Light's out and about illuminating the sporting scene

Stroud News and Journal: John Light John Light

WHAT a delight it was to read SNJ May 9,about talented cricketer Jonty Gardiner, from the Shrubberies School in Stonehouse, and his selection of the England disability development squad, and how deserved was the praise his father heaped on Cam Cricket Club.

Steve Silk of the county board echoed that praise as well as Coach Ian Dixon mentioned Alison Dixon and Dave Cotterell. They and many like them are giving so many opportunities for our youngsters to enjoy themselves “under the summer sun”.

It has been a stuttering start to local cricket this season but one matter stands out. Stroud Cricket club have every reason to be strutting, to steal a word from the old rhyme (and of course Painswick to be proud!). Last year Stroud moved grounds. There were teething problems with the square but that is all in the past. The recruitment of the talented Louis Gregg shows their ambition and captain Paul Frape is justifiably confident.

I have a personal question for Paul - are you a member of the cricketing family from Coates who were such a part in my cricketing up-bringing?

Pride must have been the feelings in the Painswick camp after their victory at Cheltenham. I quote “a young and confident side well led by new skipper Jon Griffiths”.

They seem certain to enjoy a fine season. There has been another victory for Painswick this week. But what of Sheepscombe where my cricketing heart is?

It was for them that cricketing poet Frank Mansell played along with my first cricketing heroes, Bill Halliday, Fred Hopkins, Doug Dickenson and my Dad.

They may struggle a bit this year so it you fancy the joys of playing on that lovely hill-top ground, pop into the Butchers Arms and ask for directions. ‘I have measured out my life with coffee spoons’, wrote T S Eliot. So have I this week, spending too many hours watching sport on TV.

It was of course the Lord's Test and there were two wonderful soccer matches to view.

Football first, and a triumph for Cheltenham Town, who now head for Wembley (Division 2 Play-Off Final, on Sunday, May 27). Their game against Torquay was compelling. Torquay huffed and puffed but Cheltenham held firm. Man of the match was goalkeeper Scott Brown. For much of the season he had been left out as England nominee Butland arrived on loan. No whingeing from Scott - he kept training and trying and against Torquay showed his true worth.

He is my Player of the Season and Mark Yates wins the Manager's Award. I hear manager Yates on Radio Gloucestershire and he is always honest and forthcoming. A true football man, he has done well with limited resources. FGR fans must have been amazed at the play of Kaid Mohammed. Attacking speedily from left midfield, he was a revelation. It was hard to believe he achieved so little at the New Lawn.

The second game I saw was the Chelsea match. You all know what happened so I shall make just one observation. Club owner Abramovich should, after the presentations had been made, have promoted acting manager Roberto Di Matteo and given him the job permanently. He should also have awarded Didier Drogba the two-year contract he deserves. To do anything less would be churlish.

The football world is watching Mr A. Do the right thing.

Some readers may now, for understandable reasons, spurn soccer on TV. Those two games proved that football can truly be called the 'beautiful game'.

The players' behaviour was exemplary. There was no whingeing, no writhing in mock injury and fine refereeing kept the games moving. Switch back on! Games like these are too good to miss. Then there was the compelling Lord's Test, the pinnacle of all cricket occasions. Do I miss being chairman of the county club, I am often asked? Of course I do, and especially at Test match time. Mrs Light and I were always guests in the ECB box where the great and the good assembled.

Taking a service the Sunday after an Australian Ashes visit, Penny was continually asked if she had enjoyed the cricket, and did not know how so many people knew she was there. I soon discovered the answer. TV cameras had zoomed in on the box and there was Mrs Light, passing the time of day with John Major and Boris Johnson. I cannot take her anywhere.

I did get out on Saturday afternoon. First to Sheepscombe. Take the B4070 to Stroud from Birdlip and take the first turn right after 'Fostons Ash' and you will find yourself in the most beautiful Cotswold valley. On top of the opposite hill is England's most exquisite cricket ground. It was the History Society tea party and all who had lived in the village since 1950 were invited. I qualify all too easily and on this occasion renewed contact with the first girl I fell in love with, being captivated by her long fair hair.

All my male classmates looked 83 but Barbara H looked 59. I must reassure Mrs Light that our romance did not extend beyond VE Day (May 1945). Seeing former Sheepscombe cricketer Ken French looking so well was a delight. Ken was wearing his RAF tie with pride, and so he should, having flown many Lancaster bomber sorties in the Second World War. He should be just as proud of the contributions grandson Joe Skinner has made to cricket and of his daughter Elizabeth, now a hands-on chairman of the club.

On the way home, I visited the Birdlip and Poulton match where I was warmly welcomed by David Partridge and Brian Bright. There are as many Partridges in the Birdlip team as there are strikers at Forest Green and it was a delight to meet Mrs Martin P and Mrs Guy P. Martin is still playing table tennis at Deer Park in his mid-eighties. Son David was in Mike Proctor's Cup-winning team at Lord's.

‘A fine cricketer and a fine gentleman’, was how my dad described Guy Partridge and he was so right on both counts. Mrs Guy P was watching her son, also Guy, demolish the Poulton bowling. Not too difficult on the day. I close by answering the cricket question I am being continually asked. Did Yorkshire president Geoff Boycott attend the match at Bristol? He did not, which was a pity. Mrs Light thinks I need some lessons in listening. Had Geoffrey come I would certainly have had some!

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