Off spinner Rob Slawson broke into the first team during the tough period the club endured in the mid-late 1990′s and was one of a crop of younger players who would form the bedrock of over a decade of sustained success on the field with league titles in 2006 and 2008 and the astonishing Wood Cup run of 6 finals in 6 years from 2003-2008.
1. Do you remember your first team debut?
I can’t actually remember what my first 1st XI game was. It was in ‘97 and that’s as much as I can remember. I remember dropping 3 of Fare in an early game against Rochdale and wanting the ground to swallow me up. It always felt like a major step as a kid moving into the 1st XI, especially in those days. It wasn’t until I took a tricky catch in the deep away at Milnrow off Bardy that I believed I could play at that level and fit in. We weren’t the team we’d go on to become in the late 90’s but in hindsight that grounding probably helped us. The young home grown lads were given a chance and alongside some good pro’s and some great experienced guys like Fare, Wrighty, Arnie, Rick, Wilky, CK we grew into a team that would go toe to toe with the best in the North West and that was pretty special.
I also loved the couple of years I had in the 2nd’s though before jumping into the 1st XI. At 15 & 16 travelling around playing cricket with the likes of GOD, Archie, Flanny, Tats, Scoop, Roge, Orange, Tangers, Bobby, Wally a bit of Fash or Ste Eddy here or there was good fun. It might be blinkered thinking on my part but 2nd XI cricket felt a lot different then. Way more competitive than now. Sides were full of older more experienced players and the games were challenging.
2. What was your favourite game?
Wood Cup Final in 2003. It turned out to be the start of a pretty special decade for the club really on the pitch. It was the first final for the club in 10 years and after the club being in a pretty perilous position 5 or 6 years earlier it meant a lot to a lot of people all-round. As a player it was a pretty special occasion too. A big showcase event, huge crowd and a win. I can still recall the day hour by hour now really.
3. What was your favourite away ground?
Probably Middleton and I say this never really having got a lot of wickets there. It was always a nice place to play though. Good wicket, nice ground, looked after off the pitch and they always had a similar vocal fan base to us. You could guarantee after tea once the beers had kicked in, their supporters would get right into the game which was good. Radcliffe years ago also used to be a nice ground before they had their off the field issues. Another good wicket, nice well kept ground and the facilities were good.
4. Who was the best Pro you played with and against?
We had real fun playing with Bruce Hara, mainly off the pitch and Suggy was a great lad and good pro but from a playing perspective, Sherwin Campbell was the man. He played cricket on a different level to us. I would have paid to watch him let alone share a changing room with him. He’d been a serious international cricketer when he arrived to us and it showed. He also fitted us culturally as well which created something special for a couple of seasons. His Wood Cup final knock at home to Unsworth and his Monday night masterclass against Littleborough again in the cup still feel like yesterday. If you didn’t get him early and he got in, you were in trouble as an opposition bowler.
In terms of playing against, I’ve been lucky to play against loads of top quality pros, plenty of International cricketers but the one I really had to work hard against was Wayne Madsen at Unsworth. He was so hard to bowl against. It’s no surprise what he’s gone on and done at Derbyshire. He’d sweep, reverse sweep, go over the top, all so calm and easily as well.
5. Best amateur you played with and against?
Bobby is easily the best amateur I’ve played with. Looking back, I played cricket with Bobby from U13’s if not before all the way up. He’s a few years younger but always played above his age range and to see him go from the stick thin kid he was who couldn’t hit it off the square in the 2nd XI to the man who has smashed all records and hammered the best round most grounds has been good fun. Every single club knew and respected him and that in itself shows his standing in the local game. As a captain he lead from the front with the bat and in the field there weren’t many better. The amount of caught at mid wickets I got with Bobby there was nuts and you knew if he got a hand on something it wasn’t going down.
In terms of playing against my memory will do me no favours here. No one person really sticks out so I’ll keep it in my age range. Players like Chris Schofield were fun to go up against. He could do all three and was effectively a pro even when playing as an amateur. The Shadford brothers were good cricketers, Moorsey who we had down at Heywood for a season was a good player, Oddy at Rochdale was and still is a top bowler. Simon North at Norden was a good all-rounder who played for England U-17’s I think?
6. Best on field memory?
Personally the night we won the Wood Cup semi up at Oldham on a Monday night. I got a 5fer to get us home in a tricky game and to lead us to the final as MOTM was nice. Beyond that and aside from winning Wood Cups, T20’s the League a couple of times, it’s probably the Wood Cup game at home when Kirbs sub pro’d for us. I’ve never seen someone want to win a game of cricket for Heywood so much in my life. You couldn’t really talk to him on the pitch as the red mist had descended and he was rapid that afternoon. You felt sorry for some of their lads towards the end. In the changing rooms after he let his emotions out and it was nice to be part of something like that.
7. Best memory off the field?
I’ve forgotten a lot thanks to the magic powers of JW Lees but I think being able to share a changing room from being a 15yr old in the 2nd XI through 15 years in the 1st XI with so many like minded people is special beyond just playing cricket. The shared experiences, life skills, learning, ups and a few downs make team sports a really special place. A lot of what I’ve seen and learnt over the years in the changing rooms and as part of a team have served me well professionally in life away from the club. How do you deal with different people? How do you bring 11 different people together as one team? How do you deal with the good & bad?
8. Any other thoughts at this tough time?
The club is a special place and it maybe in times like this when you don’t have it or you’ve been away from it for some time you start to understand the impact it can have on people. I’ve met lifelong friends through the club. I was taken in as a 9, 10 year old and developed to play cricket by some fantastic people giving their time and energy for free. Clive Ellis, Keith Cromarty, Alan Rawlinson, all the way through and I was given a chance to play in age groups above my years and into the senior teams by people who wanted to see me do well and play good cricket representing the badge. We mustn’t take the club for granted. It’s a special place for a lot of good people.
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