Its with deep sadness that London Schools Cricket Association announces the passing of one of its greatest heroes. Derrick Worth passed away in the early hours of 20th May at the Azalea Court nursing home in Enfield. Worthy to his friends had been ill since the start of 2017 and had been visited and supported by his dearest friends across the world of cricket he had graced.
Worthy had been involved with London Schools for 25 years, giving his all to the roles of manager, coach and festivals organiser. During that time Worthy has worked with many players who have gone on to greater things, the likes of Billy Godleman and Rory Hamilton-Brown being two of Worthy's proudest graduates. Worthy also spoke passionately but with a hint of fear every time he recalled facing a young Alex tudor in the nets at The Oval, not too shabby for a man that regularly graced the number 11 slot.
Daniel Whiting Chairman of Southgate Adelaide CC and a former colt under the wing of Worthy wrote the following about his great mentor.
“I’m unplayable at this level” said Derrick Worth, tongue in cheek and with a glint in his eye, to our overseas player Anthony King in 2006.
Worthy certainly was, as he was playing in the 3rd XI as his career was winding down. 1300 wickets for Southgate Adelaide are a testament to someone who was an outstanding bowler at club level. Not only that, but he hated going for runs. He gave a captain control on the pitch and when the ball was flying around the ground, you’d throw the ball to Derrick. Within half an hour you knew he would be standing at square leg between his overs, buttering up the umpire with his laughs and jokes and as night follows day, Derrick would gain an lbw appeal out of him after a famous flapping arm, bird appeal.
I first met Derrick in 1984. Having moved to Southgate Adelaide, he took me under his wing and created an era of success. A rag, tag team of North London kids were transformed into a half decent cricket team under his tutelage. For the likes of Tim Grover, Adam Burn, Martin Flack, Dave Webbing and John Thorp and I, on the pitch he made us play hard as well as turning a blind eye to our indiscretions. Jugs of lager, bitter and whatever else we could get our hands on were the norm after a day at The Walker Ground and Derrick would advise that a packet of 20 Benson and Hedges in the pocket made the finest thigh pad going! The cacophony of laughter as the likes of “Harry” Worth as he was known then, along with Gerry Fitzpatrick, Bob Clegg and others when they got together would reverberate around the Adelaide clubhouse and will be remembered by all who were around during those times. A part of my youth has gone with Derrick’s passing.
“Let me talk you through my bowling today” was another pearl of wisdom that Derrick would unfurl, as we digested the day’s events in a Southgate curry house. His 7-15 against Luton Town in 1985 certainly was a talking point as a game that we were odds on to lose, was turned around by the slow left arm genius. It remained his Adelaide best figures. Derrick enjoyed life, he loved the game of cricket and his sense of timing both on and off the pitch was something to behold. His cry of “Get this rubbish off and get The Thorn Birds on” as English tensions were running high during the World Cup semi final penalties versus Germany in 1990, was just one of those many moments.
But there was so much more to Derrick than his one liners and his bowling.
1990 was the year that Derrick was club captain. He put in the foundations for the success of Southgate Adelaide CC later in the decade. I took the plaudits as captain of a side who went from the bottom of Division Three to mixing it with the big boys in Division One but it was Derrick who created that whole era of success. He brought through the colts, teaching us how to play the game both on and off the pitch and wasn’t afraid to give youth their chance. Derrick, Gerry Fitzpatrick and Andy Britton are the three guys who made this era possible and their place in Adelaide history will never be forgotten. It was Derrick who made a little club from N14 play the likes of Dunstable, Hitchin and other well renowned Hertfordshire sides. His pride as we beat a Dunstable side containing four Minor Counties players once in 1999 was there for all to see; his boys had arrived.
It wasn’t just at our level that Derrick produced fine cricketers. His excellent work with London Schools Cricket Association meant that he had a huge part in the education of many professionals. The likes of Rory Hamilton-Brown who played for Surrey and Billy Godleman, the current captain of Derbyshire were just two of them. Hampshire CCC all rounder Gareth Berg was another who wrote on social media, “It was a privilege to get to know Derrick and share a few pints with him, May he RIP”.
Derrick was a selfless man. “He gave more than he took back” as our mutual friend Roger Hill told me. There are not many people in life that you can say that about. His loyal friend Roger was there until the end with him and it was fitting that his retirement game a few years back was between an Adelaide side and a local side captained by Roger.
Derrick was a wise man. It wasn’t just his cricket knowledge but he was a fine Badminton coach and his work that he did for the Scouts should also be remembered. An avid Arsenal fan, he was there at White Hart Lane when they won the league in 1971. A lifetime of working for British Gas also made him the man he was but it was through cricket that I knew him. He lived and breathed the game, as well as breathing a plethora of cigarettes that accompanied him around the Hertfordshire League. He was a brilliant cricket coach. Although a number 11 batsman, he could sort out your batting pretty quickly and I would always turn to him first. Not many I have known had a finer cricketing brain.
There are many wonderful stories that accompany Derrick. Losing the key at Hatch End with us locked out of our dressing room for an hour searching the bushes only to find it in his pocket, rowing with the opposition batsman who asked him to remove his glasses when bowling as the sun was reflecting off of them, trying to stave off a Middlesex Second XI bowler who was fairly quick and making the bat spin around in his hands, not knowing how to stop the roller when working on his beloved Walker Ground for a Middlesex game and seeing him slowly panicking towards the woods, are just many that I recall.
Derrick’s final days were in the Azalea Court Nursing Home in Bush Hill Park. They made his twilight days comfortable and should be thanked for their efforts. I last saw him in March with another of Derrick’s protégés, Martyn Chandler and we knew that this day would come but it hasn’t made it any easier. A call from Roger Hill on Saturday morning confirmed the news that we had all been dreading.
The comments coming in from all over the world on social media show how highly Derrick was regarded. “More than just a coach” was summed up beautifully by Greg Mackett and others have described him perfectly. Derrick wouldn’t want us to be sad, he’d want us to go and have a pint and a laugh. Writing this has made me feel both sad and made me laugh. The consolation that we have is that he had a good life, a full one and an interesting one.
The word “legend” can be thrown about too easily these days. Derrick really was one. His record on the pitch, his record of coaching and the education that he gave many not only in cricket but in life should be remembered and applauded.
Worth will no doubt be sat upon that great barstool in the sky with a drop of something in one hand and a smoke in the other hand, holding audience over the greats of the game telling them exactly how he would have got them out if he had played against them.
Derrick will be sorely missed by all who knew him but all of us greater people for having him grace our lives.
To the Marvellous Worth.
Updated 11:31 - 22 May 2017 by Greg Mackett