THIS week’s column is not the easiest to write because in so doing I am looking back to a sad and disturbing aspect of my chairmanship of our County Cricket Club.
Readers of the Daily Telegraph will know what I mean. The edition of Tuesday, February 19, carried an article by former Glamorgan cricketer Steve James in which cricketer Craig Spearman admitted he had a gambling problem.
Gloucestershire supporters will remember Craig as a batsman who could destroy opposition attacks. With a wide range of shots and the confidence to play them, Craig was a marvellous entertainer, scoring prolifically at the top of the order. His 341 against Middlesex at Gloucester is the top score ever for a Gloucestershire player and his innings of 76 on T20 finals day at Edgbaston took us to the last stage of the competition.
The problem was that Craig, while able to deal with bowlers of all types, could not deal with the demons within. His illness, because that is what a gambling addiction is, took him right to the brink and induced deep feelings of self loathing.
These are not my words, they are those of Craig himself. At last, he is recognising he has a problem and that is the first step towards cure.
On a personal level, Craig is the only one who knows what his gambling has cost him – not just financially but in the most vital commodity of all, human relationships. In cricketing terms, he lost his international career and ultimately his county contract. Possessing a fine cricket brain he could easily have become county captain.
While he was with Gloucestershire, Craig was offered help from all sides. Chief Executive Tom Richardson often went much more than the extra mile. The Professional Cricketers’ Association were supportive of club and individual in every respect.
The decision was made to keep his situation from both press and public. That decision was one I was ultimately responsible for and it was made, following the best advice. With hindsight, I wonder if we should have acted differently. Now this gracious man has recognised his illness he can move forward. Proud to call him a friend, I know life has many good things awaiting him if he can move forward and I hope all of us whom he entertained so royally join me in wishing him well.
In a week that has seen two young cricketers sent home from the England Lions tour the temptations that beset young sportsmen have been highlighted. The cricketers, one from Durham and one from Kent, were given a written warning but continued carousing. English cricket now demands the highest standards at home and away. Hopefully two young men have learnt their lesson.
There is one lesson Forest Green footballers need to learn. It is a simple one. Do not give away soft goals. They did so against Kidderminster last Tuesday and however hard they tried, an equaliser was not forthcoming.
It was both tense and exciting watching them try, however. Heart trouble caused me to withdraw from cricket administration but I face the promotion run-in with confidence, hoping there will not be too many games like the last one. Three points a game will help.
So will warmer weather. I bottled it on Saturday and did not venture forth, watching the Six Nations matches on TV. Although occasional visits are made to The Whiteway and Kingsholm, soccer is my first love. Saturday reinforced that view.
I offer some statistics. Thirteen substitutions, eight penalties and only two tries. With that many substitutions how can one keep in touch with what is going on. Eighteen of England’s points came from penalties. It was at times a clumsy, attritional game. Mrs Light got it right when she said it was all very trying. It was not the effort of the England side she was referring to.
Last week reader Alan Moss sent a picture of a Cirencester water polo team to the nostalgia page, asking for identification of the players. It reminded me how much the water polo team were part of the Cirencester sporting scene, using the outdoor pool as a base. There are still several veterans about who I am sure can help Alan – if not, I will point him in the right direction.