1997 season – A controversial year – By Jez Hope & Stan Heaton

Jezs’ take on that year:

The players do remember the 1997 season very well, for a multitude of reasons!

Yes, your right Corrie was a fantastic bowler and yes no one mastered him or even got close. I can remember it was June before ‘Chippy’ knew which way the ball was going to turn and nearer August before our skipper and first slip could pick him.

The memory does play tricks but I’ve got it in my mind that almost every game was either a drama or major controversy that Corrie was always at the centre of. The other party involved was a ‘fellow’ teammate, the opposition or some unsuspecting fan or member.

Not sure if it was Matt’s first season as skipper but what a baptism if it was. Around this era, every year, some of the players (and Tony Woodworth) organized a sportsman’s dinner at the Kierby hotel. It was generally mid early April, before the season and as such the new pro (if he was in the country) would attend and meet his new colleagues, member’s, supporters and committee. I cannot comment on how or why Corrie had been signed but the first time I met him was around 6.30pm on the evening of the sportsman’s dinner. I’ll set the scene: Around 6 of us were enjoying a pint in what used to be Yates following an afternoon of graft, setting the tables, organizing raffle prizes, sorting the last few tickets for a sell-out dinner which would raise over £3000 for the club (and help pay Corries wages), As I’ve said I don’t know who signed Corrie but sure the late, great Ken Smalley dropped Corrie off in Burnley town centre. He walked into Yates’ with a green South African blazer, cream trousers a shirt and a brightly coloured SA club tie! He was a large chap and had a bite of a ‘wobble’ on as he walked similar to how I walk now. Years of bowling!

Unlike Prabhakar he did shake people’s hand and was quickly bought a beer and made welcome by us. My first impressions? He genuinely wanted to be part of the club and players, he wanted to be liked and be successful. Mike King was the MC at the dinner and gave Corrie a welcome and introduced him to the 250 fans, members, players and committee at the dinner. I will make it clear at this stage that there were a few sniggering’s and comments about Corrie from the very young players and fans, only because they had probably never seen or met anyone like him. He was very confident and ‘full’ of himself.

If my memory serves me right, we did not have a league game until 9 days after Corrie arrived and had 2 friendlies lined up. Corrie played in both but I can’t recall anything to report on here. We had a friendly between ourselves the day before the first game. Corrie insisted every player was there which was positive and showed his intent of being more disciplined and ready for the season. He came with new ideas and great enthusiasm and it was clear he could bowl! He had the players running quick singles, long 3’s and working as they practiced in the nets. Not sure if Nick or Stan will agree but even they picked up some speed, turning an ambled two into a quick single! During this warm up game Nick played his customary ‘cow shot’ and the ball went into Lowerhouse Lane. Corrie, didn’t go and get it, sulked and went for a shower! Not the best start.

First game of the season. Corrie got 9 wickets in the first game of the season and it was an incredible piece of bowling with Church not knowing what had hit them. 2nd game he got 5 and the 3rd he got 3 in a loss at East Lancs. We won the 4th and Corrie got 6. It’s interesting looking back that he scored 65 runs in those first 4 games and we were all running around the pitch at the end of each game, ‘warming down’. Crickey Stan didn’t like doing that. 5th game we won and were top of the league, 6th rained of then another victory at Colne. Our support was growing and the atmosphere was electric, wish the same could be said for inside the dressing room!

After the first few weeks we continued to work in the nets, he had new ideas but it was becoming more obvious this was do as I say and not as I do. Some can accept this, others can’t. After initial victory’s he would enjoy a beer in the dressing room with us and would always be saying ‘I will win this league for you oaks’ He instigated the ‘warm down’ after each game which fizzled out mid-May. Before mid May some of the players were fed up of him, all down to his rude and selfish attitude. I tried to keep the dressing room together not only for the benefit of the players but also for my brother who was struggling to keep Corrie, the players and the committee happy. Again before we go any further it’s important to state that there is no difference between the Lowerhouse dressing room and any other in terms of different individuals, characters, cliques and problems. This includes football rugby or any others sport. That said, and I’m not saying the 1997 season was the best Lowerhouse CC dressing room I’ve been in, was this all down to Corrie?… No I don’t think so but he in no way helped it or us. Whilst I’m on one other clubs and teams say their dressing room and comeradery is the best but for me having players staying at one club for long periods is fantastic for making great friends and people who work for each other. I wanted to make that clear before we move on.

