Past Player: Nigel Campbell

1st Jul 2020

1. What are your early memories of playing cricket at SN?

Although born in Gosforth I moved at a very early age to Yorkshire and spent most of my formative years around the Huddersfield area. My father was a very keen sportsman and played Rugby (Northern RFC), Cricket and Tennis (SNC&TC as it was then) to a really good standard. My love of cricket was born from going with mum to watch dad play in the Bradford League in Yorkshire. I returned to Newcastle during the Autumn of 1967 aged 12. Living in Gosforth, Dad had showed me the South Northumberland ground and explained he had played there is his early career. Come the Spring of 1968 he told me to go down to South North and seek out Alan Bell, the then formidable Groundsman. Alan took me to one side and gruffly told me to come back at 6.00pm for junior nets. There began my love of South Northumberland Cricket and Tennis Club. Nets were a formal thing and there was a distinct separation between Senior Nets and Junior nets. Juniors who showed an aptitude for learning and a level of proficiency would be formally invited to the Senior nets and that was one of my early highlights. We had many Northumberland County players at the club at that time and two fairly rapid opening bowlers in Alan Crooks and Adrian Francis and so it was with some trepidation I turned up for my first senior net aged just 13. The nets were meticulously prepared on the grass in front of the pavilion and were a pleasure to play on. At that time I was a batsman with a tendency to play around at bowling. Being a ‘left armer’ I was intrigued by Gary Sobers ability to switch from left arm medium swing bowling to left arm spin bowling even at test level! Obviously, this had to be tried and so I was a little confused as to what I could or should actually be doing. Fortunately my batting was strong enough at the time to see me through. Bowling would come later.  During my first season I was drafted into the Sunday 3rd team for our friendlies with the likes of Wooler, Chatton, Etal, Manderston (Duns), Belford, Mitford, Berwick and many others. Before I knew it I was playing for the midweek 3rd team, attending junior and senior nets, had a Saturday morning School match, a Saturday afternoon Club match and Sunday 3rd team. If I didn’t have a match on Saturday afternoon I used to go to the ground to watch the Firsts or the Seconds and help in the giant rickety score box. We were like monkeys swinging from the rafters adjusting the scores. Many first class teams would have been proud of that score box. Heaven! I met so many fantastic people that have become lifelong friends. At the end of that season it was desolation. How could I possibly go until next April without playing? Anyway, April 1969 arrived and off we went again. I was progressing well and had a couple of outings with the seconds. June 1969 I was at home on a Saturday lunchtime when the phone went. I had been selected for the 1st team. At 14 the club made quite a big thing of me being the youngest player to play first team cricket for South North. We were playing Ashington, a very strong club renowned for having had Rohan Kanhai as their professional in 1964. Alex Johnson was their feared opening bowler with one short of 50 first class wickets for Nottinghamshire before heading north to Sunderland and then Ashington. It was a glorious sunny day but I don’t remember much about the game other than I batted at 10 and was required. My first ball was from Alex. A quick leg stump Yorker that I managed to get a toe end on and squeeze it down to fine leg for a comfortable single!!


2. What was the highlight of your playing career at SN?

There were many but being part of the first team squad that won the league in 1989. I believe the first team to win it without a professional. Being selected for the Northumberland County Cricket team. I had played county cricket at u15 and colt levels as a no 3 batsman but selection to the senior side purely as a bowler was special.


3. Who did you enjoy playing with at SN the most and why?


Too many to name but Jeremy Benson was my school wicketkeeper and we learned our trades together, helping each other along the way. We first played together at u13 level at school and played right up to retirement. We have some truly fantastic memories together. He still remains a great friend today


4. Who was your most difficult opponent and why?

Played against a lot of good players over the years but the one that stands out is Ken Pearson of County Club. I think he is still the all time highest run scorer in ‘Minor Counties Cricket’ statistics with something approaching 12,000 runs for Northumberland. Never played at a ball he didn’t have to. Used his pads to perfection (annoyingly) and rarely walked off without a score under his belt.


5. Who was the best (overseas?) player you have seen play at SN?


It is tough to name one so here are a selection.


Jimmy Adams (West Indies Captain) playing for Eppleton. We set a fair target of around 280 if I remember correctly. Jimmy stroked it around and they were never in danger of losing. A pleasure to watch and play against. He was in the West Indian team originally as a wicket keeper but ended up with test wickets bowling slow left arm.

Courtney Walsh (Record breaking West Indian Test bowler). He was an awesome quick bowler who literally bowled deliveries that were impossible to lay a bat on. 

Kelvin Williams (West Indian Tynedale professional). One of the most destructive players I have ever played against or witnessed. Always gave you a chance early on as he prodded around but once in, destruction. I think he still holds the record for highest league score.


6. How has local recreational cricket changed?


Probably a very old fashioned view but although we were always serious about the game we also had a huge social side to the sport. That seems to be missing these days and it seems to be a lot more serious. It is still an amateur sport albeit there are paid players in every team these days. The constant is that league players still strive for selection to the representative sides such as the various levels of Northumberland CCC and Durham CCC. You can still enjoy it whilst getting there.


7. What is your favourite post playing moment at SN?

I think the idea of the SNCC VP group was a very good idea and the first get together brought back some great memories and anecdotes. It has brought some of the older guys back together that might never have had the opportunity otherwise. It is nice to have a golf outing now and again and a trip to a one day or T20 game or two.


8. What are your hopes for SN and local cricket in the future?

Unfortunately I am not involved in any form of cricket activity anymore and so I’m not really in a position to comment. I do hope, however, that the club continues to prosper and offer the youngsters of the area, from any walk of life, the opportunity to experience the joy of holding a bat and a ball on Bull’s field.


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