Unsung Hero Tony Watkins is a true Redmarley Cricket Club legend

Forest of Dean > Sports > Cricket

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 27th July 2017, 09:00, Tags:

Tony Watkins back in the day (standing far left)
These days the word ‘legend’ is horribly overused in sport.

Score a few runs or take a few wickets and it seems that you are almost immediately given legendary status within a club.

It’s different when you are talking about Tony Watkins of Redmarley Cricket Club, however.

Here is a man who truly deserves to be called a club legend.

More than 60 of his 75 years have been spent associated with the club – he’s captained the 1st XI, served as club chairman and now looks after the wicket which is described by current club captain Joe Lawrence as “a batting paradise”.

Throw in more than 25 centuries for the club – he scored 30 in his career in total – and you can see why this unsung hero is held in such high esteem by everyone involved with the County League Division One club.

Born in Warwickshire, Watkins moved to the village of Redmarley with his parents when he was just six months old and has never left.

“I’ve lived in the house I’m living in now for the past 54 years,” he said.

And it couldn’t be better situated for Watkins just over a Freddie Flintoff six-hit from the picturesque ground that has become his second home.

“I’m at the club 20 hours a week,” he said proudly. “I prepare the wicket and I used to do the outfield when I was younger.”

In fact, he’d just returned home from the ground when The Local Answer rang him and said: “I’m going back down in an hour’s time, I’ve still got some work to do!”

Apart from a spell with Ledbury when he was in his prime as a batsman, Watkins has spent his whole cricketing life with Redmarley.

“When I went to Ledbury it was a chance to play a higher level of cricket,” he said almost apologetically. “It was nothing against Redmarley because I love the club.

“It was just that there was the chance to play Minor Counties cricket for Herefordshire, which I did for four years.”

Watkins was an opening batsman all his life and, as his stats suggest, a very good one.

His batting style was more Alastair Cook than Chris Gayle and he liked to build an innings rather than go at the bowling from the first ball.

“I took my time when I was batting,” he said. “Sometimes I’d bat for the whole innings and it was something the others in the team had to get used to.”

Watkins also kept wicket for most of his career, only giving up the gloves when his son Ali came into the Redmarley first team.

He could turn his hand to most things, however. He was only captain for half a season – “I took over when someone else gave it up,” he said – but the extra responsibility did nothing to lessen his cricketing powers as he took off the pads and produced career-best bowling figures of 7 for 14 with his medium-pacers.

Lawrence, meanwhile, will still turn to Watkins if he needs any advice on the game, particularly with his batting.

“I’m certainly not afraid to give him a call, he’s a great bloke,” said Lawrence. “He’s won just about everything you can at the level we play – leagues, Sunday cups, midweek cups.

“Everyone at the club looks up to him, he’s an icon.

“It’s not just the runs he’s scored. The wickets he produces are different class. They’re hard and if you get in on them you can set up camp all day.”

That strength of feeling is mutual with Watkins, who finished playing eight years ago, adding: “When I’m at Redmarley Cricket Club is when I’m happiest.

“I don’t take a phone with me when I’m looking after the wicket, it’s so peaceful.”

It really is a family affair at the club because Watkins’ wife Ann will often do the match teas.

Watkins, meanwhile, says he wants to carry on preparing the wickets “for as long as I can”.

The last word goes to Lawrence who insists that Watkins is a “Redmarley legend”. It’s impossible to argue with him.

Other Images

Tony Watkins shares his thoughts on the game with his son Ali

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