The Present and the Future
Looking at some of the old photographs reproduced in this brochure and seeing glimpses of the pavilion, for instance, gives the impression that the Club is much the same now as it has been for much of the past 100 years.
Physically, this is certainly true. The ground has hardly altered at all; the pavilion and changing rooms still look as if they might collapse from age or die from the shock of receiving a spring-clean at any moment, and apart from our bar extension and the Tennis Club bar, which are new and look it, and the groundsman's hut, which is and doesn't the outlook is as similar and as pleasing to the eye as it was in the "golden age" of cricket - the 20's and 30's.
In all probability too, the cricket was just as enjoyable in those bygone days as now - maybe, in some ways, even more so.
Wherein lies the difference nowadays is the size of the Club and the type of cricket we play.
We can currently boast some seventy playing members, enabling us to regularly field three sides on a Saturday, all playing League cricket, and an occasional extra 3rd XI to play friendly games, as well as three sides on a Sunday. And this in an area where people wanting to play top-class club cricket have no less than three clubs within a radius of a mile from which to choose - Hutton and Old Brentwoods being the other, of course.
We have been members of the Truman Essex League since its formation in 1972. Our best performances have been in 1975, when the 1st XI finished 3rd; 1976 when the 2nd XI won their division, and 1980 when the 2nd XI finished 3rd.
By the standards we set ourselves, it must be said that our performances on the field have been rather disappointing in the League, and we have probably not consistently done justice to our quality as a leading club, particularly during the last decade. Certainly we have always had our share of top-class players - indeed, we presently have five playing members who are either current or past county 2nd XI players - but somehow the top placings in the League have tended to be a bit elusive, especially to our 1st XI.
"2nd XI - 1976 League Winners". The author is standing 3rd from the right.
It is so difficult to put a finger on quite why this should have been so. Brentwood has always been a somewhat cosmopolitan club; the sort of club that by virtue of its location and reputation has traditionally attracted, for instance, people who have come to the area because of their jobs and who want to join a club for maybe a couple of years before moving out of the area again. Perhaps that has prevented us from enjoying the same settled 'club' atmosphere as our near-neighbours.
Whatever the reason, we are confident that it is in the past and we can look to the future with optimism. Our 'turnover' of players is much less nowadays and we are beginning to see the fruits of several years of cultivating colts cricket in the Club. We have had an active colts section since 1967. We run coaching sessions and nets for youngsters from the age of nine throughout the summer and we enter colts sides in all the local competitions. Several players who started in our colts teams have now worked their way through the Club either into or on the brink of the 1st XI, notably Martin Pether (who has also played for Essex 2nd XI), Tim Riley, John Hayto, David Cantor, Mark Potter and Richard Stroud. They would undoubtedly have been joined in the near future by another product of the Colts, Graham Nichols, an off-spinner of immense promise who was tragically killed last November at the age of 17.
The growth and success of our colts section has been entirely due to the hard work and enthusiasm shown by a number of our members who have organised and umpired their matches and assisted with their coaching. Notable among those who have looked after the colts since their formation have been Bernard Potter, Jon Coote, Bob Page and Roy Marshall, and there is a certain satisfaction in the Club that a recent product of the colts is now the official Club organiser for them - John Hayto.
In order to bring the best out of these younger players as they progress through the Club we must produce good wickets for them to play on. Elsewhere in this brochure are sufficient wistful and nostalgic reminiscences of the quality of our wickets in the olden days to leave nobody in doubt that such standards have not, unfortunately, proved possible to maintain. The result has been wickets which for a number of years have been lacking in both pace and bounce and not conducive therefore to the more positive and attractive elements of either batting or bowling. However, by virtue of considerable hard work and loving care on the part of our present groundsman, John Waldon, and, especially, Maurice Cole, we believe that conditions are improving and that in the near future Brentwood will once again be able to boast a wicket as good as any in the country - which facet, allied to the aesthetic beauty of the ground generally, has prompted such venerable authorities as E. W. Swanton and Trevor Bailey to wax lyrical about its attributes from time to time in the past.
Brentwood Cricket Club circa 1980.
Ours is a very large ground to maintain, and it can only be kept in good condition with the assistance of certain items of machinery such as a tractor, gang mowers and various motorised rollers. Our present fleet of rolling stock should by rights have been pensioned off and donated to the British Museum many years ago. But we have always endeavoured to maintain our members' subscriptions at as low a level as possible so as not to deter the less wealthy rather than build up substantial financial reserves. It is our fervent hope that we shall be able to raise sufficient money from our various Centenary events to be able to purchase some new equipment to see the Club well on its way towards its bicentenary.
When the ground is in good condition and the sun is shining, there is no better place to be on a summer Sunday afternoon, as the increasing number of families with the cars parked round the boundary would confirm. Sundays are for friendly matches, in the true sense of the term; away from the pressures of League cricket; days when all the family can come along and see games against clubs from farther afield. We are justifiably proud of our Sunday Fixture list, which is the product of much hard work by David Alton who has been Fixture Secretary for no less than 11 years.
No club can survive for 100 years without a regular supply of members prepared to give unstinting and selfless - and invariably unpublicised - endeavour in the many 'behind the scenes' tasks. There is no reward for this type of chap, and invariably no thanks. I think it is appropriate therefore in this brochure to pay tribute to those people who are currently fulfilling the functions of 'voluntary helpers' for the well-being of the members as a whole and the future of the Club: people such as the Chairman, Alan Eyres; the Treasurer, Jon Coote; the Match Secretaries, Ken Hobbs and Paul Adams, and the Social Secretary, Bob Page. People like Maurice Cole, David Alton and Roy Marshall whose valuable contributions have been described earlier. The other officers of the Club - Brian Baker, Pat Connolly, Mark Donkin and Mick Wright - and the other members of the Committee. And, in this special year for us, George Smith and his Centenary Committee who have done so much towards making the celebrations a success on behalf of everybody, past and present, who has enjoyed an association with Brentwood Cricket Club.
With members such as those and with our wealth of players, particularly the young ones, the Club's progress towards its next 100 years is starting off on a sound basis. None of us will be around to confirm it, but I bet that this time next century the Club Secretary will be writing something similar.
MALCOLM WEBB has been a member of Brentwood C.C. since 1976 when the Old Brentwoods did a major service towards the longevity of sundry club cricketers in the county by persuading Essex Water Company to lease them their ground thereby ensuring the disbanding of South Essex C.C. (his former club) and curtailing the excessive social habits of the members of such club. After three years as Team Secretary, he has enjoyed the position of Club Secretary for the last two years, a task originally accepted mainly by the dangling of the carrot of Saturday 2nd XI captaincy at the same time. He has revived his latent journalistic training to help edit this brochure.
BCC Centenery Season Fixtures, 1981.