon days. And for those that weren’t to truly understand how Rosey played an integral part in changing the fortunes of his home county’s cricket club, both as a player and official.

I may be showing a little bias here. I can’t deny that Brian Rose remains a hero of mine. He always will be. There’s only two occasions when I have been so star struck that I was left speechless. The first time was when Ian Botham signed my copy of his book in Yeovil in 1994. The second time was last Thursday when Brian Rose did the same at his book launch.

The future for Somerset County Cricket Club looks incredibly bright and the supporters of our great club will be grateful to Brian Rose for that and not just for an incredible period in our club’s past. Very grateful indeed.

Brian Rose is the man that Alec Stewart calls ‘Mr Somerset’. He most certainly is.

Rosey: My Life in Somerset Cricket is published by Fairfield Books and available for £16 from Somerset County Sports and the publisher direct: