In the meantime here are some memories of 1977
Those of you new to Cookley or under the age of 45 won’t know this.
Those of us of more mature years remember it like it was yesterday.
Bank Holiday Monday August 29th 1977 Cookley was like a ghost town.
The village’s 3000 population had evacuated to the home of cricket – North-West London NW8 Lord’s
30 coaches had headed down the M1 – The M40 wasn’t open then – and others had made their way by car and train.
Cookley’s cricketers meanwhile were lording it in a Swish hotel opposite the ground ready to take on another village team Lindal Moor from Cumbria in the final of the National Village Knock-Out Competition sponsored by Haig Whisky.
Unfashionable Cookley, little Cookley the village was called by the sporting press.
But by the end of that day this had changed to Mighty Cookley, Magical Cookley The Lords of the Village after an incredible 28-run victory.
Cookley were the first club from Worcestershire to win the famous trophy and while we celebrate that famous day we should also remember those members of the side that sadly are no longer with us – Doug Crannage, John Such, Ray Poole and Reg Brittain plus Aubrey Bishop-Rowe who had played in an earlier round of the competition.
As opposed to many teams that entered the competition that year Cookley was a true village side with half the side either born or living in the village including captain Mick Hopkins, Doug Crannage, Reg Brittain, Ivan Perks, Mick Pitt, Pete Nicholls and Dave Nicholls, plus 12th man Steve Cooper. Cookley could also claim Mick Kirby to be one of theirs too even though he lived in Wolverley !
John Such was the hero at Lord’s with his top score of 42 but just look at the bowling figures Reg Brittain 3 wickets for 6 runs in 6 overs, Doug Crannage 3-20, Pete Nicholls 2-24 and a run out.
Lord’s had never seen anything like it. Cookley had its own ‘green and white army’ which everyone agreed was the noisiest set of supporters they had ever encountered in village final at Lord’s.
In true Cookley fashion of course there was a disturbance in the crowd between visiting supporters but this was quickly dispelled by the authorities. And there was even a streaker at the end of the game.
But this noisy set of fans the beer can army as they were also known had already made its presence felt at Lea Lane in the earlier of the rounds of the competition.
834 teams had entered the national village competition that year and the road to Lord’s had begun four months earlier
To get to Lord’s meant winning nine games of cricket against some of the best village sides in the country.
Few pundits gave them any chance against one of the favourites to win the competition – a star-studded team from Stinchcombe in Gloucestershire who had been formed especially to win the village trophy that year.
With Stinchcombe needing just three runs to win with four wickets in hand off the final over of the game Dave Nicholls coolly bowled a wicket-maiden helped by a stunning catch in the boundary by Mick Hopkins to give Cookley a two-run win.
Incidentally I ran into a group of players from Stinchcombe at a Worcestershire game recently and still– 44 years later – they are still blaming each other for losing that game. They had been so confident that some of them had even booked time off work so they would be free to play at Lord’s in the final.
At times there were up to 3,000 people packed around the Lea Lane boundary cheering Cookley on. Can you just imagine that now.
Then there was Troon from Cornwall. They’d won it twice before and were the current holders. But in a tense quarter-final at Lea Lane their last pair were at the wicket just needing five runs to win from the last over bowled by Ivan Perks. With two balls left Ivan held on to a return catch and Cookley had done it again – once more by just two runs.
Cookley were just one game from Lord’s an a home semi-final tie against Langleybury from Hertfordshire beckoned.
So keen were Langleybury to foil Cookley’s march to Lord’s the day before the game some of their players came to the area on a spying mission. They had heard that Cookley were due to be playing Brintons in a league match at Lea Lane.
When they got here though they found the ground deserted. A bit of quick thinking and with the co-operation of Brintons the game had been switched to a ground at Stourport – and ironically not that far where they were staying at the Swan Hotel.
Came the day of the semi-final tie though the heavens opened and there was no way the game could be played so off back to Hertfordshire they went along the champagne they had brought with them to celebrate their expected victory.
When the game did take place a week later the weather again looked set to have the last say as with Cookley comfortably placed to win a forecast thunderstorm would have put paid to all that. If that match had been abandoned Langleybury’s faster scoring rate over the first 15 overs would have been enough to get them to Lord’s
With black clouds encircling the ground and everyone about to run for cover no-one can still believe to this day that it didn’t actually rain. Panic over and Langleybury crumbled to defeat. Cookley had made it to Lord’s.
Report by Richard Matthews (Club President)