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PHILIP GOURD - 22nd Dec 1961- 29 Jan 2011
It's with great sadness that Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club announce the passing of founding member and much loved friend Phil Gourd. After a short battle against illness, Phil died at 15:15 on 29th Jan 2011.
It’s fair to say that Phil Gourd was not dealt a particularly kind hand by fate.
Despite that, I can only genuinely recall him complaining once – loudly and at length – when the umpire ended his innings against Taylors in Stevenage with what Phil believed to be a slightly contentious lbw decision, a decision that curtailed the best innings of his life.
Phil had passed 50 for the first time and in his mind a century was a mere formality before he was sent on his way despite making it clear that he believed he had got an inside edge on the ball before it hit his pad.
If I hadn’t been the umpire in question I might have been more sympathetic to his protests. However, in light of the fact I was his passenger in the car on the way home – and as such something of a captive audience – I was obliged to listen at length to his diatribe as he managed to cram a lifetime of whinging into a relatively short journey.
Mind you, he still bought me a beer when we got back to the bar.
Everyone will have their own memories of Phil, whether they involve his cricketing feats or some of his more memorable exploits off the pitch.
He played for Luton Nalgo, Lilley and Stopsley before playing in the first game in the history of Offley & Stopsley on a freezing afternoon at a windswept Leagrave. Perhaps fittingly he began his Offley career with a duck, the first of eight blobs he racked up on that inaugural season, thereby setting a record for batting futility that has since been matched but never bettered.
Phil’s contributions to morale invariably outweighed his performances on the field. Statistically speaking Phil’s career does not mark him down as one of the great cricketers of his era. 143 trips to the crease yielded 803 runs at an average of 7.04.
Among his batting highlights were an unbeaten 28 in a 70-run stand with Nathan Brodie at Potten End to carry Offley to victory in 2004 and his crucial 6 not out in a dramatic 32-run partnership with Dave Bridgland against the Cricketers to help secure the 2000 Millman League title.
Phil also shone brightly in the tour match at Kinoulton in 2002 when he shared a profitable late stand with Richie Barker. The Kinoulton captain clearly recognised talent when he saw it because he set the field back to allow Phil an easy single (his favourite type) to get him off strike in order to bowl at the more limited Barker.
His last great innings for the club came at Kings Langley in 2006 when he dug in for a priceless 0 not out to secure a draw before a cloudburst of biblical proportions flooded the ground. Beneath rapidly blackening skies, Phil found himself firmly in the firing line of Kings Langley’s premier fast bowler on account of Fearless Freeman’s willingness to take a single and expose himself to facing the fast bowler. Adopting a “They Shall Not Pass” approach, Phil dug in to repel as quick an over as he ever faced, thrusting bat and pad in the way and surviving several ever more convincing appeals for lbw, before the heavens opened.
Of course there were also lowlights.
During his career Phil racked up 25 ducks, an impressive tally that ensured that when he retired after the 2006 season he was firmly established as the leader in the club house in the duck stakes. Frayed nerves were rarely a problem for Phil but frayed elastic certainly was. His running between the wickets was often hampered by the need to hold on to his trousers to prevent them from falling down as he scampered up the pitch. On such occasions he looked like a commuter running for a bus, waving his bat in the air like an umbrella.
Phil also produced a sublime piece of cricketing ineptitude during a six-a-side contest at Sulhampstead. With his team needing 10 to win from six balls, Phil contrived to block or miss the first five balls before enthusiastically trying to steal a bye off the last ball of the match, an effort that ended in the run out of Steve Bexfield.
When the runs began to dry up, Phil sought to reinvent himself as a slow bowler of sorts – a bowler of all sorts, dolly mixture and other tasty treats including some juicy pies. Phil would shuffle in off a couple of steps and fire the ball in as quickly as possible. In this guise he looked a little like a darts player simultaneously battling the affliction of piles and an attack of the yips. However, his offerings proved good enough to snare 60 wickets, including a career-best of 4-37 in a lethal four-over burst that restricted Shillington to 301-7.
On other occasions his efforts were less successful. In 2002 Phil was part of a depleted bowling attack that allowed Holwell to pile up 360-5 at a rate of nine an over. Phil’s’ personal contribution was a four-over exercise in muck spraying that cost 66 runs – or 16.5 runs per over. During his spell the game was held up on several occasions to enable fielders to retrieve the ball from the adjacent bowling green after Holwell’s batsmen had sent Phil’s offerings into orbit.
In addition to his batting and bowling exploits, Phil regularly excelled at mid off. He established himself as the club’s regular fielder at the position and pulled off 71 catches with his crocodile catching technique. The most impressive of these was undoubtedly the mortar shell he clung on to on the long off boundary to account for the legendary Orville Batson, a catch he had no real right to hold on to and one that none of his teammates had given him a prayer of holding.
Yet there was far more to Phil than his efforts on the pitch. This is not the time to dwell on some of his more dubious jokes (black bowling balls, I ask you) but he was invariably ready to regale us with what he confidently believed was his latest side-splitter.
He was also an excellent tourist, taking part in numerous excursions to Torquay, often in partnership with Balmer Bains. Perhaps far more amusing than any of Phil’s jokes was his and Beefy Baines's enthusiastic pursuit of those two glamorous lovelies Zig and Zag.
After his retirement in 2006 Phil continued to lend his support to his former teammates, enjoying the chance to observe their struggles while he relaxed with a couple of pints, doubtless reflecting on the precipitous decline in the standard of fielding at mid-off since the end of his playing days.
It was during one such leisurely day at the cricket that Phil let slip how he was a qualified football referee, a discovery that resulted in him refereeing the match between the cricket club and the football club. Phil’s greatest attribute – possibly facilitated by his inability to keep up with play – was his willingness to play the advantage rule and turn a blind eye to the offside rule. Mind you, he denied us an absolutely stonewall penalty and in the bar afterwards it was easy to see where his loyalties lay as he enjoyed several complimentary beers from the victorious football club.
Retirement afforded him more opportunities to venture out, often with his trusty wingman Bex in tow. Phil and Bex were one of the more deadly duos ever to hit Chicago’s and the sight of a blazered Phil singing and clapping along to Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl will live long in the memory – hard as I’ve tried to banish the image.
Phil and Bex would strut their stuff on the dance-floor, Phil displaying the moves and grooves he had honed at so many Junior Discos at the Stopsley Working Men’s Club while Bex performed his patented pogo routine to great effect. Their dancing skills were invariably enough to ensure there was no danger of pulling and nothing to stop them from enjoying a well-earned takeaway at the end of the night.
So hail and farewell to Phil Gourd, our specialist mid-off, our elastic-battling batsman, our booty-shaking groover, our long-suffering but never complaining friend and a lifelong and legendary member of Offley & Stopsley Cricket Club.
He's a friend that will be missed and remembered fondly as the summers roll on without him watching us from the boundary . . . .
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Link to Phil Gourd's retirement Tribute originally posted in 2007
Link to Phil Gourd's Player Profile
Phil Gourd Funeral Details