Cow Pats and Cricket Bats by Maurice Barnett ©.
Up to now, much of this narrative of our Club's affairs have been reflected from the vantage points of my close personal involvement. The next decade, leading to our Centenary Year (1987), however, will be recorded from an entirely different and more detached viewpoint - that of an interested spectator - 'beyond the boundary fence'.
A new and keen group of members joined the existing regulars and made up a society whose enthusiasm, efficiency and effort to bring out the full potential of the Club, has proved to be second to none. The excellent state of its facilities and results on the field is adequate evidence of their success.
The keynote to this standard is without doubt due to the willingness of most members to participate in the work which has been carried out during this period. The last ten years has seen possibly the biggest change in the Club's fortunes in it's 100 years history. In 1976 talks started on the amalgamation of Nether Whitacre with Stechford C.C. The two clubs would use our ground but as part of the amalgamation a bar would be required.
As many members will confess this still continues to be a problem. As we know now the Brewery's traditional answer to the bar is NO!, so Whitacre were 'saved', left to try and continue on their own.
The playing strength at this time could not be described as strong but due to a small dedicated team the Club was kept afloat. Special mention must be made of Jim Greaves, who as Fixture Secretary, Captain, Groundsman, etc. you name it and his wife 'Dot' making the teas, saw the Club through very difficult times and into its relatively strong position.
Two highlights of a depressing time were the presentation of a gardening spade to Maurice Barnett and second place in the Birmingham Post & Mail Quiz.
Subs at this time were £6-00.
1977 saw the first talk of League Cricket and many of our players became regularly available when Ashted C.C folded. The greatest impact was felt on Sunday Fixtures which could now be a regular occurrence. At this time finances were a major concern (Match fees were 40p and teas 35p). Around this time several players came to the Club who were to play a major part its the future direction both on and off the field. These included Brian Waller ( a hard hitting batsman and occasional slow bowler), Mike Brindley, Bill Breeze (both useful batsmen) and two all rounders in the shape of Tony Knight and John Mund. Existing Second Team players included Alec Joyce ( A fine medium pace bowler whose control of line and length was exemplary) Mike Woods, John Barnett (Maurice's son) and Pete Bethell. A very competitive second team developed.
Alec Joyce worked as a motor mower mechanic and so looked after the Club's machinery for many years. He did a splendid job in keeping our aging equipment going for very little expense. Alec was one of numerous splendid characters in the Club at that time. His dry sense of humour, superstitions, awful socks! (phew!) and claim to be the greatest bowler of them all kept us highly amused for years.
By far and away the most outrageous character and natural comedian was John Barnett who could and did tell non stop jokes, both on and off the pitch, for literally hours on end. He was regularly seen 'flat on the floor', in The Swan, laughing at one of this own jokes, whilst customers queued, treading over him. John took some sensational catches at forward short leg and constantly teased the batsman by pretending to 'throw down the stumps'. Only on one occasion can we ever remember him releasing the ball which resulted in a 'sore backside' for the batsman. That's the way it was in those days, we played with a great team spirit, had lots of fun, plenty of laughs, but, played to win and often did.
1978 saw us join the Birmingham Area Independent League (B.A.I.L.), finishing mid-table. In this year electricity came to the Club in the form of a generator. Although often very reluctant to start, when it did the operator would be lost in clouds of blue smoke. Tony Knight put on his electrical engineer's hat and along with help from Mike Woods and Mike Brindley, wired up the pavilion so that a limited amount of power and lighting was available for the first time in the Club's history.
1980 at last saw success on the field at Whitacre with 2nd place in the 'B.A.I.L.' league and runners up in the Wilnecote K.O. Final - losing to Tamworth in the final.The semi-final was one of the biggest turn-outs I can ever remember and it was most enjoyable to be able to play a part in its outcome. (Steve Taylor)
Batting first Whitacre made 74-6 in 15, 8 ball overs, thanks to Brian Waller (30) and Jim Greaves (16). In reply Wilnecote had a poor start losing two wickets for 1 run in Dave Whitehead's first over. as their innings progressed, defeat for Whitacre looked the surest result, but at 53 for 4 a double bowling change saw a change of fortunes. First a wicket to Steve Taylor then one to John McCann, two more to Taylor and another to McCann. With two runs required to win, Whitacre claimed the final wicket.
