Woking and Horsell 1st XI in 2003 simply weren’t good enough. Neither as a team nor as individuals. We thought we were, we expected to be up the top of the table, maybe that was half the problem. On paper at the start of 2003 we had a very strong team, at the start of 2004 it is much weaker – on paper. But when has “on paper” meant anything.

During the winter Walshy resigned. His efforts during his 8 years as captain were monumental. The dedication that he gave to the first team was endless whether it be – on the field as captain, or off the field – preparing a wicket, ferrying people’s kit around, making numerous phone calls checking everyone knows where they are going or solving every captains nightmare of last minute drop outs. However, (for now) he has had enough, and as he usually does, he has made the right decision and we all wish him well. (with his performances in the bar this year)

This already put us a captain and a batsman down. Also over the winter we have lost the services of Dikko, Regan and the Human Dog – Toby Green – who we will greatly miss in the field especially. Also several of the 2’s players who would have been considered replacements for these guys– the likes of Hobbsy, Hanks and Horse – have disappeared from the club, leaving availability very sparce.

Quaggy was the obvious choice for new 1st XI captain, having been vice-captain last year and stepped in for Walshy on a few occasions. He was left with the task of putting a threadbare squad together for a pre-season chat before the race night. So what was his chat, well his chat was good - we talked about the importance of discipline on and off the field such as making meet times (which was quite apt as Rosco turned up 20 minutes late for this get together), we talked about the need to battle to the end and not give up as soon as we believe we cannot win, we talked about making sure every newcomer is made welcome in the team, but above all we talked about enjoying ourselves. Back in 1999/2000 we didn’t have the best team in the world but we did have the best team spirit (on and off the pitch) I have ever seen any side have. Perhaps we have been guilty of taking ourselves too seriously, certainly last year we were guilty of putting too much pressure on ourselves. There were glimpses of this spirit last season – namely in games against Ashtead, Dorking and Old Wimbledonians (and it is no coincidence that those games produced some of our best cricket of the year), but there is no reason why we shouldn’t have this spirit in the majority of games.

As for players well 1st XI stalwarts – Glenn, Damo and Giles will be back to join Quaggy.  Mr Hasselhof in particular will be looking for a spectacular farewell season before he returns home to the land of Chris Martin. Porters will be looking to build on an excellent return to the 1st XI ranks last year and Roger has been stolen from the role of 2nd XI captain as we are going to need his steady opening bowling which proved such a bonus last year.

Toby Aldred will be given a chance to shine at the top of the order and Rosco will be looking to prove his undoubted ability with both bat and ball. Many others will be battling hard for 1st team places – certainly many of the younger players will be looking to push their way into the side – Awais, Shiraz, Woodsy, Worgs to name a few. More established players such as Po, Munge and Gibbers will never be far from the skippers mind (what money on the Murphy brothers both batting in the top 6 before the season ends) and who can discount the one-legged Couch from making an appearance at some stage.

Along with these names, we wait with baited breath for the arrival of our South African overseas player Duncan Smethurst. I hope that everyone will make him a welcome addition to the club and that he will embrace the Woking and Horsell culture (?!) whilst repaying us with some class performances. It certainly sounds like he has the pedigree.

So good luck to Quaggy’s attempt at getting the enjoyment back into playing 1st XI cricket at W & H. It will be a tough season, expectations will be minimal and survival will be the first aim, but if he gets the backing he deserves from all who play for him then we could just pull off a few shocks and finish higher than people expect us to.

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