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Many years as member of Gidea Park & Romford family have brought brilliant memories for Brant

PUBLISHED: 13:00 24 July 2020

Steve Brant in batting action against Colchester

Steve Brant in batting action against Colchester

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Steve Brant has been a member at Gidea Park & Romford since 1984 and admits the club is very special to him.

Steve Brant in batting action against ColchesterSteve Brant in batting action against Colchester

Now 50 years of age, the wicketkeeper-batsman is the oldest current playing member at Gallows Corner and tells his story in a special feature.

He writes: I’m glad to have the opportunity to thank my dear friends, past and present, who have made Gidea Park & Romford so special to me.

It all started for me during the 1984 season. Having lost my father to cancer the previous summer and playing terriers cricket at Brentwood prior to that, my sports teacher at Royal Liberty School, Dave Meech, suggested I go for a net at Gallows Corner after an inter-house game.

GPRCC had always had the reputation of being a good side and the youth set-up was excellent. My mum was helping out with the teas over there too, so over I went.

Steve Brant launches an appeal from behind the stumps for the wicket of Leigh batsman Dean Waller during the 2012 season (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)Steve Brant launches an appeal from behind the stumps for the wicket of Leigh batsman Dean Waller during the 2012 season (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

It felt like home straight away with Russ Collard, Andy and Greg Churchill from school playing there too and Les Collard, Steve Foster, Derek Churchill and Les Hall taking me under their wing.

In those days I fancied myself as a bit of an all-rounder, before being bitten by the keeping bug. I just wanted to be in the game as much as possible so I bowled seam up and enjoyed scoring quickly with the bat.

I played in the under-15s/16s and in the adult third team in that first season and the next which was a great grounding, playing alongside and against some very seasoned club cricketers.

My best bowling came in the Recorder Cup against Ardleigh Green. I took five wickets and remember Robin Ditchburn was keeping wicket – which wasn’t a regular occurrence – and they kept nicking my wobbly away swingers to him!

A Romford Recorder newspaper clipping of Gidea Park & Romford circa 1989A Romford Recorder newspaper clipping of Gidea Park & Romford circa 1989

I played a lot of first and second-team cricket with Robin who was a great captain and excellent motivator. Like several others at Gallows Corner, Robin looked out for me when I was growing up, for which I’m extremely grateful.

Soon after that, for some reason I got the bowling yips and found it almost impossible to bowl from 22 yards, so I volunteered to keep in one game and the rest is history. I loved it and from then on I kept wicket full time.

I worked hard at my keeping and batting and picked up a bit of a reputation for scoring quick runs. I was never one for running too many, so boundaries were always preferred!

I spent almost every waking minute over the ground during the season either playing or practicing.

In 1987 I was selected in the league twos and Sunday ones as keeper and picked up the club fielding trophy that year. From time to time in those early days I kept in the league first team when the legendary Dave Goldsmith was away playing representative/Minor Counties cricket in the late 80s/early 90s.

Dave was quite simply the best keeper I’ve seen outside the professional game and his wise words over the years have been invaluable.

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So from then on, I spent most of my time in the league twos, with the odd seasons here and there in the ones throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s when Goldsmith and the fantastic Barry Hyam weren’t playing.

I captained the league twos for a few years in the early 2000s which was a great experience alongside stalwarts like Ian Gordon, Richard Wall, the Windebanks and Jimmy Patient, but after spending the full 2012 season in the first team, I realised the mind was definitely more willing than the body and decided I’d be better off playing at a more sedate pace down the XIs!

In the 80s I loved watching John Lever, Graham Gooch and the antics of Ray East for Essex. Keeping wise I thought Alex Stewart was technically excellent, the really under-rated Keith Piper (Warwickshire) was a naturally talented gloveman and it goes without saying the brilliance of James Foster and Jack Russell.

As a keeper, I’ve snagged lots of four-victim innings but never five in an innings as yet. That’s on the bucket list!

Les Collard and Steve Foster were a great bowling double act when I started keeping while Neil Rose, Craig Miller, Ian Gordon, Paul Winmill, Derek Allen, Andy Churchill, Russ Collard, Rudi Filmalter and the late Andy ‘Jungle’ Jenner are just some of the wonderfully skilful bowlers I’ve kept to, that will keep you in the game and make something happen.

Batting wise, I don’t really like running much! I’ve got plenty of 40s and a few important 50s. My only hundred (133) came against Britannic Lodge in 1996.

I was working shifts at the time with patchy availability so I played in the threes that weekend. I had a big stand with the brilliant Paul Winmill – more known for taking bags of wickets over the years – who got 50-odd too that day.

I couldn’t pick a favourite player – they’re all family! – but I’ve had the absolute honour of sharing the field with some outstanding players over the years, too many to mention them all.

Some, I find hard to believe, didn’t make the professional game and some who very sadly are not with us any more. I would’ve been happy to pay money to watch Phil Ayres bat, Luke Baker’s stylish consistency supported many an innings in the past, Andy Hibbert, Stephen Peters, and I must mention my old muckers Andy Churchill and Russ Collard for their records with bat and ball, which is just phenomenal.

The first teams at Saffron Walden, Fives and Wanstead were fantastic with the likes of Ecclestone, Sparrow, Mel Hussian, Van Lint and Dreyer, the Akrams, Hinton, Foster and Arif Saeed.

In the twos I thought Harminder Sagoo from Ilford was very a destructive batsman and Lee Deller from Wickford was a great competitor. He always seemed to bowl and bat well against us!

We’ve had so many memorable moments, some of which can’t be printed, and the 2002-3 seasons were fantastic. A league win and then almost a league and cup double for the first team was a wonderful achievement by a great GPRCC side in a very strong league.

These days Jamal Francis and George Rogers are putting together a side with some great potential so keep an eye on them.

Our club dinners are wonderful evenings, with some more eventful than others.

One year in particular stands out when a young local sports reporter came along but left a little worse for wear after being introduced to one of our favourite bar games of the time – Par 100. Me and Russ were just glad we’d found someone worse at it than us!

Our dinner this year was cancelled due to Covid. Graham Gooch was going to be our after-dinner speaker, so we’re hoping he’ll agree to come along again when we reschedule.

It’s fantastic to see some cricket getting underway, so good luck to everyone. There are some interesting fixtures coming up in this cut-down season with lots of local rivalry so it should be fun and I’m hoping to be on the field myself in the next couple of weeks.


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