LISTEN: Being England captain was the greatest time in my life

IN its own special way, the song Cum By Yah gives an indication of just how idolised Michael Vaughan was at the height of his powers. The tune was adopted by the Barmy Army, the England cricket team's most vocal supporters, in praise of the then England captain.

The tune was adopted by the Barmy Army, the England cricket team's most vocal supporters, in praise of the then England captain.

The words were changed from "Cum By Yah, my lord", to "Michael Vaughan, my Lord, Michael Vaughan" and they rang endlessly around the cricket grounds of Britain in 2005.

Such was the magnitude of Vaughan's achievement that year, that to many cricket fans deification seemed an utterly appropriate response.

The summer of 2005 was the apotheosis of Vaughan and his England cricket team. After 18 years of permanent residence in the hands of the old enemy, the Ashes – the little urn that England and Australia compete for every two years – were finally coming home.

And the triumph had been masterminded by Michael Paul Vaughan.

In Time to Declare, published by Hodder and Stoughton today, Vaughan opens his heart – his diaries, his inner turmoil, his fears – in a searingly honest autobiography.

Vaughan holds nothing back in revealing the difficulty of his relationship with England coach Peter Moores, the challenge of captaining mercurial talents like Freddie Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, the heartaches of raising a young family while travelling the world – and of how he led his charges to regain the Ashes. "I was just being myself in the book and that means being honest. I have been honest throughout my career, " he says.

Throughout the book, Vaughan is open about his thoughts and feelings during a playing career which saw him become the first non-Yorkshire born cricketer to represent the White Rose, to the heights of the England captain.

It starts with the countdown to a tearful farewell at a press conference on August 3, 2008, when Vaughan announced to the world's media that he would no longer be the captain of England, a role he describes in his book several times as "the best job in the world".

Vaughan reveals that he wrote in his diary that day: "Cried all morning. First to Nichola (Vaughan's wife)... Then to my dad. Very emotional, not because I wasn't sure but because I was relieved it was ending."

Vaughan came in for some criticism in the media for blubbing following the teary announcement, but anyone reading his book will be left in no doubt that the pressure the England captain was under fully justified those tears.

The book takes in Vaughan's childhood when he writes for the first time about a serious road accident when he was a six-year- old in Manchester. A car knocked him over and he spent time with his left leg in a cast, a harbinger of things to come, when his career was ended by a persistent knee problem.

He also writes about how his cricket education proper only began when he moved to Dore, near Sheffield, from his birthplace in Lancashire. Vaughan followed his brother David to Sheffield Collegiate, the cricket team where he earned an impressive reputation and learnt much about the game. Living less than a mile away from Abbeydale Park, where Yorkshire played some fixtures, also meant Vaughan had an early taste of first-class cricket.

He recounts a story of playing on the outfield at a Yorkshire match and being spotted by the first-team coach. He also laments the fact that the practice of boys playing on the outfields of first-class grounds during breaks in play is no more.

"I remember I was a schoolkid and playing on the outfield with my mates, " he says. "Doug Padgett saw me playing and called me over. He asked for my name and address and Joe Lister (then Yorkshire secretary) rang my dad. He talked for a bit and my dad said: "You do realise he wasn't born in Yorkshire, don't you?" and Joe put the phone down."

"Thankfully they changed the rules."

While many of those buying Vaughan's book today will want to read of the fame, fortune and cricket that was played on the international stage, there are plenty in the Broad Acres who will be just as fascinated by Vaughan's stories of involvement with the Yorkshire set up.

They may also be interested to learn of certain nefarious deeds committed by men wearing red roses on their chests.

"I had one trial at Lancashire. I was 14 and Yorkshire still only allowed people born within the county to play for them, and they never showed any interest, " says Vaughan.

"It was only during my career when I was actually playing for Yorkshire that Lancashire tried, on a number of occasions, to persuade me to go back over the Pennines to play for them."

This is not a story Vaughan reveals in the book.

"I never felt it was right. I felt very much a Yorkshire person and very much adopted by the White Rose. I learnt all my cricket playing for the Yorkshire schoolboys.

