Smith hopeful this historic treble can be start of special era
PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 September 2018
©TGS Photo tgsphoto.co.uk +44 1376 553468
Hornchurch's former captain praised Billy Gordon and the signing of Muhammad Irfan
Roy Smith is confident another fine campaign can be enjoyed by Hornchurch in 2019 if the club can keep the squad together.
The former captain spoke of his pride at seeing new skipper Billy Gordon thrive under the pressure this year and lead the team to a historic treble.
After clinching the Essex T20 Cup in July, Hornchurch went on to win the Essex League Cup in August and rounded things off with the Shepherd Neame Essex League Premier Division title on September 1.
It has been an unbelievable few months, but Smith is eager for it to be the start of some special times, not the pinnacle of a great few years which began with him taking over as skipper of the then-Division Two side in 2014.
He said: “I want to be a part of it next year and if we could do it again it would be an unbelievable achievement.
“The club need to try and keep all of the team together and look to improve in some small areas, but they don’t need to overdo it.
“We have such a good team spirit and a strong squad, so it would be great if we could all go again next year and give the title another crack.”
Smith will be 45 when the new campaign gets underway, but the juices are still flowing and he is determined to play a part in 2019.
This year has been a realisation of everyone’s long-term dreams at Harrow Lodge Park, but for one man more than most.
Hornchurch chairman Jeremy West signed Smith up ahead of the 2014 term for a new project with the end goal of them being crowned Essex’s best club side.
Given they were in Division Two at the time, it seemed a long shot, but five seasons later and it has been achieved.
“It has always been a dream of the chairman to win the Premier Division title for the club, so I am really happy for him, but now we have done it, we don’t want it to be a one-off,” Smith added.
“We need to try and do it again and be up there for the next four to five years and firmly establish ourselves as a big team.”
One of the most pleasing things about Hornchurch’s success is the fact so many of the squad have come through the youth system or been at Harrow Lodge Park for a lengthy period of time.
Back on April 19, 2014, Smith’s first match as captain, the likes of Paul Murray, Michael Bones, Ronnie Saunders, Frankie Jacobs and Mark James lined up for a friendly contest with Gidea Park & Romford.
All of them have played a role in Hornchurch’s treble success, especially the likes of Bones and Saunders, who both hit more than 500 Premier Division runs.
The captain, Gordon, is another to have come through the ‘Cricket for All’ programme, but the club have also been indebted to others like Muhammad Irfan and Monty Panesar.
Both have been crucial with the former taking 36 wickets in all competitions and ex-England Tst spinner Panesar delivering when he was needed most at the end.
Smith reflected on what might have been had all-rounder Irfan been available for a longer amount of time, but conceded a good overseas signing is crucial.
He added: “I remember when we started this journey and the aim was to get in the Premier in two years and we did that and then we were a bit unlucky.
“One season (2016) we lost Paul Walter to Essex and the next year Tom Moore went to Brentwood and we struggled with overseas signings and even this time we have only had big Irfan for 11 league games.
“Imagine if we had him for all 18! We could have been even better, but Monty has been crucial too and he fitted in so well.
“Monty’s agent got in touch with me during the winter, as I know him from when he played at Finchley, and asked if we would be interested, so I passed his details onto the chairman and Monty brought a buzz to the place.
“I know he can’t field very well, but boy can he bowl and no one can bowl better in my opinion.”
Smith reserved special praise for his protégé Gordon, who was given a first taste of captaincy in 2017 when he led Hornchurch in cup competitions.
This year he took over in all formats after Smith stepped down and the old skipper is sure more memorable times are around the corner for the 26-year-old after this historic campaign.
Smith concluded: “Billy didn’t have much experience, but he has really thrived with the captaincy.
“All captains will say you never stop learning and you never know everything, so for him to do this in his first full year as captain is incredible.
“I’m sure he knows it will not always be like this, but he took over and brought freshness and it was much-needed I think.
“He really got everyone going and hopefully this is the first of many successes for him and the club over the next few years.”