1980 also saw a fine display of hitting by Rolly Cotton with 116 not out and John McCann claimed 111 wickets in the season, no mean feat. John went on to play for the Club for nearly 20 years and developed into a fine all-rounder, opening the batting and bowling at one time. He achieved the double of 1000 runs and 100 wickets in one season during a fine career with the Club. John was never short of confidence and could be an outrageous 'showman' on and off the pitch. He had more girl friends than most number 11's score runs, much to the envy of the rest of the Club members.
Dave Adams was Chairman of the Club at this time. Dave was a good, enthusiastic worker, whose ability to talk was second to none. However, his powers of speech were well utilized and he helped to move the Club forward in no uncertain way.
All in all 1980 I believe was the year the present Nether Whitacre came together both on and off the field. Links with the village were at a high with a match between the Village Ladies and the wives of the players. on this day both the Village and Club got together as never before to raise money for each other. The dark side of 1980 saw subscriptions at £10.
1981 again saw the side just miss out on the B.A.I.L. League, finishing second again. The following season we set about organizing a tour. Eventually, with the help of several members and much effort of Pete Connell, a tour of South Wales was organized for the following season. 1983 tour fixtures included:-
|BP Llandarcy||Postponed - rain|
Unfortunately, 1983 became a particularly wet season. The first game was on the 17th April, the next away on the 30th April and the season finally got away properly on June 11th. In all more than twenty four games were called off in the first two months.
Having mentioned Peter Connell, it is only fair to say more about him. Peter came to us from All Souls C.C. in the early eighties and went on to become both Secretary and Chairman until around 1994. Peter was a tremendously able person whose organizational abilities were second to none. He first introduced sponsorship to the Club from his many contacts and we benefited by several thousand pounds in the end by his unstinting contribution. A dogged, rather than stylish batsman, Peter opened the innings for the Club for many years scoring freely on any type of surface against any type of bowling. He introduced 'novelty' games to the Club and brought us much publicity such as a regular fixture with a BRMB Radio side who graced our ground on several occasions. Peter's contribution was immense and he is currently Chairman of Ward End Cricket Club (2000), our loss is certainly their gain.
The very wet conditions could not prevent Whitacre bringing home their first trophy for many years by winning the Mercian League at the first attempt. There was also a runners-up spot in the mid-week league. the playing side was now showing its strength and defeat was now the exception, not the rule.
Paddy Ruske joined us around 1982 and immediately improved the morale of the team by his various stories and antics. Paddy was a serving Police Officer who always had an amusing tale to tell. At the AGM in 1983, Paddy expressed an interest in developing a Colts side with the local lads from the village and Kingsbury, plus the sons of players. To quote Paddy, "Hopefully some would develop into members suitable for the 1st and 2nd XI". How right he was as now in 1986 many of these lads have had an experience of first and second team cricket. More than one have now established themselves in the 1st XI with possibly Paul Greaves the most successful so far. Others who came through the system and have stayed and become good cricketers are Ian Breeze and Steve Levy who himself now helps with our latest colt's sides when time permits. More about that later. Darren McCarthy, Andrew Breeze were an example of others who came through the system with success.
Paddy's initial efforts were expanded by Brian Waller, Dave Whitehead, John Barnett and Clive Powers. I'm sure many of the lads would wish to express special thanks to the above for the opportunity to play cricket (which alas is folding in local schools). Paddy was ahead of his time with this idea and fresh proposals by cricket's governing body in the late 1990's would see the widespread encouragement of such schemes throughout the country. Well done Paddy, the future of Nether Whitacre has improved greatly with these lads.
A previously mentioned name should not go without further comment, Clive Powers! Clive is without doubt the greatest enigma of them all. A thoroughly likable person who has played for the Club since 1972. A man of infinite patience, zero malice and considerable ability, Clive plays for a local folk group, Drowsey Maggie. Clive has a 'theory' for everything in life and often spends long periods describing them to anyone who will listen. It is often considered that Clive plays his best cricket when he 'isn't thinking', because that distracts him too much. In keeping with such a personality, Clive bowls slow off breaks and bats with a beautifully correct stance. He has held several official posts with the Club over the years. Clive tried to assassinate Bill Breeze and his family one year whilst returning from Devon after a Club tour. He tried to overtake a tractor on a quiet country road and ended up writing off his car in a ditch with the unfortunate occupants having to get the train home. Hmmmm, nice one Clive!!
1984 saw the development of the Colts plus
the 2nd Tour to South Wales ( a lot drier this time) and John
McCann's completion of 100 wickets and 1000 runs. Around this
time two players came to the Club who were to be influential figures
for years to come both on and off the field. Both were introduced
by Tony Knight, who by this time was playing a significant role
in the development of the Club.
