Ron Tindall: Chelsea footballer who also played cricket for Surrey
His most prolific partnership was with Jimmy Greaves; together they scored 59 goals in 1960-61
Saturday 15 September 2012
Ron Tindall was one of that rare breed of sportsmen – extinct on the modern scene – talented enough to make a living at both football and cricket Though not quite star material at either game, he graced Chelsea in particular as a dashing, engagingly selfless centre-forward, and Surrey as a proficient all-rounder, his aggressive batting perhaps marginally more impressive than his tidy off-spin bowling. There was valued winter service, too, for West Ham United and Reading, both briefly, and Portsmouth, where the versatile south Londoner excelled as a full-back until he retired as a player in 1970 ahead of a stint as Fratton Park manager.
Tindall commenced his football career first, leaving non-League Camberley to sign as a professional at Stamford Bridge in April 1953, marking his senior debut at home to West Bromwich Albion in November 1955 with a goal. Though reigning champions, Ted Drake's men were enduring a surprisingly lacklustre campaign in the lower reaches of the top flight, but Tindall looked promising alongside the stylish but ageing Roy Bentley. With the veteran departing early in the next term, the energetic rookie secured a near-regular place but it was in 1957-58, when he was selected for the Football League against the League of Ireland, that he formed the most prolific partnership of his life, with the prodigiously gifted and even younger Jimmy Greaves.
While it was the new-found genius – for once, the description is appropriate – who monopolised the headlines, Tindall proved an admirable foil with his willingness to make endless decoy runs, his flicks and nod-downs on which Greaves capitalised so often, and his own ability to locate the net. Tindall was particularly effective in the air, expert at converting precision deliveries from the wingers Peter Brabrook and Frank Blunstone, and while he was anything but elegant, he was a doughty battler capable of shielding the ball under fierce challenge before bringing his team-mates into play.
While holding off bids for his place from Les Allen and Charlie Livesey, he registered double figures in three seasons out of four, culminating in 1960-61, when he and Greaves totalled 59 goals between them, 43 for Greaves and 16 for Tindall. Most of the time, however, Chelsea were toiling in the wrong half of the table, and when Drake, the centre-forward's mentor, was sacked in 1961 and replaced by Tommy Docherty, Tindall's time was up. Though Greaves had joined Milan, a decision he soon regretted, the new manager was enamoured, understandably enough, with the up-and-coming Bobby Tambling and Barry Bridges, and in November Tindall was dispatched to West Ham in exchange for wing-half Andy Malcolm, having contributed 70 goals in 174 senior games.
He didn't settle at Upton Park, nor at Third Division Reading, to whom he switched in October 1962, but prospered anew at Portsmouth of the second tier, where he alighted in September 1964. However, he didn't last long as a spearhead, finding goals exceedingly hard to come by, but as a left-back, to which he was converted by manager George Smith. Tindall had always been adaptable – in his Chelsea days he had even figured as an emergency goalkeeper – and now he became a bulwark of the Pompey rearguard until the end of the decade.
Meanwhile, since making his first-class entrance with Surrey in 1956, his cricket career had been flourishing, too, sometimes with his football employers making generous dispensation for him to miss training sessions, even occasional matches, in spring and late summer. It wasn't until 1960, when a Surrey side which had dominated the 1950s with seven titles in succession was breaking up and a period of transition began, that Tindall claimed a regular place as a solid middle-order batsman and an intelligent bowler.
In 1962, when he became the club's principal off-break exponent following the retirement of Eric Bedser, he claimed 66 wickets, his best seasonal return, and was awarded his county cap. As a batsman he scored 1,000 runs only once, in 1963, and managed only two centuries, his best being that year's unbeaten 109 against Nottinghamshire at the Oval.
Tindall's position was weakened considerably by the emergence of the precocious teenage spinner Pat Pocock in 1964 and he left the staff in 1966, having contributed 5,446 runs (average 24.86) and 150 wickets (at 32.28) in 172 first-class games. In one-day cricket, still a novelty at the time, he is best remembered for top-scoring with 57 in the Gillette Cup final of 1965, when a Geoff Boycott-inspired Yorkshire drubbed Surrey by 175 runs.
Back on the football front, Tindall succeeded George Smith as Portsmouth manager in 1970, but with cash already tight, a mounting overdraft and a tiny senior squad, he could not lift the club into the division's top half. In 1973 he moved "upstairs" to become general manager, with his former Chelsea comrade John Mortimore taking over team affairs. When Mortimore was sacked in 1974, Tindall presided as caretaker over three defeats until the arrival of Ian St John.
After that Tindall ran a golf club before emigrating to Australia, where he enjoyed success as Western Australia's director of football coaching between 1977 and 1987, doing much to popularise the game there. As a result he received the Order of Australia Medal in 2008, and three years later the Western Australia Coach of the Year award was renamed the Ron Tindall Medal.
Ronald Albert Ernest Tindall, footballer and cricketer: born Streatham, London 23 September 1935; played football for Chelsea 1953-61, West Ham United 1961-62, Reading 1962-64, Portsmouth 1964-70; managed Portsmouth 1970-73; played cricket for Surrey 1956-66; died Perth, Western Australia 9 September 2012.
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