Len Hopwood: His Career with Lancashire CCC and England – An AppreciationMartin Chandler |
Author: Cavanagh, Roy
Publisher: Red Rose Books
Rating: 3.5 stars
Len Hopwood made his Lancashire debut in 1923, and he played his last game for the county towards the close of the 1939 season. By the time the First Class game restarted in England in 1946 Hopwood was 42, and health problems meant he did not resume his playing career. In terms of results Hopwood was part of a golden age of Lancashire cricket, the County Championship being won five times over those 17 summers.
It is true that for two of those titles, those of 1926 and 1927, Hopwood was not at Old Trafford, those being summers he spent plying his trade in the leagues. True also is that he remains a largely anonymous member of that famous Lancashire side, names like Tydesley, Hallows, Paynter, Parkin and McDonald being much better remembered. That is the case notwithstanding the fact that Hopwood is one of only three Lancastrians to have achieved the season’s double of 1,000 runs and 100 wickets, and of those the only one to have performed the feat twice.
So why is Hopwood forgotten? The reasons are not hard to find. He was not a spectacular cricketer. As a batsman he was a man to occupy the crease, and as a bowler he was a medium paced left armer whose main role was to keep the opposition batting quiet, as is amply demonstrated by his bowling figures in the two Test matches for which he was selected for England, against Australia in 1934. So there were few memorable individual performances from Hopwood on the field. As for his character that is summed neatly by a quote from the Liverpool Echo that occupies the title page of this one, describing Hopwood as a man whose charm and friendliness endeared him to all.
And the reality is that cricket literature does not dwell at any length on Len Hopwood anywhere. He rarely caused Neville Cardus to wax lyrical, and he doesn’t get a chapter in that splendid but little known collection of pen portraits of Lancashire cricketers, Gerald Hodcroft’s beautifully written 1984 book, My Own Red Roses.
Which all means that Roy Cavanagh had a tricky assignment on his hands, and he wisely decided to call this an appreciation rather than a biography, and that is just what his reader gets. In terms of going behind the raw data of more than 400 scorecards Cavanagh has clearly spent a great deal of time reading press reports from a time when all county matches were attended by a number of journalists from the local and national press, and he presents a thorough account of Hopwood’s role in the most successful period in the Red Rose’s history.
In addition to his subject’s cricketing achievements Cavanagh also neatly summarises his later years which included the honour of being the first former professional to be Lancashire President. And perhaps that says it all. Clearly a man who at all times bore himself with great dignity Hopwood’s life contained little in the way of drama and for that reason those with no great interest in Lancashire cricket between the wars are unlikely to have their enthusiasm fired by the story of his efforts. On the other hand for those of us who do celebrate that far away era it is a pleasure to read about one of the team’s unsung heroes. So 3 stars for the masses, and 4.5 for Lancastrians.
Len Hopwood: His Career with Lancashire CCC and England – An Appreciation appears in a nicely produced and illustrated paperback that is available directly from the publisher at £12 including UK postage and packaging with, for those of us that appreciate such things, fifteen signed hardbacks at £40 each.