A Word In Your Ear - October 8, 2015

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It seems increasing TV coverage, crowds – and money – could undermine the women’s game, as it has the men’s.

One of the biggest upsets in the Rugby World Cup was Japan’s defeat of South Africa. However, then you spotted adept, six-foot-plus non-Japanese players among the team – who qualify to play under a five-year residency rule.

Of course, having so-called ‘ringers’ on your side has always added an edge in even local sport. Many a village cricket team has quietly imported A.N. Other for a little ‘boot money’ to pep up their cup chances.

One of my proudest moments on the tennis courts came when reluctantly helping out a depleted third or fourth team from our Blackpool club in a match against Cleveleys.

In the Fylde Tennis League, doubles matches are played by a first and second club pair against their two pairs of opponents for two ‘rubbers’, each for the best of three sets. Consequently, you played between four and six sets in an evening, with even sets decided by tie-breaks.

This could be arduous so, with age, my appearances became rarer – even as a ‘floater’ helping occasionally to make up numbers.

On my first visit to Cleveleys grass courts (now sadly all but closed), I was determined to get games over as quickly as possible. To that end I concentrated hard from the first ball.

It paid off, too, as our team’s desperate captain (whose regular partner was ill) and me soon got in the lead.

Then came a memorable accusation from one of the losing pair.

“I think you’re a ringer, aren’t you?” he demanded.

I was shocked but also flattered. “No,” I said, grinning, “just having a run out from retirement.”

• For Roy’s books, visit www.royedmonds-blackpool.com.