As a spinner Corrie could do anything with the ball but his biggest asset was his consistency. I’ve have never seen anyone land the ball in the same place so many times. With this he could bowl the normal left arm othordox, a great arm ball but the ball that very few players could pick or play was a ball that came back into the right handers, when he bowled this Corrie did not change his action. I don’t know how he bowled this and I’m not sure Chippy or Matt did either.

The first 6 weeks or so Corrie did coach the juniors and they worshiped him after watching him at weekends. I am aware that during the mid-part of the summer Corrie had juniors attending outdoor all weather surface at Padiham where he and another pro charged each Junior £2 each to coach them. I remember seeing him walking around the pitch collecting the money from them and then not much coaching happening.

At the early part of the season the Juniors would carry Corries bag from his car before the game and return it for him after. When this novelty wore off he started asking the junior members of the 1st team to carry his bag for him. Some did this others didn’t. He never asked me but can remember Dave Whalley telling him where to go in front of everyone after Corrie said ‘whal take my bag!!’. It was another awkward moment but obviously Dave was right. Looking back now should I, as a senior player, have stepped in and try to sort the situation around this time. When we did sit and talk it was too late.

My dad assisted with the preparation of the wickets during this season. ‘Bomber’ did get on with Corrie and between them they recounted numerous stories from their time in South Africa. Wickets at home were prepared differently as they have in previous years and since. Corrie instigated this which was such a shame as he could bowl on any wickets as the figure tell us as he got more away than at home. But the pitches being different from one side to the other severely hindered our batters and we came under severe criticism from the opposition.

Corrie would identify individuals he felt he could influence or use to his advantage. Whether it be for lifts, progressing his career in the Lancashire league or borrow money from.

During the early part of the season Corrie requested to bat around 4 or 5 and would move up or down as the game progressed. I’m not sure what was meant by this because he could neither slog or block. There were conversations about Corrie going in when we were in a sticky situation and us using him as pinch hitter and if he connected it was a bonus. This was tried a few times but the rumours around the ground were it was more like using him as a pinch misser!!

Things steadily broke down and whatever we tried Corrie would never try to help. I remember away at Tod and he was pushed up the order to opener, again because he said he wasn’t getting a chance to show his batting skills, he failed. I spoke to him and explained he needed to keep his chin up and let’s get behind the team and produce a win. He disappeared to the back of the bar and watched the South African rugby union team on TV. We did win but that was when there was no turning back.

So to the last game at East Lancs. I think we had to win and other results go our way and then it would be a play off for the title. We were never in it and I can remember Corrie not being interested. He got the single wicket and his 100th.

He signed for Rishton, obviously got lots of wickets and helped with their catering. I can’t comment how he went down maybe someone from Rishton could.

Corrie took some money to buy cricket nets for Ivy Bank school, which I understand never materialized and appeared to have a rubber cheque book which was only realized when he was back in South Africa.

Stan had this to say:

Very constructive piece Jez , and a fine balance.

In truth I don’t remember much about that season as I think my available time for cricket was probably at an all time low missed the sportsman’s dinner,  I don’t think I practiced, I think I left the games straight after, I didn’t play the ‘Do you want me as pro’ showdown game. So much so i remember being shocked at the strength of the feeling of the other players about corrie being re-engaged. Had I been at that meeting I would have probably stood up for Corrie as my attitude would have been that being the pro isn’t about being popular. Looking back I think that view would have demonstrated how out of touch I was.

