Musings From The Padded Cell

A Critics’ Corner – Chapter 12

12 – Glory Day

The 1980s were by far the most successful decade in the club’s history; a dizzy period where attendance at the League’s Waddilove Cup Final seemed almost our annual right. Although the record books will show that we were on the wrong side of the result more often than not in our seven Waddilove Cup Final appearances, at least we were there and we enjoyed every minute. A few of the finals were even captured on the latest “in thing” in video at the time, Betamax, courtesy of another knock off import smuggled in via a bale of wool from the Far East by the Captain’s father. Following on from Billy’s earlier attempt to film us you may conclude that we were a touch camera shy but the videos, now on DVD, capture some priceless memories.

The peak of our success came in 1986 when we won the double plus the Bradford Evening League Division One title albeit assisted by some rain-truncated games and, for the second year running, the League Prize for Sportsmanship. We were far too nice a bunch to try any of that sledging nonsense and Duck won many a fielding point occupying the position of square leg, swapping butterscotch sweets and sweet-talking the umpires before biting their butts later on, bad decision or not.


However, had our antics one night in the Evening League been taken into account that sportsmanship award may have been in jeopardy; as I’ve alluded to, we won the league that year somewhat assisted by the elements and despite a close rivalry with the Bradford League big guns, Pudsey St Lawrence who’s side contained some seriously good cricketers. Unfortunately they were skippered by a character nicknamed Amos who was clearly a second teamer bordering on the third team albeit when he was in the company of his seniors, he became a first rate knob.

As this was 1986 the new clubhouse was up and the old toilets around the back of the changing rooms had limited appeal. Consequently, when you got caught short most people used the watering can; so when Amos popped his head into our dressing room and asked if we had any water he could wet his wicket-keeping inner gloves with well. Most of us thought that their slips were set deep – they must have a seriously quick bowler or two – until we realised they were keeping well away from the stench coming from their wicket-keeper – although I use that description lightly.

Back to the cricket and we were finalists in seven out of eight seasons and so, shamelessly, copied the relatively new trend in purchasing commemorative cup final shirts; some held out though for tradition and Rick Lawrence continues to this day to wear his 1986 buttoned and long sleeved homage to days of old mostly as a protest against the modern day inclusion of a sponsor’s logo. As champions in 1985 and 1986 we only lost one game (plus the 1985 cup final) in that period and they were heady days.

Most of the cup finals were played at the wonderful sports grounds of the mail order company Grattan before it unfortunately fell on hard times, sold the ground and, even worse, sold out to the Germans. The ground had a unique atmosphere despite the fact that we probably never saw a crowd over a few hundred and yet it felt like thousands; the games themselves were often exciting, close run affairs sometimes evolving over the following week, as rain was never far away, causing games to be carried on night after night. Who cared…I was a student for most of them.

For The Record – Harden – Game On

1980 – our first cup final against Harden – a club that became fierce rivals on the field but remain great friends off it.

Villas – 173 (R Lawrence 65, N Gibson 30)

Harden – 165/9 (B Shackleton 4/43, T Brown 2/113)

Villas had slumped to 110/6 but were held together by man of the match Rick and, as we always seemed to, we got to respectability as stubbornly as ever. And then as he often did, captain Browny shared the whole forty overs as was played in those days with Brent – refusing to bowl anybody else – although looking at the scorecard it was hard to see who. Somehow, through a fantastic effort from Brent, Villas got home and that bowling spell for sheer force of will was as good as I have ever seen.

Buttershaw St Pauls

1981 – perhaps the toughest time of my Villas’ life. Having missed out on the final the year before, I thought I had established myself in the team. In the semi-final, away at our less than friendly rivals, Jer Lane, nicknamed Gob Lane by many, Brent and Mick Adams had restricted them to 117 and at 50/1 we were cruising only to lurch then to 80/5 in true Villas fashion. Then, in a flurry of head high slashes through gully and other ugly heaves, Brent with the ugly heaves (33n.o) and me with nervous slash after slash (20n.o) saw the team home with many overs to spare. So to be dropped for the final was a touch hard to understand. To not even make Twelfth Man…don’t go there.

Buttershaw SP – 211/7 (M Adams 3/90, B Shackleton 2/52, T Brown 2/62)

Villas – 195 (B Shackleton 72, D Tattersall 33, R Lawrence 29)

A very strong opposition batting line up and a total that was simply too many in the end although Villas kept going right until the final ball with an undefeated cameo twenty from Browny; it must have been a long, long night in the bar afterwards with Browny doubtless telling all and sundry that if only he had been shoved up the order we might have won due to his new all rounder status at the age of ninety plus. He’s still talking about it now.

Woodlands – Game One

1983 – a classic semi-final where the fighting spirit we showed throughout the decade was at it is most prominent. Frankly we were done for – away at Thornbury chasing 135 with only Browny, Mick Adams and myself left at 85/8; there was more chance of a lift to the moon or so it seemed. Somehow, amidst the sort of tension you only get with low scoring games we edged our way to needing three off two balls with one wicket remaining and then, in a chaotic moment we scampered a single only to get the remaining runs via overthrows and bedlam erupted with Mick and I skipping like drunken ballerinas from the field.

The best bit was the look on Charlie Dalton’s face as he banged on the changing room windows absolutely delighted. For years after I bumped into their opening bowler and simply did not know what to say to him. I think it was Mick’s personal best with the bat and set Browny off on another theory that he should move up the order too. Awaiting us in the final was a very progressive outfit called Woodlands that would go on to dominate the Bradford League many years later.

