Category Archives: PRD

Amir Khan – Lancashire Bomber


Manchester, that large English city, Bolton is not. It is the provinces – a 15-minute train ride away; New Jersey rather than New York. Some say the people have six fingers. Others say they are richer, not drowned by polluting city air (carcinogens hiking up their nostrils) or too much sophistication. Continue reading Amir Khan – Lancashire Bomber

Dark Rumours and The Great Escape

great escape II

Division Two*

Ladybridge B             3

Harper Brass A        6

It was on Tuesday, 25th March that a fellow player mentioned the “dark rumours” concerning Harper Brass A’s meteoric bounce from the depths of certain relegation. Suspicions were aroused after the debut of Mike Brierley on 5th February and the team’s subsequent haul of 33pts over five matches with just two evenings remaining.

Jan 2014                                     Played           Points

7.         Meadow Ben A          13                    58

8.         Hilton G                         13                    50

9.         Ladybridge B               13                    44


10.      Bolton Univ B             13                    36

11.      Harper Brass A          13                    34


As with most things, such a statement was missing crucial context. It was easy to intimate that Brierley was a ringer brought in to save the day, but the story of my beloved Harper Brass went much deeper than this. I was happy to enlighten the player – who shall remain unnamed – however, a more substantial rebuff via this column was necessary I felt.

The summer or close season had not been kind to Harper Brass A (formerly BRASS). Having climbed the divisions rapidly from Four to Two in the blink of an eye, its lustre disappeared following the news that Alan Ingerson was leaving to join Division One side, Hilton B.

In that moment on 4th June 2013, I knew I had to act, get reinforcements in, strengthen what had become a ragged ship with just Roger Bertrand (98%), myself (47%), Dave Brookes (36%) and Abdiwali Ali (33%) left. If I didn’t then the bright lights of our new home, Division Two would be too strong, too bewildering. We would be pummeled and slaughtered each week – pushed to the back of the points queue like an ignominious runt.

The beauty of the Bolton League is its comprehensive data pool courtesy of This allows captains to scour the divisions for unused talent. Utilising this, I honed in on my first transfer target: Farnworth TTC B’s Malcolm Ferrier (89%).

He hadn’t played for them since 10th January 2013 and so something wasn’t right. Late, Sunday evening – a mere five days after Ingerson’s departure – I got an email back: “OK, count me in then…” It was the result of telling an unloved player that he was wanted. If he was the Paul McGrath of the table tennis world (rarely training) it didn’t bother me.

The season began in September, but not before the news that Ali had been hospitalised and Ferrier had injured himself. It was back to the bare bones. I let things roll for nearly a month hoping that Bertrand would produce some of his old magic but the results were terrible: 1-8, 1-8, 2-7.

On 30th September, I emailed the league’s General Secretary in an effort to get contact details for Meadow Bank’s Allan Auxilly (assuming he was French) and Heaton E’s underused Mel Brooks (73%). The latter returned my call, politely declined and I was fine with that. Brooks remained Bolton’s Roman Emperor to me – a giant sipping his Raki.

Auxilly was a different story. He had suffered a heart attack during the close season and was still out of action. On 5th November, however he made his debut for us in a respectable 4-5 defeat to Little Lever C. Exactly three months later his best pal, Brierley – despite signing on 17th December – made his Harper bow following a gentleman’s agreement with Hilton F.

And so fast forward to that grand night on 31.3.2014: Ladybridge versus Harper (‘Lady’ leading 3-2, needing just one more point to stay up). Enter the rocket men: Brierley (2), Raymondo Isherwood (1) and Auxilly (1). “It’s gonna be a long, long time…”

* Both teams finish on 75pts – Harper stay up courtesy of more wins.


Ramsbottom Crowned Champions after Lightowler Treble


Premier Division

Ramsbottom             5          (Lightowler 3, Moir 2, Jackson 0)

Flixton                          4          (Rosenthal 2, Cicchelli 1, Biggs 1)

Is there a different kind of pressure on a night like this? I ask the question to Ramsbottom’s 100% man, Michael Moir or ‘Mick’ as he calls himself when struggling, when bludgeoned by a force he’s not used to. He hesitates a little. “No. Not really.”