I could be wrong but I think the decision to re-sign him came mid-season.  That decision and the players’ reaction caused such a furore that an extraordinary meeting was called. By this time we didn’t know whether the committee, the players or the spectators would quit the club in protest at which way the vote would go. The club was split. Some spectators wanted to support the players, others worshipped Corrie. I think the extraordinary  meeting came in early august. The clubroom was packed to the rafters. There were members there that i had only ever seen on the membership list. The meeting was lively and respectful. Many people spoke and there were a few humorous moments. The late great Edmund Bailey was stood next to me. Edmund was an amateur actor and operatic performer.  During a lull in proceedings Edmund decided to make a point and shouted ‘Mr chairman’  in a booking, stentorian voice. It was so dramatic that I dropped my pint and a woman screamed.

I think Jez was the spokesman for the players and was severely hamstrung as to what he dare say. There were a number of things that we knew that were simply not for open discussion.  Even now I will not repeat them in a public forum (prepared  to tell face to face however)

I made one point at the meeting. I felt we were a decent all round pro away from being a good team. At that point in the season we could have finished anywhere between top and tenth. If we finished top 3 we had to re-sign corrie. If we finished half way or worse we couldn’t possibly sign him again.  I suggested we wait until the end of the season to make the final decision. Even though we had re-signed Corrie on paper, I didn’t think he would insist on seeing the new contract through the current season petered out. The chances of results going our way on the last day of the season were infinitesimal and  we eventually finished 4th.

The players,  including Corrie were as professional as they could be in the matches but relationships were broken. I was often referred to as his only pal and occasionally was asked to front him when there was an issue.

It was a sorry state of affairs. I felt very sad for the committee, especially Ken Smalley. I think the players were right to stand up for their beliefs but couldn’t understand those spectators who quit the club.

On the opening day of the season, I think corrie had 0 for 30 plus before finishing with 9 for 40 plus. At 0 wickets I remember looking at the portly pro who had already misfielded a couple and thinking “what have we got here? ” but make no mistake he was a great bowler. When he came back to LHCC and Rishton  pro it was on a wet track. I played him fairly easily until he floated one up and skittled me. He was a very wily bowler and you can’t get 100 wickets without being a good player.

Paul asked if we could answer some questions from the 1997 season. Here’s what Jez had to say:         

1.What if anything did you know of Corrie Jordaan before April,1997?

I can remember Ken Smalley announcing the pro and I didn’t do any research or make any enquiries, that wasn’t our job and I trusted the committee with their selections. I do remember it being in the press about Corrie recently taking the wickets of Michael Atherton, Nassar Hussain and others in South Africa though. He didn’t mention that to us much

2.My way of putting it is this. When I first saw Corrie at Church C.C. he didn’t look like a modern day cricketer. What were your own first impressions? 

I’ve mentioned earlier about my first meeting with Corrie, he appeared to be friendly, very keen but my view changed as the season progressed

3.Love him or loathe him, he could certainly bowl and he took 100 League wickets in ’97. Why do you think he mesmerised so many opponents?      

His accuracy was amazing. I can’t remember more than a handful of balls that landed in the same spot. And to add to this it would then turn either way or drift with the arm.

4. Was Corrie the worst batsman of the ‘House pros during your career? If so what was the story behind the decision to promote him to opener?  

By a country mile!!! On occasions, it was embarrassing to bowl to him in the nets. I remember a few of us were bowling to him in the nets and he was shouting at us because we kept getting him out. At the end of that session he threw his bat and drove home.
5.Part of Corrie’s ‘legend’ was that he treated junior players as little more than servants. Was there any truth in that?          

I’ve talked about him expecting others to carry his bag. When the players refused, he turned to juniors to do it. By all accounts they even got fed up of carrying his 3 heavy bags. I have no doubt that Corrie saw the junior section as a way for him to make money. I’ll never forget the sight of him stood at the gates to the sports area at the side of Padiham baths taking £2 of each junior that walked into his training school.

