Humza Naeem has spoken of the bonds and friendship that have made winning the 2013 JW Lees Wood Cup such a special experience for him.
Humza, 17, has turned into one of the finest young pace bowlers in Lancashire since breaking into the first team at just 14.
In just a few short years – since his first appearance as a junior aged 11 – Humza has won awards galore at the club and is already fulfilling the potential he showed from the first time he came down to Crimble.
He is currently high in the CLL Premier Division bowling averages with 35 wickets at an average of under 20, and is regularly the go-to guy when things get tough – look at how he got rid of Grant Edmeades in full flow at Middleton two weeks ago. He also received fulsome praise from Littleborough veteran Phil Deakin recently, who rates him as dangerous a pace bowler as there is in the league. And at Ormskirk in the LCB KO, he out-bowled far more experienced Lancashire pacemen.
He is also the best outfielder in the CLL, with a host of memorable catches to his name, and has the potential to become a real all-rounder with his batting currently under-used in the Heywood first team.
But better than all this, his is a cracking young man who patrols the boundary with a smile on his face and a word for anyone.
And now he is a Wood Cup winner!
“It still still feels like a dream winning the Wood Cup.
“I joined Heywood when I was 11 and made my debut for the first team at 14. From the word go, Crossy showed faith in me and letting me open the bowling just motivated me and made me feel better than I actually was.
“Our team is not just made up of 11 good players but 11 very good mates. And coming from a totally different background, it was phenomenal how quickly I was accepted, not just by the team but by the Heywood faithful. Heywood has always had a special place in my heart and I just hope I represent the best club in Lancashire for as long as I possibly can.”
As most people know, Humza lives a fair distance from the club in Levenshulme, and getting to matches is a real problem.
His dad is a keen fan and watches Humza’s progress, but he has had a bad back and it’s been even harder for Humza to get to games.
However, such is the regard for the young man among his team-mates – his close friends – and members, that any time he has struggled to get to matches, people have been more than willing to pick him up and take him back.
These feelings are definitely mutual.
He continued: “It’s been hard travelling to games this season because of my dad’s back problem but the way everyone from the club has chipped in has made that bond with Heywood even stronger.
“I couldn’t thank enough each and every player in the team. Be it Crossy for showing confidence and trust in me and giving me endless opportunities, or CK for those special words of wisdom and being always there to speak to.
“Travis for being my ‘dad’ and working hard to improve my bowling. It has to be said, Travis has been an exceptional pro on and off the pitch and a great mate to be around. He has that desire and willingness to win and achieve big which he passes on to others in the team.
“Dez for being my knock-up buddy and a marvellous friend, it’s always a privilege to speak to him. Daws and Wez (my favourite mid-on and mid-off fielders) for being like brothers and always backing my bowling against any batter.
“Ross for providing me with very useful tips when he notices a weakness in the batsmen and again helping bowling with great stops at point.
“Danny, who I regard as one of the best batsmen I’ve seen when he is at full flow for sharing a great laugh. Joe for giving me a ride in luxury cars and being the most energetic and supportive person on the field.
“And finally Riley, for giving me a tough time picking the best Paterson. He’s been a fantastic guy to be around and to share the new ball with. Much quieter than his brother but probably a touch more talented (sorry Hamish).”
But none of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the help of one group of people in particular.
Humza continued: “Just before I finish I want to thanks the Fawcett family for being like my real family.
“If it wasn’t for Mel I wouldn’t have probably been at Heywood. He has been like a father figure. A big thanks to Adam for being a true big brother and playing a great role in the Wood Cup win, you deserve it as much as we do.
“And to Dom, with whom I’ve played most of my cricket, for being a class act.”
There’s also one other group of people Humza wants to thank for their role in him becoming one of Heywood’s most favourite sons.
He added: “And last a huge, huge thanks to the supporters of Heywood who we play cricket for, for giving me so much love and support and easily being the best in the league.
“Heywood! Heywood! Heywood!”
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