I push for more – ask if it still matters…mention the fierce Glasgow-like rivalry between Ramsbottom and Flixton and wonder where it sits in the wider Moir perspective. “Yes. You wanna win…I’ve only done the British League [remember].”

They are the words of a man either playing down his fine achievements in this sport or enunciation constrained by potentially ribbing teammates. Through the now familiar and strikingly-bristled face, Moir keeps his expression tight, clipped – the opposite of his rangy play.

Ramsbottom need only three points this evening to make it insurmountable for Flixton; three points to regain the title so mercilessly taken from them on 4 April 2013. On that night, Moir produced his usual treble but his team was overwhelmed by Louis Rosenthal, John Hilton and Paul Cicchelli.

The personnel are similar now: Moir, Richard Lightowler (100%) and Andrew Jackson (88%) – Mark Ramsbottom watching – versus Rosenthal (100%), Cicchelli (93%) and Phil Biggs (88%); Hilton -1980 European Champion – never seen in these parts, like a convict fleeing the Crown.

Cicchelli, thrown in first, moans to his captain, Biggs: “I’m still on the motorway. I don’t need to go on first!” Biggs is insistent though – calming his player, trying to talk him round. Waiting in the wings is Moir, just keen to get started, keen to show his dominance and fluidity. 11-3,11-3. Cicchelli’s rage heightens: “Got no touch!”

He is a man being bossed by Moir, a man whose job has largely taken over his life; too many motorway miles, too many – by his own admittance – KFC Fiery Bites. You feel like throwing him an iceberg lettuce – something to stem the abysmal form. Because on his day, Cicchelli has the most elegant chop in the game – it has a ‘baby rocking’ motion to it, a perfectly aligned forearm.

6-4 in the third. Moir appears to be coasting, but then Cicchelli finds his gear. In amongst the heavy breathing, the overuse of his white towel and the reddened face, he clutches at something which transforms his play. 6-9: five straight points. 8-9: Moir is not easily felled. 9-11: Cicchelli is back in it.

Moir begins to tighten up. At 2-3 a couple of shots hit the top of the net and then drop back onto his side. 2-5: Cicchelli pulls away. 6-11: We have a five-setter.

Biggs moves in for a tete-a-tete, a final set briefing. Lightowler does the same with Moir. The words from Cicchelli are still damning despite his comeback: “Can’t believe…playing this *&^$ and still in it.”

If Moir is unsettled, disconcerted by the Cicchelli Jekyll and Hide act, then it doesn’t show. The impeccable Adidas attire (blue top / black shorts / white socks) has the effect of veiling his sweat, disguising how spent he really is.

They make their way to the table. Cicchelli serves. It is a beauty – deep left. Moir twitches. He refuses to lie down (that will come later versus Rosenthal). 2-1: his crumbling game momentarily stops. 3-3: a fierce diagonal backhand from Cicchelli. 5-3: net and in from Moir. It is the heartache point which Cicchelli cannot come back from. 11-4: Moir is respectful but pleased.

Ramsbottom sail away.

Michnowiec Puts Spoke in Flixton Wheel


Premier Division

Flixton                       8

Hilton ‘A’                  1

Hilton’s Andrew Michnowiec is a man from a time machine. In his old, yellow Joola T-shirt, Umbro socks, and shorts evidently hired from Nomads’ Paul Brandwood, he represents a flashback to a better era – one without polish, without modern gizmos that empty our minds.

The Polish name, perhaps anglicized (formerly with three ‘i’s), would seem to emanate from the south-eastern corner of that tough region. It is one of many fine, European appellations to bless the league; Maciejewski, Cicchelli, Dobrzanska, Dumpelnik and Szorcz the others.

The first pairing tonight is Flixton’s Paul Cicchelli and the man himself – Michnowiec. The venue – best car park on the circuit, Tibhar Smash 28/R table, wood climbing the green walls – is ripe for an intoxicating encounter, an Italy versus Poland spectacular and more.

There is a pink sheet of paper on the far wall’s tiny, cork noticeboard. It announces: NO SWEARING OR UNSPORTING CONDUCT. Cicchelli will struggle. There will be a few bejesuses that pass his lips before the night is out.

It begins. Michnowiec succumbs to a slender Cicchelli lead (4-3) in the first set at which point Flixton’s secretary, Phil Biggs interrupts. “Can you just throw the ball up a bit, Andy?” It is a clear hint regarding the legality of the Hilton player’s serves – the minimum ‘6-inch toss’ rule being ignored.

