Spectators enjoy a day out at Castle Park

IPSWICH Town goalscoring legend Ted Phillips was supping on a pint soon after his early arrival at Castle Park yesterday.

Phillips, whose goalscoring exploits and partnership with Ray Crawford fired Ipswich to the First Division title in 1961-62, was back among friends and soon reminiscing over old times.

A more than useful cricketer himself – Phillips used to open the bowling for Colchester & East Essex – he has been a regular visitor to his former stamping ground at festival time for the past 20 years.

Phillips, who has lived in Colchester for 45 years and celebrates his 78th birthday on Sunday, looked out over the ground and said: “I once took nine wickets for five runs here.

“I come down every year for the festival and meet up with a lot of my old friends. I’ll be here every day.”

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Phillips, now joined by Brian Prior, said he had seen most of the great names from yesteryear play at Castle Park.

“Fred Truman, Ted Dexter, Garry Sobers and Ian Botham – I’ve seen them all.”

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Prior, nicknamed Bronco, chipped in: “And the only one to clear the river is Ken McEwan.”

The South African, whose graceful batting was a feature of the Essex side in the 1970s and 1980s, indeed struck a straight six over the river that runs along the pavilion end of the ground.

Prior, who was part-time bar steward at the club for 20 years and still occasionally helps out, said: “I really miss it. I used to love working here when the festival was on – I would take the whole week off work.

“It was lovely meeting the players. They used to shake my hand and most of them would remember me when they came back the next time

“I remember Ian Botham once asked ‘can you put a seat at the top of the stairs (outside the pavilion) with a pint of lager under it?’ He then came out and didn’t come back in until everyone who wanted an autograph had got one

“And I remember Jack Russell (the former Gloucestershire and England wicket-keeper) sitting in the corner of the pavilion painting and writing.”

Don Topley was among several former Essex players – Ray East, Robin Hobbs, Andrew McGarry and Graham Saville were others I spotted – attending the opening day of the festival, acting as chauffeur to son Reece who was named as 12th man for the home team.

Topley said: “The Essex players love coming to Colchester. It is a good cricket wicket which has carry and turn for the bowlers. If it rains it is close enough to nip into town and when I played we used to adore the bacon sandwiches in the morning!”

John Bracewell, director of cricket of visitors Gloucestershire, said: “The thing about festival grounds is that the players get on better. There is less antagonism because you are using mixed facilities, whereas the dressing rooms in the modern stadia are built 100 yards apart and you only meet in the middle.”

Among the first-day crowd was John Sargeant, who has been attending the festival for 30 years and been a regular in recent seasons.

The former Hadleigh and Suffolk Over-50s bowler, who is now 68, said: “I enjoy everything about the festival and see a lot of friends here each year.”

Sargeant, who lives in Polstead and was attending with friend Ray Dyer and his two grandsons, pointed to the far corner of the ground and added: “The facilities are a lot better than they used to be. The tin toilet over there used to flow out the back!”

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