Essex League Premier Division: Billy Gordon up for the challenge ahead and eager to get Monty Panesar firing for Hornchurch

PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 May 2018

Monty Panesar in action for England (pic: Anthony Devlin/PA Images).

Monty Panesar in action for England (pic: Anthony Devlin/PA Images).

PA Archive/PA Images

The former England spinner is the big name at Harrow Lodge Park this season and the club's new skipper is excited to work with him

Monty Panesar at Hornchurch with captain Billy Gordon (centre, right), Roy Smith (second in from right) and other members at the club (pic: Lee Power).Monty Panesar at Hornchurch with captain Billy Gordon (centre, right), Roy Smith (second in from right) and other members at the club (pic: Lee Power).

Billy Gordon admitted all of the pressure is on him this year now he is Hornchurch captain in all formats, but he is excited about the challenge ahead.

The all-rounder was handed some extra responsibility in 2017 as he led the team in cup competitions while Roy Smith continued as the skipper in the Shepherd Neame Essex League Premier Division.

But Smith stepped down last September after a successful four seasons in charge at Harrow Lodge Park and now Gordon is the man in the firing line.

“There is a bit more pressure on me now this year,” laughed Hornchurch’s new captain. “But I’m really looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“It is a great opportunity to test myself and see if I can keep my game going whilst captaining at the same time.”

One of Gordon’s biggest tasks will be to get the best out of the club’s new winter recruit – the one and only Monty Panesar.

The left-arm spinner needs little introduction given for a number of years he was the best spinner in the country, but his last appearance for England was back in December 2013.

Panesar has struggled both physically and mentally since, with his last outing in the County Championship in 2016 – 10 years after his test debut.

Last season he impressed for both Bedfordshire CC and Luton Town & Indians CC and will now look to have Essex batsmen in a spin this summer.

“Monty is a big character and he played for us for the first time in a friendly with Bexley recently and he is a really nice bloke,” said Hornchurch captain Gordon.

“By the looks of it he will be a good character to have in the team and hopefully he can take some wickets this season and be a big player.”

The one-time England bowler made the nation fall in love with his exuberant celebrations and went on to claim 167 wickets in 50 Test matches.

Harrow Lodge Park will now be his home and the locals will take huge delight from seeing him jumping up and down after dismissing opposition batsmen.

Gordon will look to help the spinner perform to his best this season and is well accustomed to dealing with big personalities at Hornchurch having come through the academy set-up.

He added: “We have plenty of characters in the team, so Monty will fit in nicely.

“Monty seems to like all the lads, so hopefully we can continue to make him feel welcome and he can perform to his best and get back to where he wants to be in cricket.”

Hornchurch will be far from a one-man team with Gordon keen to lead from the front again after scoring 731 runs in all formats last season.

The skipper also took 28 scalps with the ball, but knows the likes of experienced duo Smith and Marc Whitlock will be key men.

Smith juggled the captaincy and his batting game brilliantly during his four terms as skipper and will look to support Gordon in 2018.

Meanwhile Whitlock claimed 29 wickets last year and will aim to show his class in the top flight as Hornchurch look to improve on their fifth-place finish.

Gordon added: “The aim is to be involved in the title battle at the end of the season.

“We want to try and break into the top three or four teams who are always pushing for the league.

“Hopefully this year we can be one of those teams. We are waiting for our overseas to get his visa come through, but touch wood he will be available for the first league game on May 12 away to Shenfield.”

Last season Hornchurch made a slow start and lost early games to Shenfield, Chelmsford and Wanstead and all three went on to finish above the Harrow Lodge Park club.

A victory over Chingford on June 10 sparked a run of four triumphs out of five, but more inconsistency towards the end of the campaign saw Smith’s team have to settle for a fifth-placed finish – 61 points off eventual champions Chelmsford.

Hornchurch are determined to bridge the gap between the 2017 top-four, but Gordon is well aware he will be learning on the job.

The all-rounder, a home-grown product of the Harrow Lodge Park club’s Cricket for All scheme, believes in his own ability though and has strong backing from ex-skipper Smith.

So if the new captain does need any help this season, he will know exactly who to speak to. Gordon added: “Roy is a good man to have in the team and he has a lot of experience in the game.

“He has been the captain, so if I ever get stuck or feel I need some advice he is a great person to have around for me. He is a good man to help out.”

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