Michnowiec has an old-school serve – a low-swooping, swallow-like trajectory with the grace of a pinball. He addresses the ball hurriedly – catches opponents off guard. Cicchelli is too experienced, too big in the chops, to fall for such a ploy, however. 11-7: It is going to plan.

Watching Cicchelli you come to realise that it is at times like observing a craftsman in his shed, a woodwork maestro using a plane. One can almost see fine shavings from the ball such is his bat’s phenomenally thin contact with it.

There is a problem though: his stamina. I count the points before his breathing changes; thirty – at 6-6 in the second. Cicchelli’s natural rhythm and bounciness are affected. Despite the whipping forehands, his game becomes littered with mistakes – a grating inability to finish inferior talents off quickly and tellingly.

8-11: Michnowiec sees the disparity. He then manages to turn around a 5-1 deficit in the third, pulling it back to 8-7. Something in Cicchelli snaps. Abound with comment after comment, slating his own play, he becomes the mad Italian at work in the kitchen – saucers and pans crashing to the floor, minions running for their lives. An almost echoing and desperate cry of ”Jesus Christ!” helps him take the third set (11-7). And the fourth follows: 12-10.

Phil Bowen steps up. A gold chain dances at the neck of his black, Arbory T-shirt. He is a no-nonsense southpaw celebrating his 61st birthday at home with his Flixton ‘family’. Jordan Brookes, navy and white Le Coq Sportif jersey, is the table tennis thief – happy to roll up, take what he can, make a grab at the points and then return to his palace. Not tonight alas. It is a late present for Bowen: 11-8,11-3,11-9.

John Hilton finally trots in. His face dons a permanent smile. “Golfing all day. Won it – the doubles.” He squeaks past Mark Gibson (11-9,11-9,14-12) and demolishes Brookes (11-5,12-10,11-7) but then comes Michnowiec, the Polish slugger.

Low, flat, bruising forehands race over the net. 10-12, 9-11. John’s panache seems to have disintegrated. At 4-9 down in the third a comedic line bursts from him: “He’s not missed any!!!” It is true: a giant, giant scalp for Michnowiec (8-11).

Farnworth on Fire

Little Lever CC ‘B’  5
Hilton ‘C’                     4

Of the 77 points now accumulated by Little Lever, a slight majority (40) have been won on the road. This would suggest that visiting teams take great delight in driving along the aptly-named Victory Road to the Little Lever lair.

Not tonight. Bethany Farnworth is waiting for them like the apoplectic owner of a house about to be burgled. The sleek 15-year-old may appear humble and graceful, yet underneath this deceptive demeanour is a long-limbed warrior, a young ETTA-ranked woman with something to prove each match.

Turning left through the wrought iron gates clasped by the imposing letters ‘LLCC’, you immediately get the sense that you are entering a club with a great history. Indeed, Sir Garfield Sobers played here – as he did more famously with Radcliffe Cricket Club just up the road.

In the shrouded darkness, filled with heavy rain, the weaving track up to the clubhouse could be leading you anywhere – to a country estate, a regal manor or Count Dracula’s castle in the Carpathian Mountains. Lightning doesn’t strike, thank god, when home captain, Paul Tatlock finally skids next to the building in his Citroen C4 at 7.29pm.

We struggle to get inside. One of the bolt locks refuses to budge and so the metal grill cannot be lifted to gain access to the door. Tatlock looks genuinely worried. There is an uncanny resemblance to Bob Parr in both his frame and face. Incredible it would be right now to just get this show on the road.

A second Paul arrives with great mastery of the said lock and sure enough, we are in. It feels like a changing room. It is a changing room, I am told – two of them joined together courtesy of a retreating divide. A terracotta-tiled floor greets the players, along with the feeling that a crazed interior designer with a penchant for red has been allowed inside.

The first match is Tatlock versus Hilton’s impeccably-attired Chris Naylor. The fury of both players is evident: “Oh, no – what’s going on? Come on” “Nooooo!!” “So slow” “Greedy” “Move your body”. 12-10,8-11,11-7,6-11. Tatlock is breathing heavily. This is uncomfortable territory. His Velvet Underground T-shirt is soaked already. The final set leaves him demoralised: 1-11.

