Tales of 1970s cricket – Nobody could use excuse of going shopping with wife

PUBLISHED: 08:30 17 April 2020

Hornchurch Athletic's fixture card for the 1979 season

Hornchurch Athletic's fixture card for the 1979 season


With local club cricket facing an uncertain 2020 season, Hornchurch Athletic’s Lawrence Weeks has taken a stroll down memory lane for our readers.

Hornchurch Athletic's Sunday League team of 1979Hornchurch Athletic's Sunday League team of 1979

Here he recalls cricket in the 1970s, including some favourite team-mates and opponents.

“Club cricket in Havering was very different when I started back in 1977,” he said.

“Team kitbags, beer matches, leisurely 2.30pm starts and ‘50p for a jug’, let alone annual subs of just £7!

“I made my debut in the Hornchurch Athletic Sunday third XI, an amazing thought in these days when most clubs can’t raise even one side on a Sunday. Uphall Recars were the opponents, Raphael Park the ground.

Cricket tables from the 1970sCricket tables from the 1970s

“I made just six as a very youthful 15-year-old and can still remember the four I hit in that game. Looking back, I think the bowler probably gave me an easy long hop to get me started.

“One thing was the same. Getting a team out was still a weekly struggle involving hours of phone calls (landlines only). So us third-teamers were the usual mix of youngsters, veterans and people roped in to play at the last minute, much as we are today.

“Sunday cricket then was almost the equal of Saturdays. Most clubs had only joined the new leagues five or six years ago and one local opponent, Upminster, were holding out against Leagues, still playing a host of prestigious clubs in Saturday friendlies.

“There was just so much less to do on Sundays. Certainly nobody could make the excuse that they were shopping with their wife. All the shops were closed!

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“League games on Saturdays didn’t start until the middle of May and at Athletic we usually had a blank week on FA Cup Final day, one of only two football matches shown live on TV each season. We played during the other: England v Scotland.

“And what was the game like? Well I am nearly 60, with 40 years playing behind me and it is easy to say ‘it isn’t as good as in my day’. But for me the overall standard is better now.

“There were great players in the 70s who would grace any era, just as there were great players in the 1930s. But the pitches, the bats, the outfields and even the weather, (look at pictures of cricket from the past and see how many people were in long sleeve jumpers), all help to make the game today much better.

“Certainly the scores were very different, 130 was a decent total, 200 exceptional. Gidea Park & Romford under captain Tom Ford were Havering’s top club as original members of the Essex League. Hornchurch had a great history but were a similar level to us at Athletic and we often beat them in league games.

“Havering – with big Dave Hogger scoring 100s – were always making headlines in the Recorder. Ardleigh Green and Harold Wood were always strong and Rainham and Noak Hill also big players in the Essex Leagues.

“On Sundays there were a whole host of local teams: Romford Prims, Havering Young Conservatives, Parkinhill, Rontays, Maylands Green, Great Nelmes, the Christian Nomads and many more. Only Maylands Green survive in 2020.

“Although late nights in the bar are still a part of the club game, they can’t compare with the after-match entertainment in the 70s when staying for a few drinks was almost compulsory. No having a quick coke and clearing off at 7.30pm in those days as most players managed at least a few pints, and in many cases then drove home.

“At Athletic our twice-a-season, Sunday double-headers against Noak Hill were legendary, as the Hill players, with no bar at their ground, came over to our place for long nights of drinking, washed down with eggs and bacon cooked in our tiny kitchen by some obliging wives.

“The 70s wasn’t the greatest decade for Hornchurch Athletic as other local clubs overtook us, but we still had some top players. Doug Ringrose had been our star man in the 1960s but he was now coming to the end of his career and Alan Kerr and Clive Lancaster were our main batsmen. Ken Harris was our captain, Dave Barbone our main quick bowler.

“Then, as now though, our club spirt was great – anyone who wanted to play cricket could get a game at Athletic, especially if they also had a car to take players to games, and we turned some unlikely people into decent club players.

“In these dark times we miss our great game more than ever with the prospect of a whole season without getting out in the middle. But like most other Havering clubs, we have been going for decades, starting in 1936 in our case. We survived the War, we will survive COVID-19!”

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