Gloucester RFC need the backing of the city
"YOU can beat a team, but you cannot beat a team and a city." So said Jimmy 'The Chin' Hill as he took Coventry City from the fourth to the first division.
He always admitted that a visit to Kingsholm was the inspiration for the phrase. All Gloucester were behind their rugby team and The Shed was the vehicle for showing it. Visiting players quaked.
Not so now. The Shed is silenced unless booing. Bath are above Gloucester in the league, such is the wreckage of the Redpath regime. There is, for the first time I can recall, a gap between team and supporters.
I do not get to Kingsholm often enough, but too often have I heard former coach Redpath uttering the same platitudes. "We must get the basics right, our discipline must be better." It was the same in April as it was in September. He knew the problem, but could not find the answer.
Now the inevitable has happened and Redpath has moved on. Some advice to the new regime - get the city back on side. A bit of all round effort will do the job, but remember The Shed’s loyalty must be earned. Obtain that loyalty and there is no limit to what may be achieved.
Nor is there any limit to what may happen at Forest Green Rovers - on or off the pitch. Prestigious new signings are talked about and a real challenge for football league status is to be mounted.
Saturday showed the strength of the current squad; Darlington were beaten with absolute ease. For the last hour of the game they were no threat at all, FGR could have upped the tempo and scored seven. Instead, at practice match pace, they indulged themselves playing keep ball. The match came to a tame end and everyone poured into the Carol Embury Suite for the Player of the Year Award. My candidate, full back Chris Stokes, was the winner.
Chris had come for a trial from Swindon Supermarine but after a month was sent home, with no contract. Then the phone call came – ‘Two left backs are injured, can you come and play?’ He has never been dropped since and has made the position his own. He readily acknowledges his luck, to which he has added both determination and skill.
These are qualities which our county cricketers are showing, too. They followed a defeat of Hampshire by having the best of a rain-affected draw with Kent. Will Gidman is playing exceptionally well but others are chipping in when needed. Ed Young looks like making the No.8 position his own with both runs and wickets. I have him down as a future captain.
The first home match is at Bristol starting Thursday. I am there on Friday or Saturday when it is certain to rain, so if you want good weather go on the first day.
This has been a wistful weekend in the Light household. I have been, but only in spirit, with our young cricketers in Canterbury and Mrs Light has been dreaming of the London Marathon. In her youth Mrs L would train in the gym to the strains of Stravinsky's The Rites of Spring. Then she would join her fellow Highgate Harriers on the Hampstead Heath athletics track. Cross country was her event, and had there been the London Marathon then she would certainly have competed. Now she thinks it is too late and I am making no attempt to dissuade her.
I have taken some stick this week about complaining about the number of South Africans in the England cricket team. I do not apologise and offer two quotes to back up my case. When Tony Greig was asked about his nationality, he answered, ‘Once a South African, always a South African’. Did he not captain England? Secondly from Andrew Symonds, who played some explosive cricket for Gloucestershire. Andrew had emigrated at an early age to Australia, but returned to play in England. He was selected for the England 'A' side. He turned it down saying he had learned the game in Australia and must be loyal to them. He was right then, and is surely right now.
It is where you learned to play that is vital. Andrew Strauss is therefore innocent. He learned the game here. Trott, Pieterson and Prior did not and I would select none of them.
I end on a happier note, quoting John Drinkwater: ‘What does it matter, as long as you are alive, If you're eighteen in April or rising sixty five.’ I have been both and can assure you he is right.
To return to school after Easter and see the athletics track marked out and the cricket square cut brought a joy and hope that are with me still. It's a bit like supporting Forest Green Rovers and Gloucestershire.