 6. Lowerhouse came very close to winning a first League title in 1997. I always look back on the failure to chase 78 versus eventual Champs Haslingden as the crunch match. What do you remember of that game?        

Sorry Paul I didn’t play that game. I do remember the lads saying that Pick bowled quick that day, maybe it’s something Nick could answer as he got some runs.

7. As it happened if Lowerhouse had have bowled out East Lancs and won the last game they would have forced a play-off with Haslingden at Thorneyholme Rd. Did you feel a big chance had been missed or were you just glad to see the back of the 1997 season?        

It’s a terrible thing to say but after early June the season was long, arduous and needed to finish. That last game came and went and my memory are Corrie got what he wanted.

8. There were rumours of difficult dressing room atmospheres with Kirti Azad and Manoj Probhaker. How did 1997 compare?      

I have commented previously about Prabhakar and was young when I played with Kirti. I was in awe of Kirti as to how he could win games on his own and take the opposition pro on and work his what’s its off. Stan could maybe comment more about Kirti but I loved being in the first team then. Maybe the best way I can describe the situation: I have played alongside lots of Pro’s both signed ones and sub’s. The atmosphere in the dressing room was always good and lots of the amateurs were mates with each other. During the 1997 season players did not want to play, to be in the dressing room or even have a pint after because of all the c@#p that was being spoken. It took a number of years to get over that and when I think back if we hadn’t have had the village idiot – Chippy in the dressing room we would have gone crazy. Sometimes close to the line but Chippy kept everyone going and put smiles on our faces.

9. Given how close Lowerhouse had come in 1997 were the players being entirely honest when they said a batting pro’ was the way to go for 1998? Or did they mostly want to see the back of Jordaan?    

I can only comment about what I wanted and that was not to play with Corrie again. We didn’t just want a batting pro, we wanted one that could at least contribute to bat, bowl and the field, and most importantly be part of the dressing room. I’ll ask you Paul, can you think of another pro that was completely incompetent in 2 of the three disciplines?
10, Were you shocked at how deep the divisions in the Club got between the pro Corrie camp and the antis? David Wren even talked of being spat on.    

You would be surprised Paul at how much went on behind the scenes. Some of which the players weren’t aware of and some of which the supporters didn’t know. There are things I know and rumours I heard which I wont comment about on here. I know that is probably not what you want to hear but it could cause bother for me and others that were involved. Matt would be better placed to answer but I’m sure he wasn’t approached about the pro for the following season until it was almost a done deal! That’s when Matt said the players did not want him back. Corrie sat all the players down in the dressing room and put everyone one of them on the spot as to if they wanted him back and if not why. Not sure it was his best move.  Dave Wren was fantastic to us, the players, shielding us from most of the nonsense and flack that went on. I have never met anyone before or since that could be as divisive as Corrie.

11. Corrie went on to sign for 2 years at Rishton although he only played for 1 season. It must have been strange playing against him. Do you have any stories to tell of those 2 games?            

We got stuffed at home with Corrie getting 8 wickets but beat them away. As always the mind is great, because all I can remember is Mark Whelan hitting Corrie for a few 6’s and Matt bowling him at Rishton. Wonder what the Rishton fans, player’s and committee remember about him. Sure, there was a slight problem with some catering!!!

12. I’ve started so i’ll finish. Get you out on this one Jez/Stan. Next season it’ll be 20 years since that eventful 1997 season. Looking back what are your overriding memories?

Think I’ve covered most things above Paul but it’s great that he did not break the spirit of the players and that Graham Cocker is back! The worst the various allegations that developed through the season with regard bouncing cheques, nets for indoor cricket that disappeared, the hygiene in the dressing room and…

As always, thanks to Jez and Stan for answering Paul’s questions, we’re always on the look out for more content. Email adam@lowerhousecc.com 

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