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Old Cryptians have been Greg Barton’s second home for close on five decades

All Areas > Sport > Rugby Union

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Tuesday, 18th December 2018, 09:00

The last seven chairmen of Old Cryptians, from left, Bob Hannaford, Doug Perks, Greg Barton, Dave Reeves, Paul Roche, Alan Roberts and Martyn Langbridge. The last seven chairmen of Old Cryptians, from left, Bob Hannaford, Doug Perks, Greg Barton, Dave Reeves, Paul Roche, Alan Roberts and Martyn Langbridge.

Greg Barton is closing in on a major landmark with Old Cryptians Rugby Club.

He’s just two years short of serving the club for 50 years since first joining as a teenager and he’s still as passionate about the club today as he was all those years ago.

As it happened, he was enjoying his 63rd birthday when The Local Answer called and he was happy to look back on a lifetime spent at a club where he is a past chairman and treasurer, a club that has been his second home for close on five decades.

“I started playing rugby for the club when I was 15,” he said. “I was at Crypt School and I used to play rugby on a Saturday morning for the school and then play for the seniors in the afternoon.

“In those days the club ran five teams and I’d play for the 3rds or 4ths.”

He didn’t play at that level for long, however, because by the age of 17 he was making his 1st XV debut.

“In those days I was a wing,” he said, “before I progressed to centre.”

It is as a centre that he is probably best known – that’s the position he preferred playing – but he also had another position towards the end of his career.

“Loosehead prop,” he laughed, “I played there from the age of about 40 to 45 before I retired. I’d stopped playing for about four or five years, I’d broken my leg and started up my own business.

“When I went back they said they didn’t have a prop.”

By his own admission, Barton was not your typical fleet-footed centre and he had certain attributes that led others to believe he could play in the pack.

And once he moved to the front row, he had to learn quickly.

“Never ever back off when you have 180 stones boring down on your neck and chest, and another 180 stones of your team-mates in the pack pushing you to try to stop them – the pressure is immense,” he said. “I did once, I never did it again!

“In my heyday I wasn’t a centre who liked to dance on the grass. I was more of a human destroyer. I was known more for being a crash ball centre and my nickname was Godber or Groundhog.

“I had a very low centre of gravity and usually I left a big trench on the way through or a few despairing tacklers in my wake as I ran through or tried to make a gap in the opposition’s defence!”

He was obviously a decent player and he played with some pretty good players over the years as well.

“Nick Price is an Old Cryptian,” said Barton. “He was a wing and went on to play for Gloucester and Gloucestershire.

“I’ve also played in Ireland with Peter Butler who played for Gloucester and England. I remember when we were on tour in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, he had a kicking competition with Ireland’s Tony Ensor, which of course he won, but it was a close call. But what a display to watch those two great kickers competing head to head with one another.”

There were others who Barton has fond memories of too.

“Steve Allen, my old school mate and still close friend now, even though he currently lives in Buckinghamshire,” continued Barton. “He was a tidy fly-half. He was a biggish guy, but very fleet of foot and a very elusive runner.

“Nobody ever knew where he was going, even his own players, but if you bided your time he would usually make his way back to you having made 20 or 30 yards.

“He was a great passer of a ball, particularly if you were coming in straight, fast and hard at the opposition. His timing was almost perfect.

“He was also an expert at the dive and roll away ‘attempted tackle!’

“Tony Chesson was another good player. Sadly he is no longer with us but he too was an excellent kicker and passer of the ball.

“Up front we had Dave Reeves. He’s still working at the club, he’s been there longer than me. He looks after the ground and the club these days but was a very, very good blindside forward in his day.

“Paul (Stan) Dowle was another. He played in the second row. He should have played more at a higher level in my view, he was a good player, as was his second row partner SAF Robinson.”

Barton needs little prompting to reel off these names from yesteryear and as he says “rugby has been a big part of his life and still is”.

But then rugby was always going to be a big part of Barton’s life. Born in Wales, he moved across the Severn Bridge to this part of the world in 1967 ¬– his accent is much more West Country than Wales now although he’s a proud Welshman – so he was simply swapping one rugby hotbed for another.

His wife Jane is the daughter of Gordon Hudson, who played for Gloucester in the post-war years, and the granddaughter of Arthur Hudson – known as Archie – who played for both Gloucester and England in the early part of the 20th century.

“Watching England v Wales together in the Barton household is a big no-no,” laughed Barton. “The rivalry is far too intense between husband and wife. We watch it in different locations to save any arguments!”

Sport – both watching and playing – is a major part of the Bartons’ family life.

“Up until recently Owen my son, now 35, was playing for Old Cryptians and he had done so since being at Crypt School until a badly dislocated shoulder put paid to his serious playing days,” said Barton.

“And my daughter Alex, who is now 33, was the fastest girl in the UK over 60 metres at under-15 level back in 1999 and although unsuccessful at making any Great Britain team, did sprint for Wales on a few occasions.

“She now manages a gym in Worcester and is still extremely fit, not to mention strong!”

These days Barton is Old Cryptians’ fixture secretary and membership secretary, and he also looks after the club’s sponsorship as well as acting as their referees’ liaison officer and international tickets organiser.

He has been a major player at the club off the field for longer than he was on it because he first joined the club’s committee at the tender age of 17, going on to serve as chairman for five years and as treasurer for five years.

And while the club’s past is very important to him, so is the present and future.

He is proud of the fact that the club regularly get two and three senior teams out on Saturday afternoons and is keen to credit those who work so hard to make it happen.

“Duncan Normington does an awful lot of work,” added Barton, “along with Paul Vidgen. Then there are the two captains, Khiam Barry for the 2nds and Sean Norton for the 3rds.”

The club’s flagship team, who are being coached by player/coach Jake McMahon this season, are doing pretty well in Gloucestershire One too under the captaincy of Chad Crosby.

“He’s in his third year as captain,” said Barton. “He started off as a hooker and now plays in the back row. He puts his body on the line every week, he leads by example.”

Promotion is a definite target this season so how far can the club go?

“If we could secure a place in Gloucestershire Premier or maybe Western Counties North,” continued Barton. “But we are very much an amateur club. We don’t pay players, only the coach and a physio, and we believe rugby should be played for the enjoyment of the game.”

And the future, in the shape of the club’s minis and juniors section, looks very bright too.

“The future senior players and committee members of our club now fill the clubhouse, pitches and car parks on Sunday mornings with over 100 boys and girls from the ages of five to 16 learning the skills of modern rugby and of course the camaraderie of Old Cryptians,” said Barton.

Barton has been doing that pretty much all his life, of course, and plans to do so for many more years to come.

Other Images

The dates of Old Cryptians’ past chairmen are shown on the club’s honours board
Greg and Jane Barton with the Six Nations Trophy in 2017
Greg Barton celebrates winning ‘The Horns’ after the annual 1st XV Boxing Day match in 2013 match between Old Cryptians and their lifelong friends and old grammar school rivals Old Richians

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