Woodlands – 164/8 (S Wilson 3/58, MAdams2/64)

Villas – 158/8 (A Stockdale 34, D Tattersall 32*, J Brennan 29)

Mick bowled brilliantly, conceding only six more runs in his full twenty overs which was eleven more than me, going around the park like a roulette ball and proof that as an example of our young bowling talent we might need to keep Browny’s Zimmer going for a few years. Frankly, we batted so slowly we almost stopped and only some brave cameos got us close. They were a good side but we should have won that game.

Denholme – Game One

1984 – the first of two meetings with Denholme, long before our import of several of their natives on Kolpak signings.

Denholme – 197/7 (T Brown 3/78, M Adams 2/70)

Villas – 168 (A Stockdale 52,S Wilson41)

Like the previous year, this was not concluded on the Sunday afternoon and, once again, we were just not quite good enough. Two fine bowling displays by Mick Adams and Denholme’s Geoff Fisher, each bowling their full allowance, but our support bowling was weak. Browny was ageing and I was simply not good enough. Mick was outstanding but on the day Fisher was supreme. The game was won by an exhilarating knock of 85 from Jim Binns, who I never saw score a run against us again. Equally, their most effective bowler, a chuck it up in the air type, took a five-for only to be carted around every time we ever met again. Cometh the hour…

Woodlands – Game Two

1985 – Woodlands again, beaten…again…and yet it was oh so close. Once again, never say die with Villas.

Villas – 62 (S Wilson 15, RLawrence12, J Brennan 10)

Woodlands – 66/6 – (B Shackleton 4/34)

We collapsed on a very sporty wicket and at tea – actually not far past lunch – we were done for. And then Brent bowled a spell as fast as I think I had ever seen that day, apart from those when he played against us and thought he was bowling at Haighy. Like a man possessed he had them teetering at thirty for six. He simply charged in, arms pumping, slips waiting and crowd on the edge of their seats but we just had not got enough. Once again, the nearly men – but we were League Champions for the first time. Notable too that it was Browny’s last final with 1/20 in nine economical overs – no disgrace for the old schemer and thank God he did not top score with the bat.

Denholme – Game Two… And Spenner!

1986 – the treble winning year. And as I said above cometh the hour…and welcome back Denholme.

Villas – 153/9 (J Brennan 55)

Denhome 111 (M Adams 6/41, B Shackleton 4/66)

At 90/8 we were staring down the barrel again with only JB left as a recognised batter – steady in your graves you old Critics – and Denis Wood and Mick Adams to keep him company. Somehow, batting with courage and grit against their mad opening bowler, Paul “Spenner” Spencer – more later – JB and Denis got us to a respectable total. After that, it was the Adams/Shackleton show…simply too good despite some momentous six-hitting from the Denholme lads, who certainly did not favour running singles. In the end we were comfortable winners but the final act of lunacy was for the man of the match adjudicator, from Gob Lane, to award it to Spenner. We never actually won the hearts and minds bit with the Gob Lane lads

Harden – Game Two

1987 – Harden again – the start of their great period with a young and very talented side. The one thing about Harden was that no matter how tough the game, what had gone on and who had come out trumps, they were always great company off the field. Given the early finish to this game, and the fact that instead of going home they came across town to drink us dry, I’m not sure we have had many better nights at Villas. In truth they were stuffed out of sight by Brent a bowler now simply too good for this league; to add insult to injury most went home with molar marked butts as well.

Harden – 99 (B Shackleton 7/47, M Adams 2/47)

Villas – 100/2 (A Stockdale 47*,S Wilson33*)

End of an Era

We started the decade led by the old guard in Browny who was replaced by Brent for a couple of seasons 1981-2; Brent’s captaincy was lively to say the least and never shy on “innovation”. However, Dave Tattersall, who captained the team from 1983-9, led our period of real sustained success. Put simply, whilst being far from a front line player, he gave us that organisation, common purpose and belief as a unit that allowed a very talented and competitive bunch to become a very good cricket team.

Of course he had his favourites, I was certainly not one of them, and sometimes his choices could be frustrating, but there is no doubting his record as captain. It is a very tough job at any level and the man who puts his hand up is there to be shot at. His spell as captain post-war remains second in duration only to Ernest Jackson, which sums up his personal commitment to the team in that period. It did help that in that time he worked for United Biscuits as a Sales Rep and was often home by lunchtime most days; who really needs to work hard selling Jaffa Cakes.

As with most teams though, nothing is forever and for some of the team the pull of the Bradford League, the “Big League”, was beginning to have it is calling. The bowling had been almost a three-man effort, although Browny had gone by the middle of the decade and Brent was inevitably in need of a greater challenge. The price for this approach was evident in that there were few obvious successors. In short the team had started to break up and at the end of the 1989 season the captain had decided he had done enough and he too would be moving on. #

The next few years would be transitional and, as the committee picked the captain, anything was likely to happen…and it did…they picked me. So in 1990 I began the season as captain of a much changed team, not sure why I was doing it and not sure if I wanted to…come back Tatts, all is forgiven.

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  1. Nick (Ginger) Gibson says:

    Great memories mate..biggest dissapointment of my cricketing career is that having got to the finals I never got a good score..highest was 30. Maybe if I had we would and should have won a few more. I have to say that the Woodlands low scoring game that we lost is one of the best games I have been involved in. As you say Shck bowled quicker than I have ever seen him and the track was not the best. Great atmosphere and yes yours truly not only got a duck but I also dropped a diving catch at gully…..

    • Steve Wilson says:

      Funny how finals work out but going in first against the new cherry is the toughest job of all…not often you dropped anything…to steal that old line if only it had been a pie…take a look at new website if you get a minute.

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