Grayson boys bridge the sporting divide

Leeds United manager Simon Grayson
Leeds United manager Simon Grayson
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FOOTBALL is littered with brothers who played the game professionally.

Jack and Bobby Charlton are perhaps the most famous in this country after helping England to World Cup glory in 1966. But other siblings to have carved out a career include the Nevilles, the Laudrups, the De Boers and the Wallaces, who stand out because Danny, Ray and Rod all turned professional.

Cricket has been similarly blessed with famous brothers, the Waugh twins heading the list for the manner in which they helped Australia to dominance in the Nineties.

What has not happened too often down the years, however, is one brother enjoying a successful career as a cricketer and the other as a footballer. Mike and Steve Gatting did it. So did Simon and Paul Grayson.

But what makes the Graysons, who grew up in Bedale, unique is that after playing their respective sports, both men moved into coaching and are still there with Paul head coach of Essex and Simon at Preston North End.

“I can’t imagine there are many brothers who have done what we have,” said Simon to The Yorkshire Post ahead of his side taking on Rotherham United this tea-time in the League One play-offs.

“Especially with us going into management and coaching after our playing careers. I can’t think of anyone else doing that. The funny thing is we were both into cricket and football when we were kids.

“I played for Yorkshire Schools at cricket up until I was 16. People said I had half a chance of making it but whereas Paul’s love was always cricket, mine was always football.

“That’s probably why we made the choices we did. Mind, having seen us play, some might have said we both made the wrong choice!”

The Graysons’ love of sport came from dad Adrian, whose contribution to cricket in North Yorkshire was recognised a couple of years ago in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List when he was awarded the British Empire Medal.

Separated by 15 months, Simon, the eldest, was an apprentice at Leeds United and went on to play in the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City. He then moved into management with Blackpool before steering both Leeds and Huddersfield Town to promotion from League One.

Paul, who started his career at Headingley with Yorkshire before moving to Essex, is unlikely to be at Deepdale due to needing to prepare for next week’s one-day clash with Sri Lanka in Chelmsford. But Simon knows his younger brother will be cheering him on – even if, when the pair were younger, they liked nothing more than to tease the other.

“There has been plenty of banter down the years,” admits the former Leeds United manager. “I’d get a red card or score an own goal and knew straight away who would be the first to get in touch to take the mickey.

“Same if Paul got a duck. Or, even better, was out first ball. I’d be straight on the phone then. It probably came from how competitive we were as kids, even though eventually we chose different sports.

“Beneath all that, though, we are very proud of each other. Paul got an international cap in one-day cricket and that made everyone in the family so proud. What an achievement to play for your own country.

“I would say that made all those broken windows at home worth it but I doubt mum and dad would agree, as they are still paying for the repairs. And I do believe that competition spurred us both on, whatever sport we were playing.

“I did really enjoy my cricket but I think a lot of that was because I didn’t take it too seriously at the back end of my time playing. By 11 or 12, I knew football was for me and so I saw cricket as a bit of a release.

“Paul was the opposite, he was desperate to become a cricketer and maybe felt that bit more pressure.

“The big difference between us was that where I loved a tackle but didn’t much enjoy a cricket ball being pinged around my head at 80mph, Paul preferred it the other way round.

“He wasn’t a physical footballer at all. He didn’t like tackling, or so I always told him. But he was brave as a lion when facing a fast bowler. Me? I loved even a 40-60 tackle but someone rapping a cricket ball round my eyes was not for me.”

Paul spent five years with his native county before joining Essex in 1995.

He retired 10 years later, having scored 8,655 runs at an average of 31.7 and taken 136 wickets. His England debut came in 2000 against South Africa.

Like Simon, Paul could have gone into football after having trials with Middlesbrough and Leeds. But he chose cricket and was in the same junior side as Darren Gough, who would later be best man at his wedding.

“Me and Paul were probably proudest when dad got his British Empire Medal,” said Simon. “It was fully deserved because he has helped so many juniors through. Lads like Goughy and Joe Root, he coached them all.”

This tea-time, Simon will look to move a step closer to a fourth promotion from League One as a manager, he also led Blackpool up in 2007 before doing the same with Leeds (2010) and Huddersfield (2012). His success underlines why the decision he made to focus on football as a teenager rather than cricket was sound.

Ditto Paul and cricket, with the 43-year-old having steered Essex to the Friends Provident Trophy and the Pro40 League in 2008, while also reaching T20 Finals Day. The county also won promotion to Division One of the County Championship in 2009 but were relegated after just one year. Essex currently sit third in Division Two.

Simon said: “Paul always says I took the best route because there is more money in football. He understands also, though, that there is probably a bit more pressure in football because of how fans can be and how the spotlight is always on you.

“He also knows it is a lot easier to lose your job in football – as I’ve proved several times!

“That said, cricket coaching is much harder to get into and keep your job. There are 92 teams in the Premier and Football League, yet just 18 counties in cricket.

“There is only a limited number of jobs out there, as a result. And those in the jobs are under pressure to keep hold of them.

“We are there for each other and have many conversations about how we would deal with scenarios that have cropped up in both our careers. I will ask for advice because Paul understands what players – footballers or cricketers – are like. And how he would deal with x, y, z.

“I hope he feels he can do the same with me.”