Bethany Farnworth (red top) takes her position against Annie Hudson (blue) next. It is the neutral’s showdown with a hint of ‘Merseyside derby’ about it. Their win percentages are 62% and 90% and such stats account for the early Hudson dominance (11-6,11-6); trademark forehands swatting and dismissive. I confess to writing off Farnworth’s chances at this point. She seems a little disparate, not quite the force I had expected.

“Hit it harder,” comes the simple advice from teammate, Richard Simmons. 11-9,11-5. Instinctive backhand returns, great reach and a quiet steeliness get Farnworth back into it. There is, all of a sudden, a Mediterranean-like poise to this girl. Neither player deserves to lose such is the grand spectacle before us, but it is Farnworth who toils with her deadly forehand to the end: 11-9.

“Flippin’ eck!!!!!”

Div One – Top 7      P     W   L     F     A         Pts
Coburg                       16    16   0    96  48        96
Hilton C                     16    10  6     88  56        88
Standish                    15      9   6     85  50        85
Heaton A                  16   10   6     81  63       81
Hilton B                     14     9   5     80  46        80
Nomads C                16     9   7     78  66        78
Little Lever CC B  16    8   8     77  67         77

George Laks R.I.P.

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“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

I heard these words for the first time while watching a film with my children over the Christmas period. I suppose they act as an emphatic plea to us all. Henry David Thoreau – author of them and the famous Walden (1854) – lived such a short life himself (dying aged 44) yet, as with many of his quotes, observed things in a rich, philosophical manner.

Numerous great minds were inspired and influenced by Thoreau: Leo Tolstoy; George Bernard Shaw; Mahatma Gandhi; John F. Kennedy; Martin Luther King Jr. He lived the life only he wished to live and for that should be commended.

George Laks, Bolton’s adopted son, followed a similar route it could be said. Of Polish origin, George fled the invading Germans on 1 September 1939 less than a month after his 20th birthday. Biking it with his brother to the Soviet-controlled east, he effectively traded Adolf Hitler for Joseph Stalin. A proud Pole, however, George refused Russian citizenship.

The consequences of this intransigence were harsh. Accused of being a spy in a slightly surreal twist to his already dangerous plight, George found himself sentenced to 12 years hard labour in the gulags (Vladivostok and Magadan among others in Siberia).

Serving 18 months of this before being permitted to join the Polish Army, George then worked in Tashkent and Kirkuk before a London delegation invited him and his compatriots in 1942 to join the Polish Air Force in Britain. Initially stationed in Blackpool, he finally made his way to Bolton via RAF Halton as a burgeoning wireless mechanic.

A stint in Italy (1944-46) and demobilization from the air force in 1948 left George free to finally pursue a normal, civilian life. Jobs with Metropolitan-Vickers, Marconi and Kendal Milne & Co (now House of Fraser) gave him a taste of electrical engineering British-style, but this son of a prominent Polish engineer knew he had to start something of his own.

Breightmet Electrics was born in the 1950s. Two decades later it had six shops and around thirty employees. Slot TV was the thing and George was one of its early pioneers. Outside of his professional sphere though, George developed a philanthropic streak and it is for this generosity that many remember him today.

George’s Wood in Ainsworth (planted with the help of fellow Bolton CHA Rambling Club members) was donated to the Woodland Trust. The swish ‘top table’ (Cornilleau 740) – Hilton Table Tennis Centre’s very first quality table – was a gift from George and is the source of much amusement to this day (Jean Smart misspelling his name on the tiny plaque as George Lax).

I think we can safely say that George’s song touched many. He lived ‘til 94 – a ripe, old age (just one year younger than Nelson Mandela). There are fewer and fewer of his generation about, but such vitality – playing table tennis right up until the end (for Hilton, Breightmet Electrics, Heaton) – is an example to us all.

Colin Roberts: “George had a table tennis room purpose-built at the back of his shop. I met his wife, Joyce following the Keogh/Ritson merger in 1968. I have enormous respect for him.”

Alan Bradshaw: “Johnny Leach [Table Tennis World Champion 1949 & 1951] toured RAF Aerodromes during the war challenging all-comers whilst sat down. He soon got off his chair when George started playing.”

