ARTHUR MILTON ; Arsenal Footballer and Gloucestershire Cricketer Who Was the Last of the Double Internationals

By Hodgson, Derek | The Independent (London, England), April 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
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ARTHUR MILTON ; Arsenal Footballer and Gloucestershire Cricketer Who Was the Last of the Double Internationals


Hodgson, Derek, The Independent (London, England)


In his time, the footballer and cricketer Arthur Milton was as big a name as Alan Ball, the IWorld Cup hero whose death preceded his by a few hours.

Milton played on the wing for Arsenal and England and opened the innings for Gloucestershire and England. As such he was the last of the double internationals and one of the few remaining sporting links with the Britain of Ealing comedies and the wireless, when radio commentators reported a goal as the delivery of the ball into the net and not as the advent of Armageddon. Perhaps Milton would have smiled at the extravagant comparisons being made between Ball's lifestyle and income and that of today's footballers. When Milton retired, he became a postman in the Cotswolds.

A West Country lad without pretension, Milton was fair, good- looking, and a sleek and easy mover. Inevitably a favourite of John Arlott, a lover of all things Wessex, Milton was described by him in July 1949 thus:

My "discovery" of the month is young Arthur Milton . . . who bears the stamp of a natural ball-games player - he is already on Arsenal's books as a footballer. He can use the ball neatly, can field outstandingly anywhere and looks a class batsman already.

Somerset-born, Milton attended Cotham Grammar School in Bristol and was soon attracting professional clubs. He became an Arsenal junior in July 1946 and, two years later, made his debut for Gloucestershire. As a batsman, he preferred to play off the back foot; he was careful and cautious, but he always had that distinction of the premier player-ample time to play his stroke.

Bryan "Bomber" Wells, a team-mate, told David Green in the latter's excellent The History of Gloucestershire County Cricket Club (1990) that he thought Milton "the fastest man I have ever seen on two legs in the cricket field and he took catches with the ease of Wally Hammond - a man with so much talent it was an embarrassment, yet most of his contemporaries would say he never used half of it".

Nevertheless, Milton scored consistently for the county, passing 1,000 runs for the season 16 times, and when England had a surfeit of excellent opening batsman, Milton was chosen to play against New Zealand at Headingley in 1958, where he opened the innings with another double international, Mike Smith, the Warwickshire and England rugby player. He then delighted the statisticians by becoming the first Gloucestershire player since W.G. Grace to score a century in his debut for England and the first English player to be on the field for the entire match, finishing 104 not out and seeing New Zealand bowled out for 67 and 129.

Such records did not save his place - the selectors were "trying out" openers for the forthcoming tour of Australia - but he was restored for the fifth Test of that series, making 36, and was included in the tour party.

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