1969 - A season of dashed promise

Wilson Evans assumed the captaincy in 1969 and he would have the help of Eddie Fuller, who had been retained for a third season as professional. 1968 had been very much a season of improvement and there was an expectation around the Club that 1969 would build on this and see the Club challenging for silverware.

A season of firsts

It was also a season of firsts. For the first time, Greenock had qualified for the Scottish Cup and they also decided to enter the DH Robins Cup which was a competition that was open to teams throughout England and Scotland with no professionals allowed to take part. As games in these competitions were played on Sundays, it was decided that from this year on, friendlies played on a Sunday would be deemed to be 1st XI fixtures and would count towards the Club records.

A traumatic tie

The Union season started with an amazing game at Glenpark. After Fuller and Jack Clark had bowled Kelburne out for 100, Greenock appeared to be cruising to victory at 94 for 3. That was no longer the case when they slumped in a few overs to 94 for 8. Neill Cook eventually scored the necessry runs to see the scores level before the last wicket fell and the game was tied. As can be imagined this game left considerable scar tissue on those who played and for a number of seasons after it, anyone heard to say that 'a game was in the bag' was promptly told to keep quiet and remember Kelburne.

Fuller released

Two wins followed this match, a comfortablc victory over Ayr and a much closer one over Uddingston at Glenpark but any hopes of a title challenge being mounted were dashed when the next three games with West of Scotland, Clydesdale and the eventual champions, Kilmarnock were all lost. Worse was to come as after the team had just held on for a draw to deprive Ferguslie of victory, the Club announced that Fuller had been released from his contract due to issues off the playing field.

Another three defeats ensued. After Kilmarnock had posted 210 for 1, the team made a good fist of its reply and in the end went down by just 16 runs with the Australian Bob Massie, of Lords fame, who had burst on to the Scottish scene with a number of outstanding performances, including an all-10 against Poloc, taking only one wicket on this occasion. But such a level of performance did not carry through to the games with Ferguslie and Uddingston. There was a brief revival with wins over Poloc and the double over Ayr but the season ended with a losing draw with Drumpellier and heavy defeats to Clydesdale and Kelburne.

The net result of all this was a 7th place finish in the league with a percentage of just 30% and it was hard to argue that this did not represent a proper reflection of the team's performance throughout the season.

First round exits in the knock-out cups

Cup results were equally disappointing with first round exits being made in all the knock-out competitions. Stenhousemuir were far too strong for Greenock in the Scottish Cup, winning by 8 wickets, Clydesdale romped to victory in the DH Robins Cup by almost 100 runs and Drumpellier were the winners in the Rowan Cup, although this was a closer contest, the margin of victory being just 8 runs. Progress was made out of the group section of the West League Cup but an 8-wicket loss to Kilmarnock in the semi-final put paid to any hope of landing this trophy.

The increased number of friendly games, 10 in all, produced mixed results with the game with Glasgow HSFP resulting in the second tie of the season, although this one was not as traumatic as the Kelburne match.

Bowling cannot compensate for poor batting

The bowling averages for the season show quite clearly where Greenock's problem lay as nobody took more than 39 wickets (Jack Clark) and nobody averaged less than 15 runs per wicket. The same issues were evident in the Union bowling averages with Graham White the leading wicket-taker with just 22 victims. On the batting front, three batsmen managed over 500 runs in the season but it could be argued that this was not quite as good an achievement as in previous years when less games were played. Brian Lang led the way with 614 runs with Wilson Evans with 549 and Graham Prodger with 503 the other two batsmen to achieve this milestone. The impact of the extra games was evident when the Union averages are considered as Evans' total of 294 runs was the leading aggregate for the season.

Trophyless decade

An extremely disappointing season which meant that the whole decade had passed without a single trophy being won, indeed there was not even the consolation of a place in any final in any of the ten years and only once, in 1963, did the team finish in the top three in the Union. This would be the first decade in the Club's competitive history where this had happened, if one discounts the two decades which were blighted by the two World Wars and which had a much reduced amount of competitive cricket. Would the 70s bring change in fortune or would the Club continue to tread water?