Jean Smart: “George would not let me change the plaque. We had many a laugh.”

Derek Weston: “He would often keep staff on when not needed and would famously pop in even when retired.”

Alan Ingerson: “A very quiet and softly spoken man – a decent defensive player.”

George Laks: 2nd August 1919 – 13th December 2013



Desperate and Without the Gods

Division Two: Ramsbottom ‘D’ 7 Harper Brass ‘A’ 2

I am sat here tonight in one of the less silky venues – Ramsbottom. Great history (Australia’s Michael Clarke played for Ramsbottom Cricket Club in 2002), but the table tennis room within the ground is, for a craftsman, an artist, quite hellish and imposing – in need of lottery funding.

The wooden ram horns mounted on the far wall curse all visitors should they look up at them and the painting (signed ‘R.F.’) above the umpire’s chair seems to be from the Napoleonic era; a hint of war despite the sporting scene.

I hand Josh Sandford his 50p win bonus for turning over Hilton E’s Roy Alty the previous week. He looks slightly perplexed, yet I firmly believe such an arbitrary and jocular system helps to galvanize the squad. No additional £1 as Wilson Parker smashed him, but a financially stable week nonetheless.

Ramsbottom are not what we expect. Tim Fields is working and Dominic Siddall studying hard. Their experienced replacements, David Cain and Neil Booth appear iron-like and insouciant next to the chipper face of no.1, Martin Ormsby.

It is Ormsby versus Harper Brass’s Allan Auxilly first. Auxilly is like a surgeon, a mechanic – each move thought through; a refined and unruffled match player with a cool head. His backhand topspins arrive from nowhere and are too much for Ormsby (11-6, 11-5, 11-6).

Raymond Isherwood is next – ‘playing up’ from Division Four against the man with anti-spin rubbers, Cain. Cain’s eyes have a luminous quality to them – an optimism that has hung around despite his ageing years. He wears an Oldham Athletic top, has white socks and tanned ‘holiday’ legs.

Isherwood is a 97% man but such lower league stats mean nothing here. It is like a little boy asking out Marilyn Monroe. Cain ravages and torments him: 11-7, 11-3, 11-4.

2011 Warburton Cup winner, Sandford steps forward. I have every faith in the 20-year-old, Bolton-born looper. His opponent is Ormsby; granite-chinned ‘ringer’, Booth unfortunately delayed. 11-9. Sandford’s forehand topspin is working. A 5-2 lead in the 2nd suggests an imminent win – the Harper player, when not attacking, having the meticulous push/vision of a man staring through a submarine periscope.

6-5. But, oh no – what is this? Sandford’s bat has broken mid-shot having got trapped in the rear curtain – the blade flying over Auxilly in the umpire seat. He borrows a bat, but his soft rubbers are now a distant memory and it is a cruel slide to defeat: 9-11,13-11,5-11,9-11.

Auxilly loses to Booth (9-11,8-11,10-12), yet turns over Cain (11-6,11-9,11-9). The rest of the evening, however, is a horrible blur, a turkey shoot, a mauling.

I stand in a large puddle returning to the car. It has not been a good night. Bah! Humbug!

Division Two Table                               P          W        L          F          A         Pts

  1. Hilton E                                              11        7          4          67        32        67
  2. Little Lever Cricket Club C            11        11        0          65        34        65
  3. Hilton F                                              10        9          1          64        26        64
  4. RamsbottomTown TTC D              11        6          5          59        40        59
  5. Meadow Ben B                                 11        7          4          56        43        56
  6. Meadow Ben A                                 11        5          6          51        48        51
  7. Farnworth Social Circle A              11        4          7          41        58        41
  8. Hilton G                                             11        3          8          40        59        40
  9. Ladybridge B                                   11        3          8          35        64        35
  10. Bolton University B                         11        3          8          32        67        32
  11. Harper Brass A                                11        2          9          30        69        30

Very Superstitious

Superstition is defined as “Belief in supernatural causality: one event leading to the cause of another without any natural process linking the two. It contradicts natural science.” Opposition to it (omens, astrology, religion, witchcraft) was particularly strengthened during the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.

