TRIBUTES have been pouring in for one of the Island’s true cricketing legends, Keith Mitchell, who died last week.

Keith, a ‘run machine’ who skippered the Island and a highly successful Newport Cricket Club team, also coached cricket at the club and was a highly respected umpire in a life devoted to the sport on the Island, which spanned more than five decades.

He also played football to a high standard on the Island, and golf, as a member at Osborne. 

Sports and entertainment journalist, the late John Hannam, chatted to Keith last year, sharing a fascinating account of his sporting life in a feature the County Press ran. 

Isle of Wight County Press: Keith Micthell last year. Photo: John HannamKeith Micthell last year. Photo: John Hannam

Keith told John that in the local football scene, Keith played for a talented East Cowes Vics side and, despite suffering extensive knee injuries, he continued to play for Barton Sports, who famously defied the odds to win the Division One Cup against a strong Brading Town side, as well as Parkhurst Old Boys and Saro Sports.

After a season or two with Saro, Keith, a lifelong Spurs fan, finally retired from football to focus on his cricket.

Read: Well-known sportsman Keith Mitchell dies aged 80

When Keith was just 15, he played his first game for Newport seconds, then, a game later, he went straight into the first team.

Newport became unbeatable and won the first-ever Whitbread Knock-Out Cup against Ryde in 1966 — scoring 107 not out.

Isle of Wight County Press: Keith Mitchell, right, receiving the Colin Cowdrey cricket award.Keith Mitchell, right, receiving the Colin Cowdrey cricket award.

As a teenager, Keith played for the Island against Hampshire’s club and ground team, who were so impressed after he made 70 not out, he was invited to play a match for them.

Keith, nicknamed ‘Mitch’, plundered thousands of runs for Newport in a 40-year career, which saw him score century after century and win a special Colin Cowdrey Award in one particular season.

In his feature, John described Keith as the most complete home-grown batsman he have ever seen on the Island.

“Anyone who scores 1,603 runs in an Island cricket season, at an average of 84.30, just has to be rather special,” said John, who died last month.

Isle of Wight County Press: Keith Mitchell, front left, was part of a successful Newport team for many years.Keith Mitchell, front left, was part of a successful Newport team for many years.

One of Keith’s greatest personal moments was when he captained the Island against the MCC, skippered by his idol, Godfrey Evans.

He told John he was also a big fan of England and Gloucestershire wicketkeeper, Jack Russell, who he met on a few occasions.

In his first match as Island skipper, after another legend, Bill Jenkins, stood down from the role, Keith hit a century.

In his first game for the Island, against the Pakistan Eaglets, he played against a very young Mushtaq Mohammad, who went on to become a great all-rounder at test level.
He coached young Newport players and, after retiring from the game, became a highly respected umpire.

Isle of Wight County Press: Keith, front row, second left, in his days as a young player with Barton Sports.Keith, front row, second left, in his days as a young player with Barton Sports.

Countless tributes — many of which have been posted on the IW Football and Cricket Nostalgia Facebook page — have been paid to Keith from former team-mates, those he played against and those who simply appreciated his skill.

Robert Buckett said: “Keith was a legend, on and off the pitch, as a player and umpire.”

Former Newport Cricket Club player, Mark Sherwood, said: “It was an honour to have played with him. He was a great role model as a player.”

Echoing those sentiments was Peter Buckley, who said: “Mitch was the captain of a very talented and successful Newport side. A true gent who always had time for a chat.”

Brian Porter said: “A really nice guy. Great captain. I can count myself fortunate to have played both with and against him.”