Playing for Sussex at 16
John Barclay was born on 22 January 1954 in Bonn, but his parents moved back to Britain when he was two. The family lived close to the cricket ground in Horsham, and this helped to kindle a love of cricket at an early age. He attended Eton College, excelling at cricket by getting into the 1st XI at the age of fourteen as an all-rounder. He made his debut for Sussex at the age of sixteen, in 1970, whilst still at school, playing two matches for the county, and in that season scored a total of 897 runs for the school, a record, and also took 28 wickets. Barclay’s personality, and leadership qualities made him an automatic choice for many Young Cricketing sides and he captained England Young Cricketers in the West Indies in 1972.
Barclay was a Sussex regular by 1975, and in the following season made exactly 1,000 runs as an opener as well as topping the bowling averages with 30 wickets at 22 each. By this time Barclay had acquired the nick-name of ‘Trout’, which derived from his third Christian name, Troutbeck. He remained a Sussex regular for the remainder of the 70s, mostly scoring around 1,000 runs although quite often just missing this target. His off-spin though was getting more wickets and in 1979 he took 52. When Arnold Long resigned the captaincy in 1980, Barclay was appointed captain for the 1981 season.
In his first season as captain, Sussex finished second in the Championship, just two points off first place – the best result since David Sheppard’s 1953 side finished second. The following year, the team won the John Player Sunday League with 58 points, finishing 12 ahead of the runner-up, Middlesex. Throughout the 80s the side was consistently in the top half of the Championship. Wisden said of Barclay, ‘He displayed sufficient qualities of leadership and enthusiasm for the game to suggest that he could be a future England skipper’. Unfortunately, Barclay was a very good county all-rounder and captain but not quite of Test standard. In 1986 Barclay retired due to a finger injury and handed over the captaincy to Ian Gould who led Sussex to the NatWest Cup in his first year as captain. Barclay though had given Sussex one of her most consistent spells, as good as any in Sussex’s history.
He would battle grittily away
In a Guardian article of 10 May 2016, Vic Marks wrote of John Barclay, ‘It is easy to underestimate Barclay, to assume that he is a cheerful relic of another era, who would not be out of place in a PG Wodehouse novel. Think again. “Trout” captained a strong-minded Sussex side that included Imran Khan, Garth Le Roux and Ian Gould and he could be as ruthless as any captain born in Rawdon or Pudsey. There weren’t many fancy declarations with the ball tossed high in the air by the spinners when playing against Sussex. Why would you do that with Imran in your side?
Barclay batted like Boycott without the shots and without such a sound technique. He would battle grittily away – often “under par” as an opening batsman, which meant he would have fewer runs than overs bowled in the innings. “Was that terribly boring?” he would ask as he made his way to lunch on 29 not out. There was one occasion when Somerset turned up at Hove and Barclay was the one man in the Sussex side who was disappointed by the news that Joel Garner was not fit to play. He had been building up for that for days. The anti-climax of his absence meant that Barclay failed – unlike some of his colleagues.’
A devoted servant of cricket
Following retirement from playing the game, Barclay continued to play an important part in cricket administration and particularly in helping underprivileged children play cricket. He became Director of Cricket at the Friends of Arundel Castle Cricket Club and was a successful tour manager, taking England U19s, England As and the England team away on tour. Barclay has worked for the MCC, and run the Arundel Cricket Foundation, a charity for young cricketers. He has held prominent posts in a number of cricket organisations, notably President of both the Cricket Society and the English Schools Cricket Association, Chairman of the Sussex Cricket Board and Sussex Cricket, and President of the MCC.
Record for Sussex
Batting: Innings: 422, NO:43, Runs:9,419, HS:119, Ave:24.85 100s:9
Bowling: Runs:9535, W:312, Ave:30.56, BB:6/61, 5i:9 ct:211