MIKE PROCTER insists that Gloucestershire are capable of reproducing the glory days of his era soon, writes Rob Iles.
The South African became a hero with Gloucestershire fans during his 16 years as a player between 1965 and 1981 at Nevil Road and returned to the County Ground last week for the NatWest T20 Blast match against Kent, which was dedicated to raising awareness for The Mike Procter Foundation.
Procter inspired Gloucestershire to the first piece of silverware in their history, scoring 94 and taking two wickets in their Gillette Cup final triumph against Sussex in 1973, and was captain four years later when they won the Benson and Hedges Cup.
Although Gloucestershire have always struggled to compete with larger counties, many of which benefit financially from hosting Test matches on a regular basis, the 67-year-old feels the club make up for that in other ways.
“The great thing about playing for Gloucestershire was the camaraderie in the team as well as the area," said Procter. "Those are the things that bring me back happy memories.
“We hadn’t won anything and then we won the Gillette Cup and the B&H Cup and all those one-day trophies around the Millennium (seven one-day trophies between 1999 and 2004), which was fantastic and there’s no reason why that can’t happen again.
“My fondest memories were winning trophies. When we won the Benson and Hedges I was captain and it was just out of this world.
“I always thought I owed it to the county and the supporters to win something because the support I had was fantastic and it was so nice to win in 1977 when I was captain.
“I had such good times but the most disappointing was '77 when we didn’t win the Championship as well.
“We lost it on the last afternoon. If we had beaten Hampshire I think we would have won the championship, but that’s sport.
“It was always a bit of a disappointment not being a high-profile county or having a Test ground but to play at places like Bristol, Cheltenham – a fabulous Festival – and we used to play at Gloucester, makes up for not having a Test ground.”
Procter, who still checks Gloucestershire’s scores every day, signed T20 shirts and other bits of memorabilia and judged a spectators' bowling competition on his first visit to Bristol for six years.
A key part of Gloucestershire’s strategy to bring success back is the redevelopment of the County Ground, with a new pavilion and stand funded by a block of apartments, and Procter was impressed by what he saw.
He said: “It looks fantastic. The flats at the end bring the players closer to the action. We haven’t had an atmosphere like that with people being on top of you because it’s always been pretty sparse."
Since leaving Gloucestershire, Procter has been a coach and selector for the South African national side and an ICC match referee but devotes most of his time now to charity work.
He has held a celebrity golf day near Durban for the last few years, which has raised more than £150,000 for the SA Police Widows and Orphans Fund and recently set up the Mike Procter Foundation to help empower disadvantaged people and communities through sport.