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Where are they now? Shropshire – 1973 Minor Counties champions

By Neil Fissler

Shropshire had never won the Minor Counties Championship before the summer of 1973 – and they have never won it since.

Despite losing their first match to Somerset 2nds by five wickets, they went unbeaten for the rest of the campaign.

A draw in their second game against Staffordshire and then in the return against Somerset became the only blips on their record.

Durham, Bedfordshire and Devon were beaten home and away while they also won the return match with Staffs to clinch the title.

Seam bowler Dave York said: “We shouldn’t have really lost the first game, we dropped a crucial catch which I think would have won us the game.

“Then we drew our second game but took the title after winning five out of the last six games. We won it in an amazing game against Bedfordshire at Oswestry.

“We bowled Bedfordshire out for 35 in their second innings in a rain-affected match thanks to Peter Bradley who had developed this leg-cutter.

“He was unplayable but it was a pitch that we couldn’t bat on and neither could they. It didn’t matter where the ball pitched, it just took off.

“I think Peter took 68 wickets for us that season, he was a big part of the reason why we won the Championship that season.

“There were myself, Doug Slade and Peter Bradley who were the chief wicket-takers and what we did was to bowl teams out twice.

“Bradders took the vast majority of these wickets, mind, but it helps when you can bowl a team out twice.”

York is also quick to acknowledge the contribution that Slade made with the bat in his first season after coming as their professional player.

While he also says that a change in the fixture list which meant they played eight games against fellow Minor Counties rather than County 2nd XIs also helped their cause.

“Doug made a massive difference. As a bowler I would say that bowlers win matches, and he also scored a lot of runs for us,” says York.

“He came in from Worcestershire, taking over from Tony Mann as our pro, and started to make us believe in ourselves more.

“It gave us a lot of confidence and then, when he wasn’t available, we brought in Tony who scored nearly 1,000 runs in ten games which was some feat.

“It also helped that we weren’t playing the likes of Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire 2nd XIs.

“They hadn’t liked playing us anyway because we bowled our overs too slowly for them. They were first-class cricketers and we were then only decent club cricketers.

“So then suddenly we were playing other Minor Counties, so we were as good as anybody – and that year we were definitely as good as anybody.

“Once we started to win matches we started to think that we were invincible and really started to prove so. We also had a great team spirit which really helped us.”

Back row (left-right):
Steve Othen: The scorer, and father of Geoff, was a policeman in Shrewsbury where he lived until his death in 1976.
Doug Slade: Spinner. Served on the Worcestershire committee and was a salesman selling central reservation barriers for motorways and helped run the family farm.
Brian Perry: All-rounder who worked as an engineer and was then groundsman at Shrewsbury Town’s Gay Meadow for 26 years. Now a turnstile operator at the New Meadow.
Robert Burton: Batsman. Ran the family country estate Longner Hall in Atcham, Shrewsbury. His son Richard was four times point-to-point champion jockey.
Cedric Boyns: Batsman who was a biology teacher at Royal Grammar School, Worcester, and housemaster at Bloxham School. He now lives in Truro, Cornwall.
Phil Oliver: Now running a sports equipment company Cicada Sports in West Bromwich and is also an ECB coach. The batsman has also coached the Unicorns.
Harold Botfield (secretary/manager): He was a self-employed book-keeper and lived in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, until his death in April 1984
Bob Tranter: The chairman was a chartered accountant with his own practice, Tranter Lowe, in Telford, Shropshire.

Front row:
Dave York: Seamer who ran a petrol station for 49 years in Quatford just outside his native Bridgnorth where he now lives in retirement.
Steve Johnson: Opening batsman. Is employed in the farming industry where he was a grain salesman and has also umpired in the Birmingham Cricket League.
David Humphries: Wicket- keeper, whose brother Paul played for Leicestershire. He worked for a company that sold artificial cricket pitches and tennis courts until retiring.
Geoff Othen: All-rounder. He later became chairman and was a telephone engineer for the whole of his working life. He died in September 2015, aged 82.
Eric Marsh: Batsman who was also a national Rugby Fives champion. Became a mathematics teacher at Alleyns School and then Oswestry School.
Peter Bradley: Seamer. Worked for Russells Rubber Works in Telford in a sales and marketing capacity until retiring.
John Hayward: Batsman, who was a chartered accountant before turning to teaching and later became a careers advisor. He now lives in Chester in retirement.

Inset:
David Barber: All-rounder and a former professional footballer with Birmingham City and Kidderminster. Was a works manager for an engineering firm for 30 years.
Stuart Mason: Batsman and England youth international footballer. He ran a sports shop and worked in Wrexham FC’s commercial department. He died in February 2006, aged 57.
Mark Thornycroft: Batsman who helped run the family farm near Shrewsbury. His father Guy played for Worcestershire.
Brian Davies: Off-spinner. Was a civil servant working in a job centre until becoming a primary school teacher and is now living in retirement in Oswestry.

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, March 3 2017

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