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I started playing at Sixways in 1976, courtesy of Ron Walker who was a stalwart of my then cricket club, The Old Elizabethans, and whose daughter, Sandra I was going out with at the time. Initially I trained and played for the Colts under the watchful eye of Derek Thompson and Brian Wilks playing predominantly at full back and reserve stand-off. As I was a young leaver from RGS I had 2 enjoyable years in the colts before progressing to “The Greyhounds” under the captaincy of you guessed it – Mike Robbins. I eventually reached the heights of the bench for the first XV during my 7 or so immensely rewarding seasons playing for Worcester RFC. Mainly though, I played in the 3rds and 2nds toward the end of my short career brought about by dislocating both shoulders during my final season. I recall the stalwarts at the time, Jeremy and Martin Richardson, Neville South, Mickey Knott, Dick Cumming, Phil Collins and Paul Drew to name but a few of the more serious players, combined with the social participants such as Mike Robins and Dave Hope.
It was during this enjoyable time that I had little option than to hone my drinking skills, alongside Dave Davies, Brian Lewis, Gary Neal. Whichever team we played for we as a group we always met back at the Club after the matches and then have to decide if we went home at 7-7.30 or did a through until the bar closed at 10.30 under the watchful eye of John Morewood. Irrespective of what time we did leave on some occasions we had to play spoof to see who was going to drive home as taxi!! I can still recall Dave Davies putting his Vauxhall Viva into the brook on the Club’s driveway having failed to negotiate the bridge exiting the Club!
Whether it was Mike’s idea, I cannot recall, however, suffice to say someone had the idea of doing a sponsored run from Sixways to Cardiff on the day of the Wales v Scotland Five Nations match in 1978. A distance of some 84 miles. Mike assured us we would run to a local Welsh rugby club, drop “the kids” off and then we would go and collect tickets to the game. A coach was organised fully stocked with a variety of alcoholic beverages for the journey and very little food. This involved each person (of approx. 30) running a mile then back on the coach until the whole gang had done the same, and then it was your turn again. Easy, we only had to run 3 or so miles! I seem to recall that my first mile was running up the road by British Camp. The miles became increasingly difficult as the effects of the “refreshments” took their toll. I am sure a young Chris Jordan was one of the younger members on board.
Progress wasn’t as planned and it soon became evident we wouldn’t make the start of the match if we continued to run. A hasty committee meeting decided that the coach driver should be instructed to make haste to the Rugby Club and then onwards to the meeting point to collect the match tickets. All went to plan until we arrived at the said hostelry in the middle of Cardiff to meet “the man” with the tickets. Suffice to say he didn’t appear and we were left high and dry. We went back to the Rugby Club and watched the game on TV before returning to I think The Royal George Hotel by the stadium for a night of revelry. Wales had been triumphant and fortunately we were with the coach driver. I recall us being regaled by a load of Scotsmen complete with the obligatory piper. At some point, it began to snow, a trickle turned in to a shower and then a blizzard at which point the coach driver said he was not going to hang about and we needed to go pick up the kids and get on the road back home. This we did, but not before we “lost” I believe 3 members of the “team”, one or two of which ended up on Cardiff Central railway station for the night, after which the city was cut off entirely. Of course, it was not Mike’s fault!!! We had a great day out and all turned out well in the end!! I am sure there are some more accurate recollections of this heroic adventure and some that would be remembered through the obligatory beer goggles.
On another occasion, Mr Robbins lost out at the end of evening game of spoof to see who was driving and ended up having to take me back home to St Johns, both he and I were definitely worse for wear. All was going well until we came over the New Road bridge, when we were faced with a police presence funnelling cars into the middle lane and stopping all the cars. Apparently there had been a murder in Hylton Road and they were doing a car to car etc. When the PC came to the window he suggested Mike put his handbrake on at which point he fell over the lever between the driver and front passenger seat. I was in the passenger seat trying not to laugh out loud. More surprisingly after asking a few questions we were allowed to drive on, at which point the car veered to the right hand lane and back in again. How on earth he kept his licence is a mystery to me to this day.
WRFC was a winter keep fit sport for me for my first love of cricket and I find it fantastic that both Worcester and my cricket Club, Pershore C.C. will both be celebrating their 150 year anniversary in 2021. I do hope that we are able to organise some joint functions and meet up with a few old team mates over the next few months.
Martin Johnson 1976-1984 ish
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