"As much as I was born in Manchester, and a lot of people over that side of the Pennines like to think I'm one of them, I do very much feel a Yorkshire person."

That puts to bed a discussion which has long raged over Vaughan's career. Having been born in Lancashire, the question of his loyalties has hitherto never been fully settled.

Following the abandoned telephone call between Vaughan senior and Joe Lister, there were behind the scenes changes at Headingley. It led, on June 28, 1991, the day he signed for the White Rose, to Vaughan becoming, as he puts it in the book, "a Yorkshireman".

He writes like one. There are no holds barred in the book, in which he criticises Yorkshire legends Geoff Boycott and Ray Illingworth.

Did he not worry about sharing so many opinions, particularly about someone like Boycott who is never backwards about coming forwards with his own opinions?

"They (Boycott and Illingworth) give enough people a hard time. I respect them, but at times they haven't treated myself and some of the players who are playing the game today and in the Yorkshire set up, with the respect that they should have. I wanted to give an honest assessment of that."

Even when on international duty, Vaughan has remained connected to the club which first spotted his potential.

"You're connected if you want to be. I was very passionate about playing for Yorkshire and felt every right to be in that changing room when I was there, " he says.

Although he did slip back into the Yorkshire set up with ease, it could have been harder given that Vaughan's life changed when he took over as England captain, and it changed beyond all recognition in 2005, when cricket took its place in the nation's bosom.

"It was at Old Trafford when 20,000 people were locked out on the last day, that hit home to us all that this series was different to any other, " says Vaughan.

"Media requests were coming from people we'd never heard of and we were all becoming a lot more recognised. It was very pressurised and stressful but great at the same time that the whole country was becoming interested in cricket."

The fallout from the series win was that this group of cricketers gained the kind of fame normally only afforded to footballers.

"It was strange, but it was great, I wouldn't change it. It happened so fast, we had to cope with it very quickly, the fact that we became household names and recognisable in the street. It changed the lives of all the team – and not always for the better."

The summer was the top of the mountain for Vaughan's England team. Since then it has been beset by injury and controversy, none of which Vaughan shies away from in his book, even writing about the now infamous "Fredalo" incident when Andrew Flintoff was found splashing about in the sea in the early hours.

That came at the end of the Ashes campaign in 2007 in Australia when Flintoff temporarily took over from Vaughan as England captain while the Yorkshireman was injured. The series ended with Australia reclaiming the Ashes in a 5-0 whitewash. Vaughan could only stand by and watch from the sidelines.

Vaughan is clear that captaincy is an individual talent and that each captain has to lead the team in his own way. He says: "That's why captaincy and cricket is a wonderful game because there's no right way to do it."

In the book Vaughan also goes through the team who won the Ashes, rating each player – some harshly, others less so.

"Rating the players was honest and most of it was very positive. There's nothing I regret, we had a wonderful spirit and world-class players – all of them are still my mates and we talk regularly, " he says.

At the end of his playing career, with time to reflect, Vaughan is also clear that he left the game with one piece of business which will always remain unfinished.

He says: "If I have one regret it's not having the chance of going Down Under and captaining the team in a series down there and winning the Ashes."

Despite his umbilical connection to the county club he considers home, Vaughan is still clear in his mind where he would be playing today, were it not for the knee injury which cut short a glittering career.

"Being the captain of England for five and a half years was the greatest time in my life. Would I be England captain tomorrow if I was asked? Of course I would."

Michael Vaughan, Time to Declare, My Autobiography, is published by Hodder and Stoughton today. 19.99. Click here to order a copy from the Yorkshire Post bookshop>>

Vaughan will be signing copies at Borders, Bristall, at 6pm on November 2 and at Borders, Leeds at 12.30pm on November 3.

He will also be at the Carnegie Sporting Words Festival, a day-long celebration of sport and sporting writing and journalism, which is taking place on Saturday 14th November at Headingley Carnegie Stadium. For details see

www.sportingwords.com