The Shadow’s Five a Day

The Complete Match Day Diet

Even more than a ninety minute game of football, five sets of tennis or running a marathon, a game of Sunday cricket can push an entire team to the very limits of human endurance, drawing on every ounce of energy that you’re able to store up. It’s extreme sport with a capital X.

One glance at the Mighty Greys, though, and you can see that we are a superbly conditioned set of elite athletes. We are simply quicker, fitter, better coordinated, with greater stamina and concentration levels than anyone brave enough to step onto the greensward with us.

It’s time to reveal that our secret weapon to all this is the meticulous attention each and every one of us all pays to our diet, and our careful control on what we admit into the temple of our bodies.

Playing the Mighty Greys’  brand of high octane, supercharged turbo cricket means that you’ll almost certainly burn 5000 to 6000 calories before, during and after an average Greys match – even if all you have to do is a bit of power umpiring and the exhausting weekly search for the Captain’s horn.

Here are the five vegetarian-friendly foodstuffs that are without question essential to our success.

1. Cake.

Cake comes in a glorious variety of shapes and sizes, colours and flavours, but it can’t be just any cake.  Most cakes simply can’t meet the calorific intake my guide requires of them.

Here are the key criteria:

  • It has to be covered in lashings of whipped double cream, as peaky as possible.
  • A slice should feel solid and unlikely to disintegrate in your hand.
  • It should make you worry that, if you drop it, it will at least fracture a metatarsal.
  • It should feel insulted that it could ever be called anything as lightweight as a “sponge” or a “whirl”.
  • It should be dark in colour, and have the texture and consistency of freshly rolled tarmac.
  • It should contain generous helpings of a stout beer such as Guinness.


Recommended Daily Intake:

How it is cut is crucial. A good round chocolate cake of, say, 12 inches in diameter and four inches in height should provide not more than five slices, but ideally four.  Try to hack out your slice before anyone else gets a chance as it’s dog eat dog out there, especially at teatime. Anything upwards of 90 degrees is a result.

toptip Top Tip :

Twineham provided two of these early in the season, and one of them went untouched.  If someone can discretely shove one of them into their kitbag next time then we’ll have enough to get us through to at least the Devon tour, when we can top up again at Luppitt.

Nutritional rating: 5star

2.  Potato Salad

Potato Salad is the V2 of Grey’s secret weapons, invented for the cricket tea by Jonny Fixtures himself. I’ve looked at the Greys statistics going back as far as records allow and was unsurprised to find that we have never lost or even drawn games when Alex has provided his tasty tuber treat.

Most people have their own idea about the perfect ingredients for this sumptuous salad, but Alex has allows me to reveal that his contains only two: potatoes (boiled whole and served uncut) and salad cream, from a plastic bottle with the word Heinz on it.

saladcreamI’ve done some research on this and was delighted to read that the ingredients include Spirit Vinegar, Canola oil, Water, Sugar, Mustard, Salt, Egg yolks, Modified Corn Starch, xantham gum, guar gum, colored with riboflavin.

Bloody delicious! And very nearly your five a day in one!

Here’s how you make it:

Throw about ten pounds of potatoes into the largest saucepan you can find in the kitchen. No need to peel them as good potatoes are self-cleaning.  Boil a kettle and pour it over the potatoes.  Leave them to steep in it for a few minutes then make an effort to tip as much water out as you can – don’t worry if there’s still loads left though.  Get the Salad Cream, squeeze and point at the sauce pan and spray it everywhere you can.  Pop it in the boot of your car and see the look on everyone’s faces when you serve up your cordon bleu delight.

Recommended Daily Intake:

Using only a plastic fork, pile as much as you can onto your flexing paper plate.  When the plate starts to sag dangerously on one side or the small Alpine range of potatoes you’ve built on your plate threatens to avalanche then you can be sure that you’re meeting your minimum calorific requirement.

 toptip Top Tip  :

If you are lucky enough to get some spare potato salad to take home with you, pop in in the chip fryer for a couple of minutes as deep fried potato salad is to die for, especially served in a pocket of pitta bread.

Nutritional Rating: 4star

3.  Sausage Rolls.

One of the many valuable additions to the British Diet made by the Normans in 1066 was of course “Saucisse En Croute”.  If it hadn’t been for cartloads of these parked at the back of Senlac Hill on that fateful day in September, many commentators have speculated whether William’s men would ever been able to turn round the Saxon onslaught.  And ever since then every English man knows: Stock up on the rolls and you can take on anything.

This is why they have been a staple part of the cricket tea ever since.

The main feature of any sausage roll is its subtle balance of heavily buttered puff pastry, ground offcuts of meat, fat, salt and flavourings such as paprika and chilli power.  It’s this gentle blend that ensures a slow release of energy throughout the day from this handy bite-sized delicacy.

Recommended Daily Intake

At only 300 calories per roll (with fat making up only 25% of this), elite athletes like us will need to consume 30 to 40 of these a day. I recommend this pattern of consumption:

  • 5 for breakfast (as part of a balanced breakfast diet)
  • 3 between breakfast and lunch
  • 8 to 10 for lunch
  • 3 to 5 on the way to a match
  • 10 to 15 for tea (they’ll be free, after all)
  • 8 as pocket snacks (four in each pocket) if fielding after tea, five in one pocket (instead of a thigh guard) if batting.
  • 3 to 5 on the way back as part of your warm down procedure

 toptip Top Tip :

The only reason cricket whites have pockets is for food storage so make sure you get value for money from them.

