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John Simpson’s great-grandfather, Walter Gowers, played Rugby League for Rochdale Hornets and toured Australia, without playing, for Great Britain. John’s grandfather, Ken Gowers, played Rugby League too, for Swinton and Great Britain. His father, Jack, played lacrosse for Rochdale and England, and became a legendary figure in the Lancashire Cricket Leagues when playing for Ramsbottom and Haslingdon.

With genes like these it is hardly a surprise that John has excelled in the sporting world too. The only revelation is that he has made his career and name in St John’s Wood, London amongst, as Lancastrians may put it, the soft, posh southerners.

Despite such sporting pedigree, John’s journey to the top has been anything but privileged. As a teenager he was rejected by Lancashire and Nottinghamshire, and it was only the presence of Covid-19 that allowed him to win the three England caps he currently owns. John has had to work hard for all he has achieved in cricket, and that is one of the principle reasons why he thoroughly deserves this Testimonial year.

When I first became Middlesex’s Managing Director of Cricket in 2009 someone said to me: ‘Don’t be afraid of making mistakes; Alex Ferguson probably got onlyseven out of 10 of his decisions right at Manchester United, and he is regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time.’ I am pleased to say that selecting and supporting the development of a 20 year-old John Simpson, ahead of seasoned high-quality players like Ben Scott and David Nash, was one of the decisions I got right.

What impressed me about John was not only the natural gifts of catching and hitting a cricket ball; it was also his desire to improve. And it was with this in mind that I introduced him to Jack Russell, the best (but maddest) wicket-keeper I played with. The pair got on brilliantly from the moment they met and, undoubtedly, Jack’s advice, guidance and friendship allowed John to become one of the finest and most highly-regarded glovemen of his generation.

In another era wonderful hands and a batting average in the early 30’s would have been enough to regularly catch the eye of the England selectors, and John is genuinely unfortunate that his career has coincided with those of Johnny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes, three highly gifted cricketers. He would, however, have been a much wiser bet than a couple of others that have played a Test here or there.

During the 14 summers John has kept wicket for Middlesex he has played many match-winning innings for the club, and last season’s tally of 1,039 runs at an average of 65 highlights his ability with the bat. The principle reason why the players listed above have been selected for England ahead of John has been their batting but who knows what might happen this summer if John can perform as he did in 2022 and an unexpected injury or two comes along?

That John has played for England and, as importantly, looked totally at home when he did was something everybody at Middlesex, along with thousands of wicket-keeper devotees, would have been chuffed to bits with. Within five minutes of John walking on the field as an international cricketer he was drawn into the game with an LBW shout England wanted to review. On his input Ben Stokes reviewed and it proved to be the correct decision. Along with this he also took nine catches and kept immaculately.

The volume of first-class cricket currently played makes it impossible for a modern player to get close to the figures of those of yesteryear. John, however, will get as close to the top as any of the current group. He already sits in sixth place in Middlesex’s all-time list for dismissals and has a very good chance of taking the fourth spot in the next year or two. And when you consider his batting average is appreciably higher than Murray, Price, Murrell, Compton and Downton you begin to fully realise what a high-quality player he is.

Middlesex have been very lucky to have J.A.Simpson – Middlesex CCC & England, and this Testimonial year is a fitting opportunity for cricket lovers to show their appreciation for a loyal and fine cricketer.