Ian Black was a hard hitting batsman with great natural timing and possessed good athletic skills in the field. Ian became the Club Secretary and holds the post to this day (2000).
Tony's other 'find' was Phil Murphy, a raw 16 year old who was discovered at the 'members' nets at Edgbaston (home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club). Phil was lightning fast for a sixteen year old, in spite of a natural desire to 'knock the batsmans block off'. He quickly became a regular in the Whitacre first team claiming many scalps in his first few matches. Successive seasons have honed his skills and despite his 'windmill action' he has improved his accuracy to become the best fast bowler since Paul Chaplin. Phil has since become Club Treasurer and Coach with the youth sides. He carries out all of these tasks with equal zeal and ability.
1985 was a very satisfactory season. First a successful tour to North Devon playing:-
The Colts won a cup earlier in their first
full season playing opposition from much more superior clubs (facility
wise). The first team though had the great satisfaction of making
it to the Coleshill K.O. final, beating Coleshill and Birmingham
Municipal on the way. The final became a great disappointment
as Marston Green's jinx of the last fifteen years continued.
|Bill Breeze||Gordon||Hearn||Dauncey||Run Out|
|Steve Taylor||c||Baird||McWalters||Bollard||Run Out|
|Ian Black||McWalters||K Baird||Whitehead|
|Dave Whitehead||McWalters||Lutwyche||Not Out|
|John McCann||Gordon||Sharp||Run Out|
|Terry Pinfold||Run Out||Maguire||c||Whitehead||McCann|
|Clive Powers||Run Out||Gordon||Run Out|
|Tony Knight||Run Out||McWalters||Run Out||1|
|8 Wickets||TOTAL||8 Wickets||TOTAL|
|Off 15 x 8 ball overs||Off 15 x 8 ball overs|
The semi final against Birmingham Municipal was an even closer game with Whitacre eventually winning by one run.
|Nether Whitacre||Birmingham Municipal|
|Steve Taylor||Not Out||Woodhead||c||Brindley(sub)||Pinfold|
|Dave Whitehead||Not Out||Cooper||Run Out|
|3 Wickets||TOTAL||6 Wickets||TOTAL|
|Off 15 x 8 ball overs||Off 15 x 8 ball overs|
Unfortunately, Nether |Whitacre ran out of steam that year and lost the final to Marston Green. The final in 1985 was played at Coleshill, the scores being as follows:-
Marston Green 134 - 4 Wkts
off 15 - 8 ball overs (Dave Whitehead 2-24)
Nether Whitacre 79 - 4 Wkts off 15 - 8 ball overs (Ian Black 35 Not Out)
The Autumn of 1985 saw the installation of mains electricity to the Club nearly 100 years after its conception by Edison and Tesla who effectively invented alternating current.
The installation was carried out by Tony Knight with help from numerous volunteers. Nigel Pardoe managed to get a local farmer with a tractor and mole plough who carried out a most amazing procedure. We installed 120 metres of heavy duty steel wire armoured cable into the ground 'automatically' in about ten minutes with virtually no scar. It saved us days of digging and there remained only the final 10 metres or so to be dug by hand. Nigel went on to become a very successful groundsman and is currently Assistant Groundsman with Aston Villa Football Club. Nigel remains a close supporter of the Club and is always available to give us advice if required.
The pavilion wiring was upgraded and improved
ready for the 1986 season. The cost of the installation, £320,
plus a few bits and pieces. Considering that the Club had received
a quote for the job in the early 1960's for £1000, this
was money well spent.
1986 saw Whitacre playing in another new league, this time the 'Printline'. The league again proved to be stronger than before and included many old 'enemies' of the Club, such as Fillongley and Wishaw. The Club finished third in their 1st season, winning three games, losing one and drawing three. The greatest scalp of that league season was that of Fillongley with a splendid all round performance by the Whitacre side as can be seen from the scorecard.
