Saturday Interview: ‘Mr Yorkshire’ so proud to take centre stage

GOBSMACKED That was the reaction from David Ryder, left, after his special presentation from Yorkshire County Cricket Club chief executive Mark Arthur, right. Picture: SW Pix
GOBSMACKED That was the reaction from David Ryder, left, after his special presentation from Yorkshire County Cricket Club chief executive Mark Arthur, right. Picture: SW Pix
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OF all the awards handed out at Yorkshire’s end-of-season dinner, none was more deserving than that given to an unsung hero behind the scenes.

David Ryder joined Yorkshire in 1975, the year that first-team coach Jason Gillespie was born.

“Everyone was stubborn and entrenched in their own set views.”

David Ryder, looking back on the time when Geoffrey Boycott polarised opinion at Yorkshire CCC

In front of 700 guests at Elland Road football ground, where Yorkshire celebrated their latest Championship title, Ryder’s contribution was acknowledged with a special award for 40 years’ service.

“It was a very proud moment – even more so because it was a complete surprise,” says Ryder, who has served as assistant secretary, secretary, financial controller, operations director and now, after taking semi-retirement, operations consultant.

“I knew the club was going to do a presentation to Ryan Sidebottom for his achievement in taking 700 first-class wickets, so when (chief executive) Mark Arthur got up on stage and said ‘Right, we’ve got two presentations for you’, I was thinking, ‘What the hell’s the second one?’

“I thought it must have been another player award or something, or one to Dicke Bird for his two years as president.

“So I was gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked, very proud and a bit emotional.”

Ryder, 65 next April, has given his life to Yorkshire.

The sobriquet “Mr Yorkshire” could well be applied, for what he does not know about the club could be written on the back of a cricket ball.

Born in Leeds, Ryder attended Temple Moor grammar school before training as an accountant with West Yorkshire firm Armitage & Norton.

One day he saw an advert for the assistant secretary’s position at Yorkshire and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I’d always played sport – cricket, rugby and football – and saw this job advertised in the paper and it was as simple as that,” he recalls.

“The job was mainly financial, which absolutely fitted with my accountancy background, and I worked as assistant to club secretary Joe Lister.

“Back then, it was a very simple operation – there were only four full-time office staff.

“We didn’t really do any commercial stuff, and it was just a case of putting the matches on, paying the players and looking after the membership and admin side of it.”

When Lister died in 1991, Ryder became secretary.

He was only the fifth secretary since the club’s formation in 1863, and he held the position until 2002 when a new board took over led by current England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves.

“When Mr Lister died, I got made secretary, but it wasn’t quite the same position,” says Ryder.

“Until then, the secretary had been the No 1 man at the club, but that’s when they created the chief exec role and brought things up to date a bit.

“Mr Lister was quite a character, a bit gruff, and he used to shout at the players and call them by their surnames, which is just the way it was back then.

“Looking back, you laugh about it now – you couldn’t imagine Mark Arthur shouting down the office, ‘Ryder’, or whatever –but Mr Lister was always good to me because he worked Saturdays so that I could play league cricket, and I was always very grateful to him for that.”

Ryder represented Colton as a wicketkeeper-batsman for 45 years.

“Nowadays I play for Thorp Arch and Boston Spa because they play 40-over games, which is a bit easier on the limbs,” he says.

“One of the first times I met Geoffrey (Boycott) he said, ‘What do you do?’ and I said, ‘I’m a wicketkeeper-batsman’.

“Geoffrey said, ‘No, wicketkeepers aren’t batsmen, they’re all sloggers!’”

Ryder’s time at Yorkshire coincided with the Boycott troubles, when the club made front as well as back page headlines.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Headingley was a hotbed of disputes and discord as Boycott polarised opinion.

“The early days after I joined Yorkshire weren’t easy because there were a lot of committee troubles, arguments about Boycott and the captaincy, and all that sort of stuff going on in the background,” says Ryder.

“We had a couple of special general meetings with votes of no-confidence in the committee and all sorts of silly stuff like that, and it took a long time for it all to settle down – probably the late 1980s.

“It shouldn’t happen, of course, but the people at Yorkshire are very proud and everyone thinks that their way of doing things is right.”

Looking back, Ryder is sad that the various parties could not have reached compromise.

“Half the committee were for Boycott, half were against him,” he says. “Everyone was stubborn and entrenched in their own set views.

“The old guard, some of the former players, didn’t like Boycott and that was it; for them, there was no compromise, and that was the saddest part to me, that people couldn’t sit down and have a sensible conversation about it all.”

To say the Yorkshire of 2015 is a world away from those years is an understatement.

Ryder says he has never known a happier ship during his four decades at the club.

“We’ve got a good board, a good chairman, a good chief exec - Mark Arthur is the best one I’ve worked for,” he says.

“He frees up everybody to get on with their job, and it’s much more of a modern approach.

“The office staff feel more part of the club nowadays, and there’s more interaction between them and the players and coaches.

“There’s definitely more of a family feel.”

Ryder, who plans to stay on until 2019 to help oversee the construction of the new Football Stand, has accumulated a wealth of happy memories.

“Winning the Benson and Hedges Cup at Lord’s in 1987 was special,” he remembers.

“When it got to the last few overs and it got tight, I just couldn’t watch any more, and I ended up hiding behind the back of the pavilion somewhere on the concourse, which is silly, I know, but when you’re close to it, you feel it more.

“Also, whatever people say about Geoffrey, that 100th hundred (at Headingley in 1977) was an incredible day.

“With health and safety these days, you’d never have got that many people into the ground – you’d have been hung, drawn and quartered.”

Ryder also picks out Headingley ’81 as a highlight, when Ian Botham and Bob Willis inspired one of the greatest turnaround wins of all time.

“The last day of that match started with maybe a couple of thousand people in the ground, and even though there was nothing like Twitter or Facebook, somehow word of mouth got round and the crowd just grew and grew,” he says.

“Afterwards, there was a great celebration in the England dressing room.

“The place was a bit of a mess, in all honesty, but if you pull off a result like that, you’re entitled to let your hair down a bit.”

The David Ryder story ...

BORN in Leeds, and with cricket running through his veins, David Ryder considers himself a lucky man to have spent four decades working for Yorkshire CCC.

He has overseen everything from ground developments and major matches down to fixture scheduling and umpires’ lunches; if there is a job at Yorkshire that needed to be done, it is a fair bet that Ryder has done it.

Ryder has served as assistant secretary, secretary, financial controller, operations director and now as part-time operations consultant.

He is a highly respected and popular figure.