A youth product of the club, wicket keeper batsman John Kaye, brother of Chris, played for the first team from the late 80′s until 1997 and a relocation down to Sussex. However his ties to the club have always remained strong and appearances on the annual Worcester tour as well as supporting the club at Wood Cup finals and numerous reunions demonstrate. John looks back on his years at Crimble:
Do you recall your debut?
My first team debut was against Oldham away in 1987 I was standing in for my good friend Peter Devine (and future step-brother in law!) who had to miss the game at short notice. Our pro was Curtly Ambrose and theirs was Joel Garner, who had just been released by Somerset. Unfortunately the game was curtailed by rain and I had to wait a couple of years to nail down a permanent place in the 1st team.
What was your favourite Heywood game?
I notice Jez Epis chose the Wood Cup Final of 1993 which of course would probably be the choice of most players involved that day. However, to tell a different story I will choose the semi-final instead, which was almost as epic and I’m sure one of the best away performances Heywood had ever had to that point. On paper little Littleborough were actually a better team than Middleton and top of the league. We also had to travel to Hare Hill.
I remember as it was our first semi-final for 10 years we travelled in a coach and had our club ties on. That was the kind of thing that Dave Fare really understood. I think he knew that if we treated the game as a final then we would lift our game from what was a very hit and miss league campaign. They thought they were going to flatten us but from a point where Littleborough were 120-0 after 28 overs or so, we played out of our skins.
I’d missed the easiest stumping in the memory man earlier in the season off CK to dismiss Stuart Law so when I caught him behind off Chris for 70 or so, I couldn’t resist a word or two in his ear. I remember Chris then getting Deakin and Craig Irvine bowling out of his skin. In the end they got 170-odd and we chased them down with Mark Wright and Andy Flower calmly taking us over the line. The support we got that day was unbelievable. I particularly remember Paul Hamill at square leg getting more and vocal as we ran through their middle order and the invention of the Ooh Aah Andy Flower song late in the day.
What was your favourite away ground?
Norden. I enjoyed beating them and also enjoyed the good natured banter about the size and shape of their ground. I also had some good friends there from junior representative sides etc.
Best Pro you played with ans against?
Best pro I played with from a cricketing standpoint was Andy Flower. He improved me as a batsman and a keeper. I wish I’d played more with John Abrahams for the same reason.
Playing against….it was Carl Hooper. Ezra was a handful but he destroyed you with a ball or two with his bowling. Hooper would do it over the course of a couple of hours with the bat….but really it was a privilege to watch from behind the stumps.
And what about amateurs?
Discounting the overseas players, the best amateur I played with for pure ability was probably Jason Hurst. I thought he was good enough to make it. The player who influenced me the most though was Dave Fare. By the time I broke into the first team, he wasn’t the best player in our side but he led by example, always fronted up when things got tough and even when his ability started to wane, he made up for it with a will to win. He played with a lot of humour too and we always had a laugh as a team…..but as captain he knew when to tear a strip off us if he saw lack of effort. In the end, I think he shaped the way I played the game more than anyone else.
Playing against….I would say the best was Mike Ramsbottom at Radcliffe. Rammy was a really classy left hander who could and should have made it.
Best on field memory?
Best single memory was the moment we won the Wood Cup in 1993. I was stood with Jez Epis over with all of our supporters on the river side of the ground. We’d got too nervous to sit in the changing room. He’d spoken with Nolan Hall back in Kalgoorlie that week about his experiences of Wood Cup finals so was really pumped. The pair of us deliberately took a few moments to soak it all in just before the winning bye went through Tommy Astley (not before a few late scares). After that, it is a bit of a blur but nothing I’ve done in cricket since has matched that feeling.
What about of field?
Off the field my best memory is the Wood Cup win at Walsden against Milnrow in 2003. I was part of Heywood’s barmy army that day and was in tears at the end! You could tell it was going to kick off something special for Heywood CC. It was transitioning into a younger, more talented team than in 1993 with people like Will, Crossy and Dogsy (Robert played a blinder) but some of the lads like CK and Wilky, who had kept things afloat through a very fallow period for the club contributed a lot that day too. I think of all the subsequent Wood Cup finals (I saw most of them), that was the best.
As always it’s a privilege to share my memories of playing for such a great club
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