And yet, three hundred years later, it is everywhere: in every game; on every bit of grass; on every track; in every sports hall. We all have at least one little habit, one conscious finger-crossing, ‘touch wood’, salt over the shoulder moment which, it is believed, will improve our performance or defend against bad luck.

In US stock car racing, shelled peanuts are almost NEVER sold at an event. “According to 1930s racing lore, peanut shells were always found in the smoldering remnants of a badly wrecked car.” Beware the driver that eats nuts before a race!

Likewise, in Major League baseball, you “DO NOT talk about pitching a no-hitter!” In other words, you’re pitching against the final man with the potential to reduce the opposition team to zero hits across nine innings. Any mention of what COULD happen is anathema, a curse, a total “no-no”. It is like leading 8-0 in table tennis, with the final match player warming up with a huge, mocking and complacent grin on his face.

Cricket has its own superstitions especially when you’re part of the batting side. Always put the left pad on first like Tendulkar. When there is a great partnership at the wicket, DO NOT move seats. In fact, DO NOT get up!

Nick Faldo – winner of six major golfing championships – only cut his fingernails on a Monday, “so as not to affect the balance of his putting grip”. And he certainly DID NOT have lunch with fellow leaders on a Sunday which is common these days.

Table tennis has its peculiarities at local level almost as if Dr Kananga (Live and Let Die) were sat on your front bumper on the way to the match.

Graham Clayborough pats his thigh twice before receiving a serve. He refers to it as a “confidence trigger”.  Tim Fields wears his lucky Santa socks no matter what the season. Roger Bertrand cannot play without eating three bananas during match night. If John Barker sees the slightest gap in the court curtains, he HAS TO fasten them. Personally, I HAVE TO flip the ball into my left hand before serving.

Good luck this Friday. Voltaire will be watching.

Hail King Louis


Premier Division: Hilton A 1 Flixton 8

They stroke the tables at this level – make sure there are no damp spots or rogue bits of dust. I am sat next to the 1980 European Champion, John Hilton now representing Flixton. He is knowledgeable – the Lovejoy of table tennis, his voice a little gruff.

The table is a grand piano to him – its surface, spruce rather than Masonite. This ‘twiddler’ of the bat and table tennis giant is in good spirits tonight. A range of subjects smatter the air – tax, Chinese players, old foe Ramsbottom’s venue.

We begin. I remind Hilton’s Mark Gibson that he’ll be facing three undefeated players in Flixton’s Paul Cicchelli, Louis Rosenthal and John Hilton. “No pressure then,” comes the gallant retort.

The first match goes with form: Cicchelli too refined, too canny when pitted against the raw power of Gibson (11-7, 11-7, 12-10). Cicchelli arches his body like a yoga teacher – his wolfman arms twisting and bending, his Killerspin paddle case an early-warning system, a ‘DEFCON 3’ to the opposition.

Jordan Brookes is next – Hilton’s laid back, yet sinewy 15-year-old. Headphones on, music between matches, you sense that he’s drifted off at times – is walking a beach in his Hollister joggers. 17-15: a tough, impressive start by Brookes – two set points down versus the hair-lacquered Action Man, Rosenthal but living with his speed.

Rosenthal, 29, Puma top, Butterfly trainers is the perfect embodiment of counterdrives. You think a ball has got past him, but no – the super-fit Flixton man swings an arm from nowhere and mops up the points. 11-6. 11-7. 11-2. The comeback is not unexpected, but still, it resounds with SAS-like flair.

Gibson again. Graham Coupe, Hilton’s third man has yet to arrive and so it’s up to the Hilton bomber to try to dismantle the game of Flixton spinner, John. Only one black rubber for JH tonight – his preferred two long since outlawed.

11-6: Gibson on top. “I’d say you’re playing him too much down his backhand,” Cicchelli tells JH. An immediate response from the 1980 Champ: 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9; faded Athens 2004 T-shirt soaking up the sweat, shot variation colossal.

Brookes stops the rot in a topsy-turvy spectacular with Cicchelli (11-1, 11-8, 6-11, 2-11, 11-6), but after that the dominos fall: Coupe 0-3 Rosenthal; Brookes 0-3 Hilton; Coupe 1-3 Cicchelli; Gibson 0-3 Rosenthal; Coupe 2-3 Hilton.

The Rosenthal aftershave just about lingers through the grind and perspiration.

Farewell Ingerson

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.