Hi, hope you are well and coping with your lockdown, near lockdown or being as busy as ever as a key worker?
There are so many variations on life at present with advice that almost makes some of my thoughts seem clear. The main thing is that I hope you and your families are well and stay well.
I realise I have been quiet, possibly a cause for celebration or at least mild relief amongst one or two of you, but have been entertained and informed by the updates on the website. Particularly the interviews that Pete Cureton has been carrying out with the likes of Cheeky and Lol Connor and also the link to Leigh Hewison's podcast aired through BBC 5 Live's Rugby Union Weekly.
Dominic has been keeping you up to date with developments as best he can in this unusual environment. I would thank Mark Beckett and all helping him looking after the pitch, although it may be a little while before we can get back on it in earnest. It is an important resource and the chance of a bit of recovery is one of the unanticipated benefits of this break.
I am prompted, hence the Steve Winwood reference in the title, to take the chance to endorse Dominic's thanks to players and in Neil Ryan's case, coaches who might be taking time away from the Club, by thanking them for all they have contributed. I have seen how both these men and women have helped the Club as we have developed after change. Each one will be missed but I would take the opportunity to wish you all the best of luck with new ventures and repeat the encouragement not to be shy if you would like to return.
Speaking as someone who left briefly in the 1990s to help Dave Reed at West Park, when we cut down our teams as part of the move to professionalism under Tony Russ, I found it easy to return, settle back into familiar surroundings and just enjoy my rugby. Our "don't be shy" invitation extends to the players’ families who have been so supportive of them while playing for our teams, home and away.
With the question of what we can do and when we can do it still very much up in the air, there is obviously a bit of reflection going on. This will continue as we look to celebrate 100 years at the Memorial Ground next season. I would not want that reflection on the past, realising I am a contributor to this both in the past and even now in the comments below, to deflect from the fact that our main focus is and should be on the present and for the future. In that, I look forward to welcoming players and supporters, old and new, back when we can kick off again.
For now you will have seen, or can see, the features on contributing to South Sefton Food Bank and also the encouragement to support sponsors and members if possible. It is good to be involved if you can. I would add if you are lucky enough to be able to offer employment again please let us know.
The Club is part of a community and we hope that we can open up again soon to welcome the community, although, wearing my work hat, we may need to be patient for a while longer as the Government chooses to move other sectors of the economy forward first. The financial support measures put in place have helped sustain the Club for now and the Finance Team will continue to monitor the interests of the Club. I am sure Dominic will keep you updated on that.
On the reward for effort front, I would mention that the more extensive reading I am doing now bears some fruit. There is good article on Dick Greenwood in the Rugby Paper this week talking about us as his club. A good read, with a positive finish, that despite all we are still here and looking to promote good rugby and friendship. There was also a nice letter in yesterday's Echo from a lady thanking a certain Robert Atlay in glowing terms for all the help he had provided her family in his capacity as a doctor over the years, a positive memory still resonating over the years.
Further back on the reflection front, a specific memory for me of Leigh Hewison only goes back as far as the 2018/19 season. It arose from Leigh being prepared to support the team in the end of season game at Saracens. The season was nearly over but there were two fixtures to fulfil, the first took place in the select surroundings of Haberdasher's Aske School. Several players could not make it but to ensure we fulfilled the requirement for Front Row, Leigh agreed to play despite having a broken hand. An act that stood out to me in among all the sacrifices people make for our teams.
In the case of Cyr Njike Tchakoute I recall playing in his first game for us. He made an instant impact, particularly when he asked our young second row he was lifting whether it was OK to lift him one handed to allow him to persuade his opponent not to be quite so vigorous in his off the ball challenges.
With Lol, there are a few memories. It has been over 40 years I have known him! With apologies for the lengthy scene setting I would mention an event off the field rather than on to highlight his ready wit under pressure. I go back to the late 1970s/early 1980s and the 1st and 3rds away at Halifax. To briefly set the scene my dad had chosen to drive over as he was out in the evening. I think there were traffic problems and both our team coach and, as a result, the kick off were delayed. After the usual tense physical and verbal battle the two teams always seemed to enjoy over there, a few of the players needed a lift back early to make the social functions they had planned. I recall we gave Lol, Geoff Hay and Frank Clarke a lift. I had not realised how late my dad was, or how much earlier he should have been, and we rattled over the M62 and approached the turn off onto the East Lancashire Road. Those who know it will know it is a long sweeping exit left that then finishes by bending round sharply to the right under a bridge. There was no discernible change of speed from the motorway and conversation stilled in the car. Frank Clarke tried to tell a story about the unfortunate fate that befell someone he knew who took the bend too fast but it had no effect. Dad sped on and, thankfully, the car, possibly with our extra weight, held onto the road.
As we careered round the bend the car was silent save for music from a tape in the car stereo. At the critical moment the tape juddered a little and the silence was broken by Lol saying " Crikey* Bert even Neil Diamond was scared there".
Funny the things you remember from an unconnected prompt, happily all made their appointed assignations. There is a follow up but I have taken up too much of your time. Thank you all for your continued support. I hope we can all meet up soon, albeit socially distanced I fear, and in the meantime hope that you all stay well.
All the best
P.S. * It might not have been "crikey" but this is a family show.