Tom Blundell is another player to have come through the ranks at Heywood from junior cricket to first team. A T20 cup winner, U18 trophy winning captain, junior coach and all round good club man, Tom has looked back on his experiences at Crimble so far:
Do you remember your debut?
My first taste of 1st XI action was in a Twenty20 game at home to Middleton when I was around 15. I was thrown the ball when Middleton were 9 down chasing a lot and luckily I was able to get the last wicket which was a relief as I’d been put over the scorebox the previous delivery.
I can’t remember where my first league came but it was a year or so later but the earliest game that stands out was Milnrow in the league. I remember feeling more nervous about sitting in the changing rooms next to Lee Grogan than anything else! There were so many strong characters in the changing room with people like Crossy, Will, Brendan Taylor, Dogsy, Royce. I just tried to keep out of the topic of conversation but you soon realise that isn’t possible. I looked to my mate Tommy Hardman for a bit of relief but I think he was pleased somebody had taken the flack off him so he quickly abandoned me.
I loved every minute of it and that environment was a great experience – you soon learn to have to be able to stand up for yourself both on and off the field. I think, as time went on, I contributed a lot more off the field than on.
Favourite game for the club?
Most of my favourite memories playing for the club seem to have come in the Twenty20 competition. I remember Will Purser organising our blue kits with our names on the back. Unfortunately, Battersby Sports must have only had 5 medium shirts and so I was given an XL which drowned me.
We played Rochdale at home on a Friday night and it was a miserable night. We batted first and didn’t get many so we had a job to do in the field. Again, I wasn’t really expecting a bowl but I came on after a few overs at the Pavilion end and it was my first experience of the support from the Patio. At the end of my 4 over spell, I had figures of 5-8 and we’d won the game. Everything I tried seemed to come off and it was the first time I felt I could do a job for the team.
When we sat down in the changing room after, I was feeling pretty good as you can imagine and even better when Dave Fare came in with a cap full of money for my collection. I even received praise from Dave which was quite rare as I had spent the previous 2/3 years dropping catching off him in the 2nd XI while Wilky was throwing his cap on the floor.
I think I had hold of the cap for around 30 seconds before it was soon whipped out of my hands and a quick estimate of the collection by senior members of the team deduced that it was more than enough to buy the whole team a drink. However, being only 17 at the time a round of 10 Coronas and half a coke was ordered and I received my cap back which was considerably lighter.
Another favourite is the Twenty20 final we won at Clifton. It was a close game and I remember Tommy H, Will and Rob Slawson taking a few wickets each but they were always within touching distance of the run rate. As it got closer to the end, I realised that having only bowled 3 of my 4 overs that if it goes to the last over, it would have to be me as everybody else was bowled out.
They needed 12/13 off the last over and I remember Dale Latham was keeping and Simon Dawson was in the covers. I muttered something to Simon along the lines of ‘I hope I don’t **** this up’ and those two were chuckling away not really offering the level of reassurance I was after. Luckily, my first ball was hit back towards me and cannoned off the stumps. Thankfully, I was switched on enough to know the rules and I whipped out the stump with the ball in my hand. We had no pro or overseas for that game and it was a team that entirely consisted of lads who had come through the youth setup at Heywood so to celebrate winning a trophy with a group of lads you had grown up with or looked up to was a special moment.
Favourite away ground?
We were always lucky to play at some great grounds such as Middleton, Crompton, Milnrow but I was always enjoyed playing at the quirky grounds such as Walsden. I think sitting on the balcony at Walsden watching the game was always a great novelty and as I became more of a ‘batter’ in the Seconds towards the end of my time playing, I spent a lot of time watching the game from there.
The best away ground I did play at was at Stonyhurst College in the Ribble Valley playing for the district team. Kev Dawson ferried myself and Simon around the North West that year but that was an impressive place to play cricket.
Best Pro you played with and against?
I played with a few but I think the best would probably be Rajat Bhatia. He was such a talented bowler – I remember him opening the bowling at Royton bowling his usual medium pace and when he had taken a few wickets, their left-handed pro came in to bat and he turned to off-spin as he fancied himself against the left-hander. He had him caught at slip first ball and duly turned back to this usual medium pace for the next batter.
Wayne Madsen was easily the best I played against. Where ever there was a gap in the field, he would find it. He played reverse sweeps with such ease and power that he was very hard to bowl at.
Best amateur you played with?
The obvious players such as Crossy, Will Purser, Danny Pawson, Tommy H who were clearly levels above the rest of us mere mortals stand out. Crossy was like having an extra pro in the ranks as you could always rely on him getting a few.
I must say though, I was privileged to come through the youth set up at Heywood with a considerable number of good players. From starting in the Under 11s and throughout the age groups I think we pretty much won most of the league and cups including the U18s League and Cup thanks to the hard work of people like Paul Riley and Bob Dearden who invested so much time and effort in us. We had so many good players such as Dale Latham, Kate, the Dawsons, Mikey Grogan, the Fawcetts, Wes and Sean (always come together) and Humza Naeem which was unusual as most of the teams we played against had 3 or four decent players and we had 11. That group have contributed a lot to the club over the years: a Wood Cup win, Twenty20 wins, 1st and 2nd XI captains, coaches within the youth set-up and it is something we should be proud of.
Best on field memory?
It would probably be batting with Joey O’Neill in Worcester at the Barracks. We had some great trips down there and the cricket tended to get in the way. Usually these games started off quite relaxed and friendly but the odd time a few ringers turned out for the opposition. This particular game, myself and Joey had put a few on together and were coasting alone quite nicely. Next thing we know, this young lad comes on as a bowling change and I was facing. I looked up and he was stood at the boundary. He motored in, hit a crack on the pitch and I dived out of the way, much to the amusement of Joey. Next ball, I managed to edge through the slips for an easy 2 but a 3 at a push. I wisely decided a single would suffice so Joey could have a go. He was half way back before he had to turn around hurling abuse. The next three balls hit him in the grill, chest and forearm and it was an utter joy to watch.
Best off field memory?
There are so many, especially from our trips down to Worcester. From seeing Dave Fare queuing up for a student night at Bushwackers only to be turned away for wearing trainers to Vinny Ball cutting Lee Grogan’s jeans and Mick Bott wearing the excess piece as a captain’s armband for the rest of the trip.
I think my favourite memory would be coming back to the hotel with Dale and as we entered our room we were welcomed to Hamish Paterson, our Australian overseas, asleep in the bath along with all our clothes. How he had managed to get in our room I don’t know but fortunately, as a student at the time those jeans could have done with a wash anyway.
Having read a few of these now, the same message seems to come through that this is a special club with many special people. From a personal note, I can’t underestimate the impact the club has had on me especially after the loss of Tommy H. I struggled for a long time with that but there were many people at the club who were there for me when I needed them most and for that I will always be grateful.
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