Billy Cook, the Life of a Lancashire League Legend

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Cotton, Cricket and Football: Billy Cook, the Life of a Lancashire League Legend is the colourful story of one of Lancashire’s greatest sportsmen of the pre-war era, including insights from his daughter, a mill-worker in Burnley

Billy Cook played cricket in the golden era of ‘Gentlemen and Players’ but he was no gentleman. He played to win and he played for money – the money generated by the cotton mills of Lancashire.

Billy played with and against some of the legends of the time, including Syd Barnes, Archie MacLaren and Learie Constantine. In the winter he was a hard-tackling full-back for Oldham Athletic, who achieved national notoriety for his win-at-all-costs approach to the game.

Billy’s sporting career was interrupted by his service on the Western Front, where he narrowly avoided death. He returned to the Lancashire League to set records that still stand today. Cook was the archetypal hard-nosed professional, who entertained the working men of Lancashire for more than 30 years.

Cotton, Cricket and Football is the remarkable life story of Billy Cook, the Lancashire League’s greatest ever bowler, who also played top-level football. Read about:  

  • How class prejudice led to Billy Cook turning his back on county cricket, and a potential England career, in favour of the Northern leagues
  • A controversial sending off and a record one-year ban from football with Oldham Athletic on the verge of becoming champions of England
  • The full details of the match-fixing scandal that rocked football and led to a lifetime ban for Billy’s brother Lol
  • Rumours of his death ‘greatly exaggerated’ as Billy Cook makes it back alive from the Western Front
  • The fascinating history of the first women’s cricket teams
  • A long-running friendship and rivalry with the legendary SF Barnes
  • How Nelson’s Learie Constantine became Britain’s highest-paid sportsman

Paul Kaye is the great-grandson of Billy Cook and grew up listening to his grandmother eulogising about the great sporting feats of her father. It’s a story of a remarkable life that Paul is uniquely placed to tell. Paul has previously written one acclaimed non-fiction book based on his career in the food industry.

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