Alan Hobbs still going strong at Cambridge Granta
PUBLISHED: 13:02 24 July 2017
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First-team manager celebrates 50 years at club
When you evaluate the word destiny, it could be argued that Alan Hobbs’ 50-year affinity with Cambridge Granta would be a just dictionary definition.
Never have two subjects been so intrinsically linked than the first-team manager’s devotion to the club.
It is an unbroken bond that stretches back to 1967, but you can trace the origins of the connection back even further.
Some things seem to be written in the stars and with Sir Jack Hobbs as his great uncle, Hobbs was always going to have a rich association with cricket.
It is a sport that runs through the veins of the family, with ‘The Master’ Sir Jack – widely regarded as one of the greatest cricketers of all time – being the son of a cricket lover, who became groundsman and umpire at Jesus College.
It was a similar path to Alan’s father, Ernie Hobbs, who was groundsman and lived at Clare College Sports Ground when his son arrived in the world.
The location is the home of the club, so although it may be stretching it a bit to say that he was born with a Granta spoon in his mouth, it is probably not too far wide of the mark
“My father was groundsman there for the best part of 40 years, so I lived there for 20-odd years,” said 73-year-old Hobbs, on residing at Clare College.
“We didn’t always play there. We used to play at Pembroke for a while but when my father retired, we got the groundsman at Pembroke to change and come to Clare. Then we [Granta] moved over not long after.
“All the family have either been groundsmen or cricketers. The whole family – six generations – have played for the county at one level or another.
“It’s a traditional family from Cambridge. I never thought about it really [the route into being a groundsman and cricket] because I worked on the ground from being about 10 years old.
“It’s just part of life when you’re like that, just learning everything as you go.
“I’ve played cricket from when I was 13 – I played my first club match for St Giles in actual fact because my father played for them.”
And it was not until he returned from a spell working in Birmingham that Hobbs joined forces with Granta.
His professional career had begun at Cambridge University’s Fenner’s, when the likes of Mike Brearley and Tony Lewis were playing.
Hobbs then headed to Edgbaston as assistant groundsman for a three-year spell, but he could not adjust to life in Birmingham and was soon heading back to Cambridge.
Before his departure, Hobbs had been playing his cricket for Grasshoppers – “they don’t exist now but at the time they were an up-and-coming side in Cambridge” – but after moving home, he linked up with Granta.
“My friend had moved there as well and the rumour was that they had started to become a decent side,” he said.
“They talked me into it a bit, so I thought ‘why not’, and I’ve had a marvellous career with them.”
Hobbs spent much of his playing days in the Granta first team, captaining them during various spells at a time, before dropping into the seconds and then the thirds, when his son was starting out in the sport.
But since the inception of the East Anglian Premier League 18 years ago, Hobbs has been Granta’s first-team manager which involves doing much of the organising, while his wife, Linda, is the club’s scorer.
“I’ve just got used to it, it’s just part of life,” he said. “I’ve played every Saturday and Sunday or been manager for 50-odd years.
“I used to play four times a week – we used to play a lot more than they do now.
“The standard used to be very good and then it seemed to drop off. The Premier League has picked it back up again.
“You could say it is better now than it was because obviously there are professionals in the league, ex-county players.
“But it was very good in the middle to late 70s to mid-80s and then it started to go off a bit.
“The Premier League has definitely improved it and it’s a good standard again now.
“I always get asked, which is the best side? The one you captained, because we won a lot of leagues, or the one in 2010 and 2011, when we won the league and got to a national final? And that was probably one of the best sides.”
That was during the tenure of Jason Coleman – who is one of only three captains during Hobbs’ time as first-team manager.
The others have been Sean Park and current incumbent Johnny Atkinson, and with each one they have developed a healthy relationship to make sure that the club flourishes.
And Hobbs feels that the current crop of Granta players have a great future in store.
It has not been the best of seasons to date though, with Granta fifth in the table having suffered a fourth defeat of the campaign last Saturday – this time away to Frinton-on-Sea.
“The side now is very good – it’s young, it’s talented,” said Hobbs.
“It’s the youngest side in the league by miles because we’ve got about five teenagers.
“We have Ben Claydon at Northants and he’s only 17 but is playing in their seconds; Michael Pepper is playing for Essex seconds in the week and he has also just had a trial for Northants as well; and Max Holden, who obviously now is under contract with Middlesex and is England under-19 captain, came through our colts system.
“I think it’s a good record for the club to have. We don’t like spending money on ex-professionals.
“We don’t know who’s going to come through, but we’ve got one or two who are 15 that we think are going to be good so hopefully it’s still going on.
“Now we’re in partnership with Cambridge United, we have a full-time colts manager employed by Cambridge United who runs it on Sundays and just organises everything. The thing is to go out to the schools.
“We’ve been doing it for years now, bringing the people through – Johnny Atkinson, Lewys Hill, Raj Singh, Dougie Rice. They have all come through the system.”
He added: “The trouble this year is that we haven’t been able to field the full side all the while but we’re through to the last 16 of the Twenty20, we won the East Anglia Premiership Twenty20 contest and we’re in the last eight of the Club Cricket Conference Cup.
“So things are going quite well.”
And if anyone should know a thing or two about cricketing talent and the fortunes of Granta, then it is certainly Hobbs.