He’s an asset to his club and to world cricket — David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd

2009-12-30 00:00

I WAS 23 when I secured my first English Club contract. It was for a club called Accrington in the Northern Lancashire League.

You won’t find Accrington on any tourist map of England. It’s an industrial town, populated by the working class, which lies approximately 50 kilometres north of Manchester. It’s perhaps best known for its football club, Accrington Stanley, and the bricks it produces.

The first challenge was for me to become attuned to the Lancashire accent. I grew to love its inflections and by the end of the season was able to tell the difference between an Accrington accent and a Burnley one — just five miles up the road!

Whilst commentating on the Test matches between England and South Africa, I’ve had the chance to reminisce with Accrington’s most famous son, David “Bumble” Lloyd, who is working for Sky Sports. His forthright, down-to-earth way of speaking has endeared him to thousands of television viewers and our conversations brought the memories of my time in the North of England flooding back.

I was intrigued to hear that “Bumble”, in his late 50s, is still playing for the club’s first team. As he brought me up to date with developments at his beloved club, I was reminded of the good-humoured banter off the field and the nicknames given to every player.

On the field it was a different matter altogether — cricket was played with great passion and every fixture was deadly serious. The stories that come out of the league are colourful and amusing — the sixes hit become bigger and bigger every year and the overseas pro was either an out-and-out legend or ‘totally useless’.

The Lancashire League is steeped in history and has seen its fair share of legends. In 1992, the year before I played, Accrington had the services of a blonde, chubby leg-spin bowler who the club, in its wisdom, labelled “rubbish”. A year later Shane Warne was playing for Australia. As Warne rose to stardom, it wasn’t long before Accrington had claimed him as one of their very own.

Warne wasn’t the only legend to brave the Lancashire Leagues. In the year I played, other professionals included Australians Greg Blewett and Michael Bevan and West Indians Roger Harper and Keith Arthurton.

The relationship between the pro and the club was always a delicate one. If the pro got runs he would be feted, if he failed he would be shunned and would have to buy his own drink after the game.

The club members, mainly hard-working tradesmen, had high expectations of the overseas professional, who they always considered overpaid.

Accrington has never been the most ‘fashionable’ of clubs and, according to Lloyd, has recently been through some tough times. Fortunately with David Lloyd still turning up for fixtures in between his commentary stints, things are looking up for them.

Bumble was brimming with pride when he described how he scored the winning runs to win the league for Accrington last season, even though he was “a bit grumpy” with the captain batting him at number eight. He went on to entertain me with a story of how a young ‘kid’ had chirped him all day and how he had eventually dropped his bat and glove and marched over to shut him up!

Bumble acknowledges that the standard of the Lancashire League is not as high as it used to be and that it’s missing the overseas players and the excitement of the big signings, yet he remains positive about the club’s future.

Lloyd is an asset not only to Accrington, but also to world cricket. His passion and enthusiasm for the game is infectious and it’s a real pleasure having him in this country.

 

• Neil Johnson is a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe all-rounder who lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.

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