CHAMPIONS!

a writing by Paul Butters

I have some reservations about writing another “bragging” blog. But sometimes you just have to celebrate your achievements. So here goes. My table tennis team Nemesis had a great 2017-2018 season. But first, let me acknowledge that four of the five 7 team divisions in the Grimsby League were won by a merry mile. Green Horns New Boys went undefeated in Division 3 (John Padley (Capt), Bob Bartle, Philip Yang and Ian Campbell). 4-Matic Engineering lost just once in The Premier Division (John Bray (non-playing Capt), Luke Nimmo, Isaac Gibney, Thomas Armitage, Sean Ward, John Hancock and Reserve Dominic Shum. Meanwhile in Division 4 Clee Sorts Zebras lost just 2 (Brian Todd (Capt), Bill Bygott, Chris Bygott and David Wilkins. My own team of Brian Lomas (Capt), Phil Sharpe and myself also ran away with it in the end. We improved by 18 points from the previous season to finish 9 points clear. Our record was Pl 18 W 15 D 2 L 1 Sets F 122 A 58 Pts 55.

Phil Sharpe was immensely solid and unyielding to achieve a 92.59% Average, losing just 4 individual matches all season. His tactical nous was much appreciated by Brian and myself. Especially me as I tend to play off-the-cuff and not always the best way. Phil also had a lot to do with us only losing two doubles matches all season.

We cannot ask for a better Captain than Brian (77! I think). He is the perfect gentleman and will certainly keep his job for as long as he wishes. When we hit early trouble against Parkside (Neil Drewery and co) in mid-November it was Brian who turned it round. Neil started it by giving Phil one of his rare defeats. My recent personal Nemesis, chop attacker (!) Dave Roberts weighed in by beating me well. All this just after Colin Woodford (League Treasurer) had declared we would win the league! Pressure! Then Brian stopped the rot and I defeated Neil to avenge Phil. We won 7-3.

Our start to the campaign was almost perfect. We beat “The Has Beens” 9-1 with 2 of their players needing knee operations afterwards. For them it was like an Away Game at Leeds. Hehe. Soon all three of us were in the top 10 of “The Averages”. We won our first 9 matches, though 4 of them finished 6-4.

There were no easy matches. We could see that the youngsters of 3 Generations (Ben and Jacob Ardern) were improving rapidly and would be very strong before the end of the season. The same with Jack Chambers (Greenhorns United) and a few more. Young Tom Spencer (The Musketeers) was already “there” and on his way to a 90.74 % Average, just behind Phil. For a young attacking player to be nearly as consistent as Phil was, on reflection, quite amazing. You have to take more risks as an attacker, so being consistent is some challenge. Then there was Sam Dean (Louth) making a strong comeback to the game after a long layoff.

Our first “blip” came when bottom team Greenhorns United held us to a draw in January. Jack made his “debut” against us (having missed our first meeting when we won 10-0) and took two. Super Reserve Colin McGrath took two too! (That annoyed me as I had beaten him often at the 2017 Top Table – run by Eileen Allison). Only Phil remained steadfast, winning all three as usual. And young Millie Smith hit Brian off the table! Phil and I had to save our bacon in the doubles, but we did it well.

Our reaction to this setback was to beat Parkside 6-4. But by now Brian was having issues with both his bat and his health. The rubber on his bat had perished and he had to find a replacement. Phil had gone through such a crisis last season but was reaping the benefits of making a switch. Brian also kept turning up with flu. To his credit Brian fought his way through this bad patch. But this was a tough spell for us.

In the circumstances we were happy to hold Louth to a draw. Sam Saywell ground out a marathon win over Phil, but we remained unbowed as a team. If anyone can ever match Phil for sheer solidity, Sam can.

Two matches later, Nemesis met its Nemesis as 3 Generations beat us 6-4. Last time out we had beaten them 9-1. I had even defeated my personal Nemesis Vince Whatley with a fine comeback prompted by Phil’s advice. But this time Ben produced one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen of patient attack, to overcome Phil. I again lost to Vince and my doubles win with Brian was but a consolation.

Now the heat was on. Our next match against The Musketeers was crucial. We won 7-3. They ended up second in the table, with Louth third. All the results went our way now, so we played Parkside and Louth as champions. I even had the freedom to beat Dave Roberts with my Anti-Loop Bat!

Personally I won 9\10 individual matches at the end, only losing to a Sam Dean late comeback. Phil won his last 13. And Brian refound some form and took revenge on Millie. But it was all about The Team. Since we went to seven team divisions there have been no easy matches. Lots of tight games. At times we were immense, just for sheer stubbornness.

Our biggest surprise of the season was to receive the Terry Smith Trophy for “Most Improved Team”. Those 18 extra points we got might have helped.

I’m sure next season (in Division One) is going to be a lot tougher. But you can’t take away from us what we have done. It’s 3-4 months ago now and it still hasn’t really sunk in.

Paul Butters

© PB 1\8\2018.

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