HEYWOOD are looking forward to life in Division 1A of the Greater Manchester Cricket League, starting away to Denton West on Saturday, April 20, under new first team skipper Sean Burrill.
Steve McHugh asked 26-year-old Sean to give his thoughts, in a question-and-answer session, on prospects over the coming months.
Did it take you by surprise to be asked to become the new first team captain for the 2019 season, and was it something that you have secretly fancied having a crack at?
It was a bit of a surprise but it is a challenge I am really looking forward to. I have always had a bit of an interest in becoming captain of the team but never thought the opportunity would present itself. Now it has I am excited to get the season started with the lads.
Having Mikey Grogan as your vice-captain must be reassuring, because I know that you have dovetailed well in coaching at junior level.
Definitely. Having Mikey alongside me this season will help as it is another person’s perspective on how the game is panning out, and I can get his thoughts on how he would change it. The good thing is that Mikey will always be honest with me in what he thinks, which is something that has worked well in our roles coaching the juniors over the last few seasons.
And I expect you will leaning on the experience of Bobby Cross, as well as his batting prowess at the top of the order.
One hundred per cent. You can’t have someone in the team with the amount of experience that Bobby has and not want to pick his brain on how he would approach certain scenarios within the game. He has plenty of successful captaincy experience and even more league cricket experience which will only help me in this new role.
Heywood were relegated from the Greater Manchester Premier League for a second time last year. Looking back, are there lessons to be learned?
There are definitely lessons to be learned for the players who were involved last season whether that be individually or as a team. Premier League cricket is never going to be easy and there were times last season where the lads showed unbelievable fight and got us across the line. We massively improved on our debut season in the League and this was shown by relegation only being confirmed after the final game. If little things had gone our way then the whole season could have been completely different. We beat some strong teams last season which shows that we belong in the top flight. We just need to be more consistent.
Is getting back into the top flight a priority goal as far as you are concerned?
Of course. That is a huge priority for me as it is where we belong. Heywood is and always has been a successful club. We just need to gel as a group and then I am sure success will be around the corner. I also want us to be as competitive as possible in all competitions as there is no better feeling than lifting a trophy after a tough Cup run. A few times last season some of the lads, myself included, were struggling for form and all it takes is one performance which makes you realise that you can succeed in the League. As long as the lads give absolutely everything on the field then I will be more than happy.
Travis Townsend, Danny Pawson and Andy Kerr have left the club, and Australians Tom McQuinn and Riley Paterson are not returning. They will be tough acts to follow, don’t you think?
They will certainly be tough acts to follow. They were all massive players within the team, whether with the bat or ball, and could all change a game. All five are experienced players and this showed on the field. They will be hugely missed, but this also gives the younger lads a chance to step up and show what they can do.
On the flip side, we have signed a new professional in Faisal Iqbal and recruited former Northants and Glamorgan batsman James Kettleborough. What do you think they will bring to the Club?
They are both excellent signings and will be terrific additions to our squad. To have someone in the team who has played international cricket, as Faisal has, will be brilliant for the lads as they will all be able to pick his brain about the game and how to improve their own personal games. I am sure Faisal will also be a massive addition to training nights with his recent coaching experience in the Pakistan Super League, and will help the lads develop their skills. James is going to be a key player for us this season. His recent first-class experience shows that he knows how to play to a very high level and I’m sure he will be able to succeed at Heywood. Just having another player who is still quite young but knows his game inside out will be a massive boost for us with the bat.
Losing five players will presumably give a chance to players who have come through the club’s youth system. Do you think that some of them are ready to make a permanent step up?
Absolutely. This is also a chance for people like myself, Wes Hunt and Andy Dawson to show what we are capable of. We have all shown glimpses in previous seasons but we are yet to turn in consistent performances week in week out. Simon Dawson is going to be the leader of our bowling attack this season so I see this being a big year for him. And then the even younger players like Jack Morley and Cav Hilton will have more responsibility placed on them, and I am sure they will both be able to step up to the plate and be successful.
Have you set yourself any targets, on both a personal and team level?
Personally, I want to be more consistent with the bat and contribute more to the results of the team. As captain there is a bit more pressure on me to score runs and lead the side. This is something that over the last couple of seasons I have done on occasions but inconsistently. I understand my own game much better now so hopefully that stands me in good stead for the upcoming season. As a team, a piece of silverware would be unbelievable but promotion would be the main target for myself and the lads.
I asked the following question to Travis Townsend last season but it bears repeating. Heywood’s support is the envy of many clubs. Have you got a message for them?
Our support both home and away is fantastic and the lads all appreciate every single member who comes to watch. I just want to thank them all for their support over the years. I hope that they continue to enjoy watching the teams and hopefully we can repay that with some success.