|M Twigger||Greaves P||Powers||Steve Taylor||c & b||Webster|
|N Atkins||Black||Murphy||Graeme Fowler||c||Meggitt||Alston|
|R Phillips||Murphy||Ian Black||Whittaker|
|I Whittaker||Powers||Dave Whitehead||c||Whittaker||Alston|
|J Cartwright||Wright||Murphy||Paul Greaves||Not Out|
|J Meggitt||c||Greaves J||Murphy||John Wright||Not Out|
|F Morris||b||Murphy||Steve Levy|
|I Webster||c||Levy||b||McCann||John McCann|
|G Dunk||c||Powers||b||McCann||Jim Greaves|
|F Alston||c||Greaves J||b||Powers||Clive Powers|
|S Holmes||Not Out||Phil Murphy|
|All Out||TOTAL||4 Wickets||TOTAL|
To list prominent performances over the last ten years would take far too long since the playing conditions would appear to be better than in the past and so comparisons are meaningless. The wickets today are doubtless better and the outfield is cut short on a regular basis. During the last decade however, the following performances are worthy of note:-
Centuries have been scored once or more by:
Rolly Cotton, Dave Whitehead, Graeme Fowler, John McCann, Steve Taylor, Brain Waller
1000 runs in a season by:
Steve Taylor, Peter Connell, Ian Black, John McCann (Twice)
100 wickets in a season by:
John McCann, Phil Murphy, Clive Powers
Clive Powers 100 wickets in a season is worthy of mention as Clive is one of the Club's unsung heroes. Not a naturally gifted player but a great trier, Clive had a golden year bowling his off-breaks and it was not until the last game of the season against Allens Cross that his tally of 100 wickets was obtained. With Allens Cross 9 wickets down and Clive on 99 wickets, everyone was egging him on to get the last wicket and praying there would not be a run out. Phil Murphy at the other end was deliberately bowling wide awaiting the last wicket which eventually came to Powers. Well done Clive on a splendid performance.
Two names that have been mentioned on more than one occasion are Steve Taylor and Dave Whitehead. Both were fine cricketers, both of whom retired far too early from the game. Steve, a big lad who could hit a ball a long way and was also a good bowler in his day. In later years, knee problems forced him to cut down his run up and eventually resulted in him bowling spin. Dave Whitehead, who is married to Steve's sister Pam was a very good cricketer, a top all-rounder at our level. His batting philosophy was simple, if it's straight block it, if its wide hit it! It sounds simple, but Dave made it look easy at times and was a very competitive and elegant left hander who bowled a good pace with accuracy.
The mid eighties also saw us secure the services of two West Indian players in the form of Doug Pennycooke and Warren Latty. Doug was a very good bowler who hit the seam and could get good pace and lift off a short run up. Occasionally temperamental, Doug mellowed with age and really could have played longer despite the fact that he had knee problems. He could also strike the ball well at times. Warren was a smashing guy who batted left hand and only knew one way to play. "Hit the ball on the up man"! and boy could he hit a ball. When Warren was batting, everyone came out to watch and all of the kids stopped doing whatever they were doing. To say that Warren went through with the shot is an understatement, his follow through was as exaggerated as Brian Lara. If he was in for any amount of time then Warren would score runs. His best was a quick - fire 94 in 34 minutes with the ball disappearing to all parts of the ground. Warren was a quiet, modest man who unfortunately contracted heart trouble and subsequently retired from the game. Both players left their mark and are remembered with affection today.
A name that has crept into the equation without previous comment is that of Graeme Fowler. Aptly named the same as the Lancashire and England batsman, Graeme was also gifted with marvellous batting ability. Graeme joined the Club around 1984, having watched us play whilst 'passing'. He claimed, as many do, to be able 'to bat a bit' and so he was chosen to play in the second team shortly afterwards. He immediately smashed a century of the highest quality and followed it up the following week with a fifty. Graeme's shot selection was superb as was his timing. He only occasionally played the ball in the air, but played it often and delicately through mid wicket and the covers.
Graeme quickly found himself in the 1st team and soon hit a effortless 150. He became Club Treasurer after Terry Pinfold and began to help out with all aspects of the Club. Unfortunately, we were to lose Graeme to business commitments when he moved to the Leeds area for a new job around 1988.
Finally, on the playing side, the Club were promoted to the 1st Division of the indoor six a side league.
The first team's strength is increasing season by season and the Colts development has aided the strengthening of the second team, who were even more successful in their first season in the 2nd Division, finishing second and completing the double over Fillongley in the McCoys Sports Sunday League
The Club's continued success has not only been on the field. there have been many successful functions over the past few years, dinners, dances and presentations. There have been tours and day trips to Blackpool. these have established Nether Whitacre as a family Club. The fathers play cricket, the sons replace the fathers and the mothers, daughters, wives and girlfriends produce the best teas in the area.