Norfolk have to dig deep to stay up

Norfolk Over-55s men’s tennis captain Jeremy Cameron reflects on a dramatic battle to avoid relegation.

It shouldn't happen to elderly people who are susceptible to stress - but Norfolk's over-55 men's team had a very traumatic season.

Their many admirers will be relieved, however, to learn that they came through it relatively unscathed and entirely unrelegated.

The first task was to try to fix all the matches before Norfolk's number one, Mike Musson, emigrated to Australia. In the event he figured in only the first two matches.

The next problem was that Norfolk's captain, playing at number two, became debilitated during the first match and took no further part in the season except for organisation and exhortation. This left David Henderson and Philip Tye having to play singles and also left the problem of having to fill the remaining spaces.

Plan B was for Jim Wiseman, Tony Spurgeon and Mike Huggins each to play one match down as permitted from the over-60s and to travel to Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Devonshire to do so.

Wiseman played his stalwart part in this but Spurgeon succumbed to the same debility as his captain and Huggins, who plans his holidays around away matches, had to cancel his trip to Devon since he could neither stand up straight nor bend down.

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This left some rather large gaps in the team. Fortunately, Stuart Smith, a new and youthful recruit, travelled to Oxford as part of his tour to Wimbledon, Dublin, Turkey and Wimbledon again in the space of four days.

Brian Cooper appeared to have no qualms about filling in at short notice, playing in Oxford and Devon while Ivan Winter, briefly reunited with his mother country, was another to travel nearly as far in the opposite direction at short notice.

All these stalwarts stood in knowing that if the county failed to turn out a team for any match it would be automatically relegated.

The first match, at home to Sussex, was lost 3-2. Henderson and Tye won both their doubles. Next Norfolk beat Herts 3-2 with two more nail-biting wins for Henderson and Tye and a vital pre-flight contribution from Musson.

The third match was at home against Avon. A valiant team was put together - then Avon conceded. According to their captain, he could not find four men willing to travel to Norfolk. He appeared not to be aware that failing to fulfil a fixture meant automatic relegation - and no-one in Norfolk was going to tell him.

This left one win, one loss and one conceded before the last two matches, both away, at Oxford and Devon.

Oxford was by far the strongest team in the group now that Norfolk did not have Musson and they won

4-1. Henderson heroically won a singles against a player ranked three classes above him but he finally lost his 100pc soubriquet when fatigue finally caught up with him and Tye in the doubles.

On arrival in Devon it was count-up time. Devon had lost all their matches and barely won a rubber. Norfolk had accumulated six rubbers over the season. Even if they lost, one rubber would ensure staying above Devon and staving off relegation.

In the event Norfolk scored two. Henderson had a tough opponent in the singles but won in two straight sets before joining Tye to wallop a final doubles win.

If all our calculations are correct, despite an avalanche of misfortunes, Norfolk's stalwarts have ensured another season in Division Two.