'HODGE' - A TRIBUTE
It had become one of the time-honoured rituals of the cricketing year at Wantage Road.
Each and every Former Players’ Day, Alan Hodgson would put down his wine glass, get to his feet and deliver the familiar keynote speech.
Regular attendees could almost mouth it word for word.
A mention of precisely how many cricketers have appeared for Northamptonshire in the first-class game since 1905 (he would check with me beforehand) and a tribute to those who had passed away since the previous gathering.
And then to the very heart of the matter – the importance of the occasion for perpetuating old friendships (“we just pick up where we left off”) and making new ones. The fellowship of cricket, and of Northamptonshire cricket in particular.
I’ve no idea who will do the honours next year. Whoever it is may use a few longer words and even vary the script a little.
But – following Alan’s sudden death last week, aged just 64 – it won’t be the same.
‘Hodge’ was a north-easterner who became a Northamptonian by adoption. But the accent remained, giving all those tales (not always much to do with on-field activity) about ‘Coookey, Shaaarpey and Taaaitey’ an authentic flavour.
Born in Consett, the 16-year-old fast bowler came down to Wantage Road – a well-trodden path in those days – for trials in April 1968.
The other promising teenagers that day included his contemporary, Geoff Cook, who would be ‘invited to spend a week or two here during the summer’ according to the committee minutes – and was still around two decades later.
Northamptonshire liked the look of young Hodgson too, so Ken Turner duly signed him for 12 quid a week when he left school.
This brought the youngster into the orbit of Colin Milburn, whose brief-but-brilliant career would be shattered the following spring by ‘that’ car smash near Moulton.
The tragic story of ‘Ollie’ is to be told in a new PCA-backed play whose author, the former county cricketer James Graham-Brown, consulted Alan extensively to help him get under the skin of his subject.
It will be performed at the County Ground later this month – and the absence of ‘Hodge’ is bound to hang heavy on the occasion.
The young paceman’s first-class debut came against Cambridge University at Northampton in June 1970, the week Ted Heath became Prime Minister, and he picked up a couple of first-innings wickets to open his account.
“He was an important member of the team in my years as captain,” Jim Watts told me last week.
“Later in his career I know he enjoyed the coaching role he was given – and I’m shocked that he should pass away so young.
“I have great memories of him and the support he gave me. He was a good friend.”
So many of the tributes paid via social media have mentioned Alan’s empathy with young cricketers trying to make their way in the game.
And that’s not a surprise when you look at his own cricketing journey.
He spent several seasons vying with the likes of Bob Cottam, John Dye, Sarfraz Nawaz and Jim Griffiths for fast-bowling slots – and that meant making the most of any chances going, whether in the Championship or the relatively newfangled one-day stuff.
For Alan – as for Northamptonshire – 1976 was an annus mirabilis. Although he probably never called it that himself.
‘The pace trio of Sarfraz, Dye and Hodgson were a match-winning combination,’ wrote Fred Speakman in Wisden, reflecting on a campaign that saw Mushtaq’s men finish as runners-up to Middlesex in the Championship…
‘Three times in the later part of the season, opponents were dismissed before lunch on the first morning of a game.
‘(Hodgson) took his opportunity so well that he was capped in August.’
If there’s ever been a Northamptonshire cricketer prouder of his capped player’s tie – on a par with Brian Reynolds, I reckon, which is high praise indeed – I haven’t met him.
In that same scorching summer, he bagged 7-39 in a Sunday League game against Somerset, including a hat-trick (when the visitors had needed seven to win from the final over) to wrap up victory.
What Brian Close, stranded at the non-striker’s end, thought about it all is not recorded. Probably just as well.
And, of course, on September 4 he played in the Gillette Cup-winning side at Lord’s, holding a return catch to dismiss Frank Hayes early in the Lancashire innings.
A money-can’t-buy experience that’s eluded many cricketers who’ve taken an awful lot more money out of the game than Alan ever did – notwithstanding a £3,466 ‘testimonial’ granted after a serious back operation hastened the end of his County career in 1979.
If he’d then trundled back up to Durham we wouldn’t be remembering him as fondly as we do.
