England Player Turns Out for Octopus

 

Phil's brother Stewart lived in Enfield when we were based there and played for the club from 1988 or 89 until around 2003 when persistent back trouble forced him to stop playing. Stewart was a talented batsman who was 1st or 2nd in the averages probably every year he played for us, 400 runs a season was about par for him, he was also a useful bowler and captained the side for the majority of his playing career. On several occasions there were "rumours" that Phil was going to join the honoured ranks of Octopi and also a couple of times that he was going to bring along county colleague Richard Illingworth (now an umpire). Sadly, it never quite happened due to County commitments etc., although Phil did come and watch bits of games two or three times, invariably prompting a rare duck or dropped catch from his brother.

 

In 2001 a tour was proposed, and Worcester was suggested as a likely venue by Stewart and our fixture secretary Simon Quartermaine, who'd been there a couple of times to watch Phil and Worcester, and found the town an excellent site for a drinking session. Arrangements were made for the tour to take place over the May bank holiday weekend with games on the Saturday and Monday, and a "rest" day on the Sunday.

 

Three tourists travelled up on the Friday evening, got spectacularly drunk and ended up being ejected from our B&B before the rest of us arrived on the Saturday (none are current players). When the rest of us arrived on the Saturday, poor Simon Q had to spend quite some time convincing the landlady that the rest of us could be trusted and financial reparations were made before we were allowed to stay. Not an auspicious start to the tour.

 

Things soon improved when we arrived at the venue for the first game against West Malvern (with our regular team, no PN). It was set in the grounds of some sort of Manor House or stately home (grounds which I seem to remember they had been granted free use of by a benevolent owner), the facilities were basic, but the surroundings were beautiful, the opposition friendly and the teas spectacular (I have memories of home made scones and jam with cream and two or three senior ladies fussing over our every need) and it was all prepared fresh on site. We had a close game and I honestly can't remember who won, but it was one of those occasions where it didn't really matter, cricket was the winner. Afterwards we retired to their local for an hour or two before heading back into Worcester for more beer/perry/cider and a curry.

 

On Sunday we played pitch and putt, watched football in the pub, drank gallons of beer/perry/cider and had another curry. We also bade farewell to Wayne and Danny who had to return home due to family commitments. Luckily we had two replacements available in the form of Phil Newport and his son (whose name eludes me) who was about 12 or 13 and therefore fitter and more talented than most of the team. Phil was by this time teaching sports (cricket) at a fee paying school and several of his proteges were to feature for the opposition, Worcester Nomads on Bank Holiday Monday.

 

The ground was again good quality, but not picturesque as the one on Saturday had been. Watching the opposition warm up we started to wonder if we might be a little out of our league. Sadly I don't have the details for either of the games, although SS may be able to help there. Suffice to say we lost, but made a decent fist of it, thanks to the Newports. Shakey kept wicket to Phil's bowling and he always says it was the easiest time he ever had behind the woodwork for Octopus. His palms may have stung a little, and he was standing about a pitch length back (and taking the ball comfortably at waist height), but after the first ball he knew pretty much exactly where every other ball was going - metronomic is the word ! I'm pretty sure Phil didn't take any wickets, the batting line-up of the opposition was high quality and I'm sure he wasn't bowling at the pace he would have in his county days. I remember his son either taking or just missing a spectacularly athletic catch. They got loads of runs. I opened the batting at No.2, I think Stewart Newport was No.1, but I'm not certain, whoever it was didn't last long and I was joined by Phil Newport (I honestly remember thinking "I'm batting with an England player !"). I got 2 off an outside edge and an over or two later was bowled by a ball I didn't even see. Phil Newport went on to make 70 or 80 something in fine style. For those who don't know he was a bowler, not an all rounder, but a bowler who could bat and particularly towards the end of his county career he got a lot of runs for Worcestershire. We lost by some margin, but not so many as to be embarrasing. Despite his impressive county career and brief time in the England set-up, Phil Newport was a thoroughly decent and down to earth bloke who encouraged all of us during the game regardless of the gulf in talent.

 

He wasn't given much of a chance for England, but his county record speaks for itself, he was consistently in the top 10 or so in the leading wicket takers. We can all be proud that he once turned out for Octopus.

 

Those I can remember being on tour :- Andy James, Stuart Satterley, Ian Hill, Stewart Newport, Jamie Whiteside, Danny Kemp, Wayne Smith, Eddie Sketchley, Chris Wright (who later brought us Harsh and Rocky), Simon Quartermaine, Stan Barker.

 

A. James.