Steve McHugh has seen more cricket at Crimble than most and has been a fantastic contributor to club life as a supporter, reporter and committee man over the years. Steve looks back on some of his fond memories of Heywood CC:
Do you recall the first game you watched?
My memory is not too hot going back that far! My late dad, Joe, told me he used to take me down to Crimble when I was about four, and in years to come he recalled that renowned New Zealand captain John Reid was our professional at that time.
But my first personal recollection was walking into the ground on a hot late summer’s day at the age of 11 in 1960 and feeling a big hand on my shoulder within moments. I looked up and saw what transpired to be this giant West Indian beaming down at me. Within moments he had put a sandwich board over my head and told me to go around the ground selling tickets, which turned out to be for his benefit match. My first encounter with the infamous Clairmonte Depeiza.
Favourite away ground and why?
I’ve thought long and hard about this and could name a few grounds I didn’t care for! Like most people, Middleton would have to be my first choice – after Crimble, of course. Always seemed to be a good wicket at Towncroft.
Best Heywood and opposition professional you’ve seen?
For Heywood, it would be easy to choose from the likes of international stars such as Geoff Lawson, Curtley Ambrose, Andy Flower and Sherwin Campbell. And Steve Wundke is hard to overlook. But, personally, I would have to go for Colin Lever for his service and consistency from 1968-1976. He was a dependable opening batsman, turned himself into a formidably accurate medium-quick seam bowler, and three CLL titles plus two Wood Cup wins during his tenure speak volumes for the effect he had on the side. Legend has it – although it could be factual – that he bowled only one no-ball, or one extra, or both during that time!
Naming an opposing professional is even more difficult. How do you overlook the likes of Sir Gary Sobers? But the best innings I ever saw by a professional at Heywood was by Sobers’ fellow West Indian Carl Hooper at Crimble in the mid-1980s, I think. I’m sure someone will correct me here, but I have it in my mind that he made 175 at Crimble – an extraordinary feat on such a big ground – against an attack featuring Wundke. If he hit the ball through extra cover and that gap was plugged, Hooper seemed able to caress the next ball where the fielder had previously been positioned. And so on, and so on. Or had I had too much to drink?
Best Heywood and opposition amateur you’ve seen?
In terms of outstanding service to Heywood and tremendous wicket-taking statistics, Chris Kaye and Dave Fare are obvious contenders. But my choice as best Heywood amateur is unquestionably Bobby Cross. His career total of around 20,000 runs will never be surpassed, in my opinion. He was also captain for a golden 10-year period in the early part of the millennium, and has remained a one-club man in an era when players would consistently move around to take the shilling.
As for the opposition? Difficult question, as teams for most of the early part of the era in which I have watched league cricket tended to be dominated by big-name professionals. And I want to exclude overseas amateurs from this section. Jackie Hunter (Littleborough), Dennis Heywood (Werneth), Stuart Wales (Milnrow) and Peter Wilcock were amongst the prolific run-scorers I can recall. Lee Wolstenholme (Middleton) was a fine left-arm spin bowler.
Best individual moment/performance you’ve seen, Heywood or otherwise?
Big innings or wicket-taking feats usually dominate this category. But the most memorable performance I ever saw from a Heywood batsman was by Trevor Brown opening the batting at Rochdale in the last match of the 1967 season. Heywood needed to win to clinch the CLL title from Royton, and when Rochdale were bowled out for around 80 it looked a straight-forward task. But the track was a nightmare, not unusual at most clubs in those days, and Heywood wickets fell at regular intervals. Trevor, however, stood firm and virtually alone, and was there unbeaten on 40 at the end as Heywood scraped home with two wickets to spare. Guess you’ll be able to recall that from Perth in Australia, Trevor, and I’ll be happy for you to point out any inaccuracies!
Favourite on-field memory?
All the Wood Cup wins during the early 2000s are memorable. But a terrific day out was the Lancashire Cup semi-final at Bootle in 2007. We took a sizeable following to the Liverpool area club, who featured several players who had either played pro cricket or went on to feature at the top level, and gave them an almighty scare. The visiting support seemed to outnumber the home fans by a considerable margin; it was a terrific day weather wise; and Heywood gave a tremendous account of themselves on the field despite falling to a narrow defeat. Most of all, the occasion underlined what a passion there is for the Club amongst its members. Happy days
Favourite off-field memory?
The inaugural CricketForce Day at Crimble, pre-season 2012. There was a terrific response to this ECB initiative and the presence of the likes of David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd and Mike Gatting added to the atmosphere of the occasion. Half of Heywood seemed to turn out to help transform Crimble, and underlined the affection for the Club. And it also resulted in the establishing of the patio area in front of the club where I have spent countless happy hours watching cricket with the likes of John Farrar, Mick Bottomley, Ian Wright, Chris Heywood, Paul Hamill, Keith Caveney et al.
Any other incidents you’d like to look back on?
I remember one day at Walsden when Heywood were batting and the umpire gave an outrageous lbw decision in favour of a left-arm bowler coming over the wicket – against the late and sorely-missed Tom Hardman – to a ball that pitched way outside leg stump. Well, that stirred up the visiting supporters no end and particularly one infamous Heywood critic, and the umpire came in for vociferous abuse. So much so that the umpire, who mistakenly thought that the critic in question was John Farrar, stopped the game after a while and admonished the said spectator, threatening to report him and have him banned. Quite a scene ensued, Farrar protested his innocence and the actual perpetrator of the abuse managed to slink away with a grin on his face. Now I wonder if you can imagine who that could be?
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