But he stayed put and immersed himself in local cricket – first with Overstone Park (57 wickets at 8.86 to earn them the Division One title in 1981) and then at Old Northamptonians, captaining them to ‘Prem’ honours in 1983 and 1984.
By a horrible coincidence, he was due to attend the ONs dinner – sharing a table with his old chum Geoff Moss – to celebrate their title triumph this summer just a couple of days after his death.
I understand a few glasses were raised in his honour, and quite right too.
He subsequently returned to Wantage Road as an inspirational coach of young cricketers, skippering the County Colts (without too many long chases to the boundary) and eventually managing the new Lynn Wilson Indoor Centre when it opened in 1998.
Alan – not a cricketing politician, which helped – also played a key role in bringing together four separate leagues to form the current NCL, of which he was the first vice-chairman.
Quite a CV.
And, throughout, his enthusiasm for his adopted county (even when he wasn’t convinced it was heading in the right direction) and for the game of cricket – never forgetting its social side – shone through.
To quote one former Northamptonshire player this week: ‘I guess everyone who met him regarded him as a pal.’
The last word if ever I heard it.
****This tribute first appeared in the Northamptonshire Telegraph and is reproduced with their kind permission. You can read Andrew Radd's column in the 'NT' every Thursday****
Alex Wakely (21)
Graeme White (15)
Steven Crook (14)
Ben Sanderson (12)
Josh Cobb (11)
Richard Gleeson (10)
Rob Keogh (8)
Max Holden (7)
Richard Levi (6)
Tom Sole (6)
Adam Rossington (6)
Saif Zaib (6)
Olly Stone (5)
David Ripley (5)
Monty Panesar (4)
Seekuge Prasanna (4)
Rob Newton (4)
David Murphy (4)
Mohammad Azharullah (4)
Rory Kleinveldt (4)
Phil Rowe (3)
Olly Murs (3)
north v south (3)
Chris Tombs (2)
Gavin Warren (2)
England Lions (2)
Will Rogers (1)
Kevin Innes (1)
Mike Ferrandino (1)
County Council (1)
cllr Robin Brown (1)
Ray Payne (1)
NCCC holdings (1)
Chris Lorkin (1)
England U19 (1)
Second XI / Academy Physiotherapist (1)
Barry Goudriaan (1)
David Sales (1)
Nathan Buck (1)
- RUNS 4 FUNDS
- MONTY HELPS SECONDS TO NAIL-BITING WIN
- LEICESTERSHIRE V NORTHAMPTONSHIRE | DAY 4
- MONTY SEES HOW IT'S DONE AT SKY
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V KENT - DAY 4
- FUNERAL ARRANGEMENT'S FOR MAURICE KENT
- WAKELY'S WEEKLY
- STEELBACKS TRIUMPH IN 'BLAST' OPENER
- GLOUCS V NORTHAMPTONSHIRE - DAY 4
- Monty is appointed as Mental Health Ambassador
- 2 IN 2 FOR THE STEELBACKS
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V ESSEX - DAY 3
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V ESSEX - DAY 4
- SRI LANKAN SEEKKUGE PRASANNA SIGNS FOR NORTHAMPTONSHIRE
- MIND OVER MATTER | PREPARATIONS CONTINUE
- OXFORD MCCU | DAY 2
- TO TOSS, OR NOT TO TOSS
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE VS SUSSEX | DAY 2
- NCCC & KENT SECOND XI VS WARWICKSHIRE SECOND XI
- OBITUARY | JOHN MINNEY 1939 - 2016
- EASYCOPIERS SPONSOR BEN DUCKETT
- NCCC SECOND XI VS LEICESTERSHIRE SECOND XI | DAY 3
- MIDSHIRES ELECTRICAL TO SPONSOR STEVEN CROOK
- ESSEX VS NORTHAMPTONSHIRE | DAY 4
- "LET'S CALL IT A DRAW..."
- PRE-SEASON TOUR BEGINS
- NO CHANGE AT THE TOP
- NEW SHAPE FOR COUNTY GAME IN 2017
- FINANCIAL STATEMENT
- NEW FACE AT THE ACADEMY
- STEELBACKS CAFE OPENING
- CRAZY HATS LADIES BACK IN ACTION
- ONE WIN, ONE DEFEAT IN BARBADOS T20
- A RIGHT ROYAL TREAT
- HOSTS SEE OFF COUNTY IN ONE-DAYER
- BEN AND ADAM IN FORM - TWICE!
