Liz has asked me to say something about Allan’s sporting life. Allan loved sport – it was very much part of who he was. I shall speak mostly about his cricket, but in his younger days his primary focus was football.
During his national service in the 1950s Allan played football for Swindon Town, and afterwards was offered professional terms by Southampton and Nottingham Forest. But those were different times, and his Dad said he had to get a proper job, so he moved into top level amateur football. He was a reserve for Hendon in the 1960 Amateur Cup Final, held at Wembley in front of 60,000 people, and four years later he played in two semi-final games for Kingstonian, losing the replay in the last moments of extra time. Later in life he coached and managed strong non-league sides in North West London.
For some reason I had always assumed Allan was a resolute, no-nonsense defender, but I know now that in fact he was a skilful striker, usually on the right wing. He played for several teams in the old Isthmian League, and for his main one, Kingstonian, he scored 72 goals in 147 appearances in the 1960s, virtually one every two games. As a lifelong Arsenal supporter I am particularly impressed that Allan once scored a hat-trick against the great Bob Wilson, something the likes of Alan Gilzean or Martin Chivers could only dream of.
I first met Allan when he joined Southgate Cricket Club in North London in 1972. He played in the 1st XI until 1984, a golden period for the club, when the side was always in contention for trophies. At the peak in 1977 Southgate won the National Club Knock-out Cup, and were without doubt the best club team in the country. Allan was an integral member of the team throughout this period. He played in one final, three semi-finals and seven quarter-finals of the National Cup, won the Middlesex league twice, and the Middlesex League Cup three times.
He was 33 when he joined the club, having previously played in local, lower grade cricket. Many of his younger colleagues had tasted higher levels of the game before settling into club cricket, but Allan was the oldest and most experienced in all-round sport and life more generally. His nickname in the team was AlPal, which I think has a suitably friendly and avuncular ring to it, and you could never forget that he was the oldest of us because he had the endearing habit of addressing every one of his team mates as “young man”.
Allan was an all-rounder. Before the term became widely used he was the original “bits and pieces” player. But what bits and what pieces. I doubt if opposing teams travelled to Southgate in trepidation of playing against him, but we knew how often he played a key part in matches, and that seldom a game went by without him contributing something significant. With the bat he could play attackingly or defensively as the situation demanded. In the field, by the time he joined Southgate he was no greyhound, but he was an excellent catcher close to the wicket. And his medium-paced bowling was masterly. His run-up was innocuous – it wasn’t long, it wasn’t fast, it wasn’t aggressive, in fact it could have been a father on the beach running up to bowl to his son or daughter. But how deceptive! His action was ungainly, off the wrong foot, giving him a natural in-swing. He was very accurate, and rarely bowled a long hop or a full toss. And his deliveries seemed to leave the pitch faster than they had hit it, in modern parlance he “bowled a heavy ball”. Batsmen repeatedly found themselves tucked up by the ball darting into their ribs sooner than expected, and had no room to free themselves to swing their arms. The team had marvellous bowlers, more than we needed, but Allan nearly always bowled his full quota of overs because he was so efficient.
Every good team needs queen bees and worker bees. We had our share of queen bees, some of whom are sitting here today. Allan was one of the worker bees, laying the foundations for others to star. And, to switch metaphors, he was a major part of the cement which held the team together when the stars misfired. He was a totally reliable team member, with a rock-solid temperament. In team discussions there were plenty of people with mad-cap ideas, Allan by contrast was always perceptive and constructive. He was genuinely pleased and complimentary when others did well, and sympathetic and supportive when they had off-days. In the club more widely he was held in great respect and affection, treating everyone with courtesy and patience, regardless of age, background, playing ability or status. I am told that, characteristically, Allan made a similarly strong all-round contribution when he joined New Milton Cricket Club on moving down here in the 1980s.
The Southgate team of the late 1970s was a tight-knit group, and we have kept closely in touch. In August, when Allan was very ill, two of the team who are here today took him to the Ageas Bowl for a day’s county cricket, which Liz says he enjoyed hugely – even when he became so frail, and the prognosis was poor, his sporting ties gave him great pleasure, as did his company to those he had played alongside.
For Allan it is now fulltime, stumps – he has left the field. For us at Southgate it is so sad that we shall see him no more – a close link of over forty years’ duration has been broken. But we are all grateful for having known him, and Liz and their family, and for having enjoyed his company on and off the field. Allan gave immensely to amateur sport throughout his life, and sport helped to create the lovely person he was. The physical link may be broken, but he will live on brightly at Southgate, at New Milton, and at other clubs he played for, in peoples’ individual and collective memories.
Michael Smethers – President
18 November 2016