Essex is the county of my birth, back in 1972. And six years later, I got involved in the wonderful game of cricket via my late father, who regaled me with tales of watching Test cricket in the 1960s. Immediately I was bitten by the cricket bug.
In 1979, via the medium of television, I watched Essex County Cricket Club win their first title, the Benson and Hedges Cup at Lord’s. I was transfixed by the brilliant batting of the classy Graham Gooch and by the superb support coming forth from the crowd that day.
And from then on, Essex has been and will be the only county I will solidly support, through thick and thin. I’ve seen the bad times, the struggles, and have also seen the triumphs, like last year’s incredible unbeaten season as County Champions for the first time in 25 years.
I watched my first live game as a spectator in 1980 as Essex played Somerset in a Sunday League match. There was a heaving crowd and it was a battle for a weeny eight year old to see my heroes in action. There was Ian Botham, Viv Richards, Joel Garner, Graham Gooch, John Lever, Norbert Philip, Keith Fletcher et al. A great cast list of superb players, and there was little A.S.D, viewing it all with wonder.
Then it was onto my umpiring days and I had a few happy years officiating the stars of tomorrow in age group matches, plus, unbelievably, a second team match. Yes, on the main County Ground at Chelmsford with professionals playing. I wouldn’t say that was an ambition when I started umpiring in 1987, but 13 years later, there I was.
I’ve umpired finals at the main ground and have supported the County by either officiating or by watching them. I have made so many friends and acquaintances through cricket, and I shall never forget my dealings with all at Chelmsford. Wonderful people.
Even when I can’t get to a game, I check on the scores and check on the progress of some of the team, whom I’ve been incredibly lucky to umpire in the last few years. It is really heartening to see their progress to the fringes of national England selection, and they’ve thoroughly deserved to be right in the frame.
Me? Well umpiring isn’t on the menu at the moment, but I will always have a great love for cricket. It is the best game in the world, I like to think, played by gentlemen. There are those who don’t play as gentlemen, but let’s not dwell on those. Let’s dwell on Essex. The county of my birth and the county of so many superb cricketers. Let’s hope for more success in the next few years.
Essex – always and forever my county.