1964 - A transitional year

It was all change in 1964 with John Gray taking over as captain and Don McLeod replacing Bill Dow as professional. McLeod, a New Zealander, had exploded on to the Western Union scene in 1962 as Kelburne's professional when he scored 881 runs which included 3 centuries. He continued to score heavily in 1963 and as a result Greenock were tempted to sign him in the hope that his runs would provide the stability that a young team needed. In the event those runs did not really transpire and the season became one in which not a lot happened. The other problem with McLeod was that he didn't bowl so that all the wickets that Dow had taken were effectively lost to the team.

1964 was also a transitional year in that Robin Duthie had retired and Duncan Drummond only made a couple of appearances. The team therefore was, bar a couple of exceptions, a young one and lacked the experience needed to mount a challenge in the various competitions. One new face appeared in the team during the season, David Rees, who would go on to become a steady, if sometimes controversially slow, scorer for the 1st eleven over many years.

Surprise wins over Kilmarnock

The league campaign never really got off the ground and the team was unable to put together a winning run. Only 4 games were won, although in fairness the team were well in control in two games that were abandoned. Somewhat surprisingly two of those victories came against the strong Kilmarnock team. These would be the only games that Kilmarnock lost in the league and effectively they cost them the league title, which went instead to Poloc, who went through the season unbeaten.

The first win over Kilmarnock came at Kirkstyle when the home team were bowled out for just 65, chasing Greenock's total of 164 for 8, the foundation of which had been laid by McLeod's first decent score of the season in the league of 71. The return match at Glenpark was closer with Greenock winning by just 21 runs in a low-scoring match. In both of these games, Greenock's success owed much to the bowling of their skipper, who was, of course, an ex-Kilmarnock player!

Other results were mixed. There was a good performance against the eventual winners, Poloc, who won by just 7 runs but there were heavy defeats from Ferguslie, West of Scotland and Kelburne. McLeod eventually showed what he could do when he hit an unbeaten 132 against Drumpellier, who were beaten by 116 runs, but this, coming as it did in the second last game of the season, was far too late to make a difference and the team finished in 6th place in the table, a fair reflection on their performances.

Cup campaigns cut short

The West League Cup campaign was a repeat of the previous year, defeat to Kilmarnock followed by wins over Ayr and Ferguslie and finished off by a 7 wicket loss to Kelburne. The team also failed to make it past the first round of the Rowan Cup, losing in embarrassing fashion to Glasgow University by 5 runs.

The friendly matches provided a degree of success, especially during the mid-season break. Liam Gordon scored an unbeaten century in a crushing win over Golfhill and this was followed by an even more emphatic win over Kelvinside Accies. In both of these games, Jack Clark underlined his potential as an opening bowler, a potential that would be well and truly fulfilled in the years to follow.

Lack of bowling depth

The batting did show an improvement on the previous year, at least in terms of runs scored. McLeod led the way with 612 runs at an average of just over 30 and six other batsmen scored over 200 runs, with John Gray and David Rees leading the way. For all that he was something of a disappointment, McLeod did manage to score 440 runs in the Union. The bowling figures showed where the real problems lay. John Gray took 29 league wickets at a good average but Clark and Brian Case, who also took over 20 wickets in the Union, were expensive. The latter two bowlers were the main wicket-takers when looking at the season as a whole.

Not a season to remember, at least not for good reasons. There were hopes, though, that the experience gained by the younger players would show fruit in 1965. But would it?