When I played football for Collaton United in the 1960s, Brian Carter, our captain, employed a tactic which he called the 'Collaton Corner'.
If we had a corner kick on the right-hand side, his plan was to take the kick himself, and to aim for me on the far side of the penalty area.
My job was to head it back in his direction so that he could run in, head it, and score!
It never worked, but, today, down at Harbertonford, we tried it for the umpteenth time, and as I rose to act out my part of the plan, I felt as though I had been hit by dumper truck!
The impact knocked all the breath from my body, and, as I lay there in the mud, I looked up to see a big solid chap looking down at me.
“Beg pardon! Don’t mind me!” he said, with a smile all over his face.
I played against Mike Stumbles a few more times, and never won a single header against him!
Later on in my life, Mike and I played cricket for Paignton together, and in our twilight years, he joined me at Galmpton Cricket Club.
He was a wonderful team mate, always smiling, making funny remarks, or playing practical jokes.
One day, we were playing at Crediton on a pitch which sloped from left to right.
Thinking it would suit my left-arm, round the wicket, action, I decided to bowl short of a length, and asked Mike to come up to field at short-leg, for a catch.
The first five balls whistled past the batsman, but the last ball pitched on middle-and-leg, and the batsmen seized the chance to hit it with all his might.
The ball slammed into Mike’s forehead with such force that it bounced back across the pitch towards cover-point!
“C-a-t-c-h i-t!” shouted Mike as he slowly slumped to the ground!
The batsman was caught, and, as we gathered around Mike, we watched as a huge lump formed on his forehead.
Typically, Mike got up and carried on, but never forgot the incident.
From that day on, before every match we played, Mike would catch my eye and pull out of his kit-bag, a packet of anti-diarrhoea pills and a spare pair of underpants!
“Just in case you ever ask me to field at short-leg again, skipper!”
Mike was a fine batsman, but, for a big man, quite defensive.
The bowler would never see the stumps when Mike was batting, just a big white pad pushed out towards him.
He would accumulate his runs in singles, and had endless patience at the crease.
If he could be boring at the wicket, he was never dull in the changing-room.
The showers at Galmpton took ages to warm up, and one day, Neil Collings was in a hurry to get home.
He stripped off and, slowly, edged under the cold stream of water.
“Burrhh! he said “The water’s bloody freezing.”
It wasn’t long before a naked Mike followed in behind him, and the two of them were sharing the cold water.
Suddenly, Neil who was much shorter than Mike, felt a little warm jet of water landing on his left buttock, and dribbling down his left leg.
“Is that warmer for you?” asked Mike.
Neil suddenly realised what was happening, and shrieked
“What the hell are you doing, Stums?”.
As he spun round, he saw Mike with a cup of warm water in his hand!
Forty years later, just before last Christmas, my wife and I bumped into Mike in a Paignton supermarket, shopping with his wife, Pam.
While the girls were chatting, I had a quiet chat with Mike, and asked him how life was treating him.
“Pretty good, mate,” he said “But, I’ve come in to buy some nappy-knickers!”
“Ah well!” I replied “Old age can be embarrassing, and bladders and bowels don’t last for ever I suppose?”
“Oh! I have no problems there,” he replied “But I keep getting this recurring dream that, after all this time, you ask me to field at short leg to your bowling for just one more time!”
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