Monday, 18 April 2011

Heroes of the Jessop Tavern: The Spear

There is no greater way to gauge a fan's true perspective on their team than by talking about their heroes. These aren't necessarily the best players. They aren't always any good at all. But they are the players you come to love. Players define a certain time, a certain match, a certain something about the club that you treasure.

Throughout the season the Jessop Tavern will present its Gloucestershire heroes of the last 20 years. In keeping with the theme of this blog this is intended purely as a personal indulgence. Rather than rolling out the usual big names it is our intention to honour some of the other heroes. The great, the good and the particularly ugly who rather than being genuine heroes are players that came to define Gloucestershire county cricket club at various points over the last 20 years. So, without further ado I give you our first hero. The Spear. Craig Spearman.

The story of Spearman being signed by John Bracewell after he arrived in the UK to begin a career in banking is well known. As a fan I remember somewhat sceptically looking at his largely unsuccessful international career and contemplate that yet another mercenary was being brought into the county game. How little did I know.

What we loved about the Spear was the way he played the game. You knew that, regardless of the situation, he would never die wondering. Now usually this is the one thing liable to drive you to distraction, yet somehow with the Spear it never did. A first class average of almost 38 is respectable enough. A return of 30 centuries in 201 matches is a tidy number. But none of these statistics tell the story.

What was you favourite innings by the Spear? Perhaps his 140 n.o against Somerset when chasing down 291? Those reverse sweeps that so riled the members (who had seen him perish playing the same shot in a recent game) didn't look so bad when he guided the boys to victory. Or his WG Grace beating 341 at Gloucester when you could visibly see the smile on his face when he realised exactly how tiny those boundaries were! Or what about his 86 against Lancashire on 20-20 finals day, a knock so brutal that my mate's dad started offering the Lancashire fans directions to a short cut he knew to get to the M6. My personal favourite innings comes from a game at New Road during the Spear's glorious 2006. I'd never been to New Road before and very soon I was delighted to find the Spear walking out to bat after Lewis had blown Worcester away. 5 minutes later my hero was gone for just 15 from about 5 balls, two 4's and an enormous 6 via his trademark pick-up over square leg. I left shortly afterwards, not disappointed, but ecstatic at having seen a proper Spearman knock.

But to be a hero you need more than just great performances. You need to ingrain yourself on a fan's memory with stories that travel beyond the boundary. I remember rocking up at Cheltenham one year only to be disappointed when the Spear ended up back in the hutch early doors. Nevermind, I thought. It's a beautiful day and I'll go and cheer myself up with an ice cream. Lumbering round to the ice cream van who should I find in the queue in front of me but the Spear, already changed and ready for some Mr Whippy. It ranks alongside the time I turned up early at Cheltenham one time to see Ian Harvey asleep by a wheelie bin. Priceless memories you just don't get if you're only interested in premier league football.

So here is to our first hero, the Spear. Thanks for some wonderful memories.

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