- TOM'S THE HEART AND SOLE IN BARBADOS
- WELCOME TO THE NEW CLUB SHOP!
- SQUAD TO FACE MIDDLESEX
- A FAN'S EYE VIEW
- Welcome to SportsAid
- "THE ALL-ROUND DISPLAY WE WERE LOOKING FOR"
- A Record Breaking Battle
- Stone and Levi injury Update
- It's All White on the Night!
- Sri Lanka call up for Prasanna
- A Tough Night with the Wet Worcestershire Rapids
- IT'S A RLC WASHOUT AT WANTAGE ROAD
- Greene King extends sponsorship deal with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club
- WHITE SECOND IN PCA MVP 50 OVERS PERFORMANCE TABLE
- Moin Ashraf joins us on a short term basis
- DEFEAT IS HARD LINES ON DUCKETT
- Swim for Fish Charity Swim
- Back to the top of the table.
- T20 BBQ vs Nottinghamshire on Friday, 8th July
- Credit to Crook
- 500th player to represent Northamptonshire County Cricket Club
- SUSSEX V NORTHAMPTONSHIRE - DAY 4
- STEELBACKS WIN ON FAMILY DAY
- DUCKETT MOVES INTO PCA MVP RANKINGS TOP FIVE
- Fan Blog by Ian Harris
- STEELBACKS TAME THE BEARS AT EDGBASTON
- STEELBACKS SHARE THE POINTS AT CHESTERFIELD
- Richard Gleeson signs official contract
- Top of the Table and Ahead of the Game
- IT'S A WASHOUT AT CHESTERFIELD
- STEELBACKS TARGET QUARTER-FINALS AGAINST 'BOGEY' OPPONENTS
- Steelbacks fail to tame the Outlaws
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V WORCESTERSHIRE - DAY 3
- WAIT FOR T20 QUARTERS GOES ON AFTER DURHAM DEFEAT
- Shoosmiths supports NCCC with continued sponsorship
- Duckett - 163 reasons to be proud
- Quarter Finals booked
- THANK YOU
- DUCKETT RELISHES BEING A LION IN HIS OWN DEN
- NO SENTIMENT AS WILLEY STINGS STEELBACKS
- KEOGH THE KEY MAN IN CRUSHING RLC VICTORY
- BEN GOES BIG - AGAIN - FOR THE LIONS
- BEARS' OPENERS SINK COUNTY AT EDGBASTON
- WORCESTER WIN KEEPS STEELBACKS' RLC HOPES ALIVE
- COMPETITION HOTS UP FOR NORTH v SOUTH PLACES
- STEELBACKS CLINCH HOME T20 'QUARTER' DESPITE DEFEAT
- Northamptonshire hosting Beer Festival
- STEELBACKS CLOSE IN ON ANOTHER QUARTER-FINAL
- Graeme White signs a new contract
- North v South success for White and Duckett
- Duckett named in Specsavers One to Watch shortlist
- Networking Breakfast and Open Day, 12th September 9am
- GLAMORGAN V NORTHAMPTONSHIRE - DAY 4
- WAKELY: "WE'LL ALWAYS CARE ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP"
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V LEICESTERSHIRE - DAY 4
- JOSH COBB SIGNS NEW THREE YEAR CONTRACT
- STEELBACKS CROWNED THE 2016 T20 CHAMPIONS
- Notice to all Club Members
- Barrett gets his first ton for Northamptonshire
- WORCESTERSHIRE V NORTHAMPTONSHIRE - DAY 4
- catering vacancies available
- KEOGH AND WHITE HAVE GLAMORGAN IN A SPIN
- KEOGH IMPRESSES IN PCA MVP RANKINGS
- BEN SANDERSON SIGNS NEW THREE YEAR DEAL
- COUNTY COMPLETE KENT VICTORY
- MEMBERS VOTE TO CHANGE THE OWNERSHIP OF NCCC
- ECB and First Class Counties agree next steps in developing fresh T20 competition
- "Kleinveldt is a Steelback, to the core" - David Ripley
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V GLOUCESTERSHIRE - DAY 4
- DUCKETT GETS THE ENGLAND CALL UP
- GRAEME WHITE TOPS THE TABLE IN THE PCA MVP RANKINGS
- T20 CHAMPIONS DVD
- Ben Duckett shortlisted for NatWest PCA Awards
- BEN DUCKETT EXTENDS HIS CONTRACT WITH NCCC
- Northamptonshire set to host South Africa tour matches in 2017
- NORTHAMPTONSHIRE SIGN PACE BOWLER NATHAN BUCK
- DUCKETT BECOMES FIRST EVER PLAYER TO WIN DOUBLE AT PCA AWARDS
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STEELEY!
