The text arrived at 1.14pm on 4 June 2013. 60-year-old Alan Ingerson, rejuvenated through his brief spell with Division Three, BRASS announced to me that he had signed for Ladybridge ‘B’ in Division One.
Despite BRASS winning the 4th tier title – in large part, of course, due to the heroics of 96% man, Ingerson – he had decided to walk away. There wasn’t quite the press coverage of a significant football transfer or the fanfare in Ladybridge to welcome the new player. And certainly no stepping off a plane to be greeted by a marching band (just 3.3 miles separate BRASS’ venue, Victoria Hall from the Ladybridge Community Centre). But to the table tennis community – fully aware of their marginalised status – this was a pivotal moment.
Players’ careers at local level can last for 70 years. Ingerson had already put in a 46-year stint and the old sparkle had seemed to return. There had been tantrums, heated moments and snarls as with any relationship but also plenty of mirth and camaraderie. Ingerson had been a par excellence signing for BRASS – an ‘out of contract’ (so to speak) mercurial wonder. His game was different to anything I’d seen before – the south-paw top spin like watching an industrial worker crank a heavy piece of machinery. Returning such balls was little short of impossible given their accentuated kick. Only the canniest of opponents knew how.
Having made his debut on 31 October 2012, he lost two of his initial fifteen matches. To most players returning from a two-season sabbatical such statistics would please them. Ingerson, somewhat traumatised by his ‘black November’, set out to correct and fine tune certain parts of his game; the result being that in his final thirty-three matches he was unbeaten. 46/48 wins – one for each year of effort since he first picked up a bat in 1967.
I have had the privilege of playing alongside many different nationalities – Ethiopian, Zambian, Iranian, French – and when Ingerson approached BRASS with a view to joining the team, I was expecting a fair-haired Scandinavian giant. Instead, we got a follicly-challenged, affable grumbler – one a joy to be around though.
Backroom transfer deals in table tennis are unlikely to be replaced with a transparent electronic system anytime soon, but I bear no ill will. We have lost our ‘Eric Cantona’ like Leeds in 1992, but his sublime presence will not be forgotten.