Nutritional rating: 4star

4. Crisps

There is no doubt that a good packet of crisps gives you all the energy you need to help you get through a daunting match day programme.  With their gentle balance of finely sliced potato, a dousing in polyunsaturated fat and a generous helping of salt, crisps are the perfect slow release energy food you can draw on at any time of day, breakfast lunch or dinner and any time in between.  The most dedicated, health conscious Greysmen have even been known to set their alarm for the middle of the night to make sure they meet their essential daily quota.

The only real debate on this issue is this one: ready salted or flavoured crisps. My own preference is for Ready Salted, but I completely take the point that flavoured crisps such as Scampi and Lemon or Steak and Ale obviously have more added to them – and therefore more calories – for the same cost so must be better value.

Recommended Daily Intake:

A standard four ounce packet only contains a mere 200 calories, so it is strongly recommended that you have the equivalent of at least ten to twelve individual size packets a day to help you meet your target.

 toptip Top Tip  :

The high quality foil wrapping crisps are sold in makes excellent wallpaper for the wet areas in your home such as the toilet.

Nutritional Rating5star

5. Nuts.

Ready Salted Nuts are a fantastic source of energy for the fast-living cricketer.

They are also classified as complex carbohydrates.  This means that we have to give them respect and sympathy as much as possible, and recognise that they may be undergoing therapy, or finding existential aspects of their life more difficult than moist.  Never ever let a simple carbohydrate try to patronise a complex one.

Don’t just take my word for it.  The proof is out there for all to see. We all know that when nuts were added to Mars bars they became Marathon bars, (now Snickers), which means that they must, without doubt, give you extra energy, and be really complex.  This enhancement was made under government advice because Mars bars on their own – even frozen or deep fried – are known health risks, which becomes nullified as soon as nuts are added.


Recommended Daily Intake

I think this very much depends on how you access them.  If you are lucky to find a large and inviting bowl full of them, say on the bar of a pub at Sunday lunchtime or lurking at the end of a sumptuous Sunday tea spread,  then I recommend as many handfuls as possible, or until someone pulls the bowl away from you.

Again, if they are offered to you across a pub table then the guide is:  take as many as you think you can get away with without being punched in the mouth.

If you’ve had no choice than to buy them for yourself, my advice is to cram as many as possible in at the bar before your “friends” try to ponce them off you when you sit down.

There are only 550 calories in a 100 gram bag of nuts, so I’m saying go for 4 to 5 bags a day, or about 1000 individual nuts.

 toptip Top Tip :

Avoid Dry Roasted Nuts, not least because I heard somewhere that spices such as paprika and herbs such as garlic can be found in the coating, making them a possible health risk.

Nutritional Rating:4star

Health Warning: Foods to Avoid

What I have presented here is a balanced diet to meet all your match day needs.  If you’re any good, you’ll manage to cram all five in during the tea interval, and top yourselves up by cadging off others in the pub before or after, meaning that you can stock up for the coming week, and get maximum value for your match fee.

Because this is carefully balanced, anything else is obviously going to upset the scales and even start to do damage to your conditioning, but that won’t stop the poorly advised trying to force other “foods” on you.

As a general rule, try to avoid anything that is brightly coloured – greens like cucumber, lettuce, spinach, grapes. Anything red, orange or yellow is always a recipe for disaster – bananas, radishes, apples and carrots for example, but AT ALL COSTS DON’T EAT TOMATOES. Don’t forget that all your salad needs are being met by your potato salad. Good, wholesome nutrition is invariably a shade of brown in colour – these objects only look alluring because they have had artificial colouring and E -numbers added to them

Food for Thought

Compiling this list was a labour of love (as well as leaving me Starvin’ Marvin), but it’s hurt me in the pit of my stomach to have to exclude some Sporting Dietary Classics from my list of five.  Here’s some of the many that just missed out, in no particular order:

Cheese Footballs; Cheesy Wotsits; Flamin Hot (or Spaghetti Bolognese) Monster Munch; Pork Scratchings; Scampi Fries; Milk Chocolate Hobnobs, anything produced by KFC; Fresh cream doughnuts with jam; Chilli Heatwave Doritos; Tomato Wheat crunchies; any type of waffle, Barbecue Pringles (which aren’t crisps but good imitations), Quavers, Marmite Mini Cheddars, Liver Pate Discos, Bacon Nik Naks, any flavour of Frazzles, fondant fancies, and of course Twiglets.

7 responses to “The Shadow’s Five a Day

  1. the main reason I persevere with the website is the privilege it affords in reading such masterpieces before they hit the press, and the knowledge that I and I alone have had the chance to digest and savour the contents in seclusion before any other human being…

  2. Excellent advice as always shadow, although I told you the closely guarded recipe to the potato salad, handed down through generations of my family, in strictest confidence. Now it will be consumed by the bucket by Algerian hackers and we may never now win a game when we tour North Africa. Also, I think Del may have eaten some of this article before he’s published it.

  3. And while I’m at it, are you deliberately not doing the report in time Del? I know you like that hat….

  4. Yet more essential reading from the Chairman , i know ‘the kid’ is worried he is eating too much fruit over abroad there , i have suggested Tel running a drop in clinic for the nutritionally challenged?

  5. Hi! I’ve been following your weblog for a long time
    now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Tx!
    Just wanted to mention keep up the great job!

    • Hi Cooper! As you can see, we get a lot of posts from Texas, but you’re the first from Harris County. Sorry to see that the Eagles lost to the Woodlands the other day. Many Greysmen follow the Central Texas Cricket League avidly and are pleased to see Round Rock Cricket Club doing well this year. Keep on following the dietary advice and you won’t go far wrong.

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