Frank Ryan was one of the most colourful and charasmatic characters ever to play for Glamorgan, and to some, he was one of the greatest extroverts ever to walk onto a cricket field. Had the left-arm spinner played in the modern age, his exploits off and on the the field, would have filled the pages of tabloid newspapers.
Ryan initially played county cricket for Hampshire in 1919 and 1920, but he gained a reputation more for his ready temper and drinking excesses, than for his left-arm spin. In 1921 Ryan went into the Lancashire Leagues, when he met with greater success as a bowler, and came to the attention of Glamorgan`s talent scouts. Even so, the maverick spinner must still have been living life to the full, as the story goes that after agreeing terms with Glamorgan for 1922 a penniless Ryan hitch-hiked his way from Lancashire to Cardiff.
Perhaps wary of not wanting to lose another county contract, Ryan initially showed more self-discipline, and established a regular place in the Glamorgan side. In 1925 he recorded career best figures of 8/41 against Derbyshire at the Arms Park, and in all games, claimed a total of 133 victims. He followed this with 106 victims in 1926, but by this time, he had become a heavy drinker once again, and the county`s hiearchy started to become irrated by the way his socialising began to affect his play.
During one away match, Ryan was found asleep under the covers, apparantly having drunk so much that he had forgotten where the team were staying. On another occasion after a match with Lancashire, he remained with friends, and carried on drinking until the early hours of the morning, before travelling by taxi from Manchester to Cardiff to rejoin the rest of the side. He apparently entered the Glamorgan dressing room saying "Ryan never lets you down", and handed over the taxi bill to the county`s Treasurer.
Had it not been for these excesses, his contemporaries believe that Ryan could have come close to winning a Test cap. But sadly, his weaknesses were also his undoing, and at the end of the 1931 season, Ryan was released as the Glamorgan officials said farewell to several professionals as a bid to save money.
(Article: Copyright © 2000 Dr.A.K.Hignell)
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