- David Murphy extends his contract with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club
- ROB NEWTON SIGNS NEW CONTRACT
- Edgbaston set to host England’s first Day/Night Test match against West Indies in 2017
- Cricket stays at the cutting edge of science and medicine
- Fancy jetting off to Barbados with the Steelbacks next spring?
- PETER ARNOLD - 90 NOT OUT!
- 'HODGE' - A TRIBUTE
- Steelbacks v South Africa - Hospitality
- THE COUNTY CORPORATE CLUB
- NCCC repay Northamptonshire County Council £1million
- Northamptonshire’s Chairman, Gavin Warren discusses plans for the new T20 Competition
- THE CLUB ANNOUNCE ITS CHOSEN CHARITY FOR 2017
- NCCC welcomes new Strength and Conditioning Coach, Chris Lorkin
- Made Of Steel: Episode 8
- NCCC recruit England Under 19s’ Captain and Middlesex opener, Max Holden
- Huntingdon Racecourse dates for NCCC Season Ticket Holders
- OBITUARY | MICK YORK
- DUCKETT TO FEATURE FOR MCC
- Graeme White called up to England Lions one-day squad
- Sri Lanka A claim first win in Lions ODI series
- Northants cricket shop re-launch!
- 2016 FINANCIAL YEAR END STATEMENT
- Sri Lanka A took a 2-0 lead in the five-match one-day series against England Lions
- England Lions slipped to a third consecutive defeat in their one-day series against Sri Lanka A.
- Welcome Back Seekkuge Prasanna!
- PlayerLayer Announces Kit Partnership with Northamptonshire CCC
- White Roars for the England Lions
- TEAM NORTH SECURE FIRST VICTORY IN SERIES WARM UP MATCHES
- £13,000 RAISED FOR THE NIGEL WAGSTAFF CHARITY
- MATCH REPORT | NORTHAMPTONSHIRE V LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
- Strauss raises stakes for North-South Series
- MATCH REPORT | NORTHANTS V NOTTS
- MATCH REPORT | NORTHANTS V CARDIFF MCCU
- UPDATE | NORTHANTS V HAMPSHIRE
- MATCH REPORT | NORTHANTS V HAMPSHIRE DAY 2
- CROOK ALL SET FOR SEASON KICK OFF
- Match Report | MCC v Middlesex Day One
- Match Report | MCC v Middlesex Day Two
- KEOGH SHINES AT EDGBASTON
- ANOTHER DAY OF HANDY PRACTICE AT EDGBASTON
- TAYLOR AND SALES JOIN THE COACHING LINE UP
- TWO MORE TONS AS LOUGHBOROUGH MAKE HAY
- CLUB CAPTAIN EXTENDS HIS CONTRACT
- DUCKETT NAMED AS ONE OF WISDEN'S FIVE CRICKETERS OF THE YEAR
- WAKELY TON ROUNDS OFF RUN-FEST
- Duckett named most promising young cricketer of the year for 2016
- DAY TWO | NCCC THRASH GLAMORGAN IN TWO DAYS
- 'HODGE' TO BE REMEMBERED WITH NEW AWARD
- COUNTY BEATEN IN TWO-DAY THRILLER AT NEW ROAD
- PREVIEW: NORTHANTS STEELBACKS V BIRMINGHAM BEARS
- Warwickshire defeat the Steelbacks in Royal London Cup opener!