Supporter in the Spotlight
Q: What was your first overseas Test match?
A: Durban, 2004. Ironically, I didn’t want to go at the outset and was persuaded by Streetfly about the benefits of spending Xmas and New Year in South Africa. He didn’t explain about the benefits of a forty-hour flight via Manchester, London, Rome, Addis Ababa, and Johannesburg or the home comforts we would enjoy at the Train Lodge in Cape Town which he had booked for our stay. Thanks are however, overdue to Streetfly for infecting me with the tour bug, leading to all the enjoyable times since.
Q: What is your most memorable overseas Test match you’ve seen?
A: Although we actually won the Ashes at Sydney later this tour, it has to be Adelaide 2010. The series was level and as the final day of the Test dawned it looked as though Australia were going to be saved by an incoming storm forecast for about 1pm – the locals were all in their back yards building Arks. England got Mike Hussey out early and wrapped up the win about an hour before the heavens opened. My first Test victory in Australia and sweet revenge for the gut-wrenching Adelaide defeat on the previous tour.
Q: Who is your favourite current England player?
A: Gary Ballance. He doesn’t hang around.
Q: Who is your favourite England player of all time?
A: For his positivity, never-say-die attitude and sacrifices to the cause, it has to be Steve Harmison. How he suffered at Hamilton. How we suffered at Hamilton.
Q: Who is your favourite opposition player of all time?
A: Brendon McCullum. Captains & plays in the right way. Hard but fair. Lancashire once put out an exciting headline to the effect that “they had signed Kiwi McCullum”. It turned out to be his brother.
Q: What is your favourite overseas Test ground any why?
A: A difficult question, given we are unlikely to ever play a Test at Queenstown. I cannot decide between The Basin Reserve Wellington and the Bellerive Oval Hobart. The former because of the history and laid back feel of watching cricket on the grass banks, the latter because of the stunning fish & chip shop next to the beach just outside the ground. No wonder Flat Jack Simmons is an adopted son of Tasmania!
Q: Which country is your favourite to tour and why?
A: Kia Ora. The next two sections are sponsored by the New Zealand Tourist Board. The only drawback is the long flight – stunning scenery, lovely people, lots to see and do outside the Test calendar and ease of travel by hire car. It is also the birthplace of the only Barmy Army songs that truly entertained and made me laugh hysterically. “Jesse Ryder’s an evil man” and the follow-up “Why why why, Jesse Ryder” as performed by Dougie in his blazer on the grass banks at Wellington & Napier during the Test matches in 2008 in front of the entire England support. Great drinking songs for a legendary drinker. These performances were so funny, that rather than asking Dougie to sit down and shut up, the Kiwi ground stewards simply pissed themselves laughing. Unlike some countries which can become ‘repetitive’, the more I visit, the more I fall in love with New Zealand.
Q: Of all the cities/towns you visited on tour, which is your favourite?
A: Wellington, NZ. Love everything about it. Spiritual home of ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy. Spectacular setting, cool vibe, great theatres and shows, The Sprig & Fern bar on Tinakori Rd with its 2-4-1 pizzas. A superb cricket ground. Last but not least the Beijing Restaurant in Newtown. Sadly,no motor museums!
Q: What is your most memorable non cricket moment on tour?
A: The most difficult question on Freddie’s list and impossible to answer. There are so many, I could write a book. Five minutes away from winning the Ashes at Sydney in 2011, and we are all very excited. But Lofty is still shouting criticism about Strauss’ field positions with the convicts batting, nine wickets down. The normally extremely polite Tremers responds thus: “F*cking hell, Lofty. We’ve just won the f*cking Ashes, for f*cks sake. Stop f*cking complaining!” The Wycombe hire-car crash incident in Pretoria witnessed in shock & awe by myself and Tremers would be up there, as would Herbie’s vacillating, tormented wait for his aborted ‘streak’ on the grass bank at Durban as England passed 500 in their second innings in 2004 – while Billy the trumpeter played ‘The Stripper’. The impromptu main street party in Wellington after Englands victory in 2008, in front of all the bemused commuters returning home. Five-O’s hallucinatory flute playing in the Olypub in Calcutta will live long in the memory, as will his excited shouts at the cricket the next day when Tendulkar was out. Sat in a packed stand of Bengalis, to our horror we heard: “Sachin-Sach-out. Time to retire Tendulkar. You’re past it, mate!” But for sheer, unashamed blissful drunkenness, I have decided to nominate a little known Small Faces tribute night at the RSA in Napier where, together with Lofty (until he went to bed), Orange hat Martin and his pals, we enjoyed countless pints and black zambucas followed by a session in the Irish bar until it closed, then finally at 3am watching the second half football from Old Trafford live on the pavement outside the closed bar with a large crowd of enthusiastic locals as United beat Liverpool 3-0. You can take the lad out of Manchester... I arrived hung over at the cricket ground near tea time the following day just in time to see Strauss save his career with a century, as I recall, and also carrying the beginnings of a near fatal spider bite on my foot incurred the previous night. Yeah, that has to be the most memorable. Because the doctor said I could have snuffed it.
Q: What do you enjoy most about touring?
A: With a Test record of P 44 W 14 D 12 L 18, together with a visit to the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, it clearly isn’t England winning at cricket. A sentiment that I know is shared by Mr Blade. The best thing about touring is exploring the wonderful world that we inhabit, and meeting all the lovely people that I have though cricket over the years, from the original Addis Ababa crew to more recent encounters. Many of these people have since become great friends, and it is invariably a pleasure to be in their diverse company.