Nov 182012

The great wall painting session at Natwest Cricketforce Day

THE year 2012 will be remembered by many for various reasons – not least at Heywood Cricket Club.

It was a year when most of the country found themselves in a financial struggle, with no immediate end to the recession in sight.

It was a year of poor weather, particularly for cricket lovers who saw game after game washed out by persistent rain. And yet it was a year when sport lifted the spirits of a nation again and again.

From Bradley Wiggans winning the Tour de France and our home Olympics and Paralympics competitors delivering heroic performances, to Andy Murray ending the 76-year wait for a British tennis player to win a ‘major’ and the European Ryder Cup golfers staging the biggest comeback the event has ever seen.

This was surely our finest year of sporting achievement. And Heywood CC have a vision to build on their progress during that time

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The people who helped make it a great year

The 2012 Olympic slogan was “inspire a generation”, and there is no doubt that many were inspired to do more than ever before.

For Heywood Cricket Club, 2012 was also deemed by many to have also been one of the greatest years that Crimble has ever seen.

The club has had plenty of ups-and-downs since 1865 when it was first established. The initial lack of a ground, the move to Pot Hall and then the concern that must have been felt by all when the lease expired and the club was without a home.

There have not been many more monumental years, therefore, than 1920, which saw the wonderful gift by Alderman Healey to Heywood CC of the land adjoining Queens Park.

The clubhouse was moved piece by piece from Pot Hall to its present location, rebuilt and Heywood CC has had a home ever since.

Great times and incredible players have been on display down the years. From the early days of Frank Watson, John Kershaw and ‘The Doctor’, H H I Hitchon, the club has boasted some teriffic talent.

The powerful sides of the 1960s and 70s saw professionals Clairmonte Depeiza and Colin Lever indelibly etch their names into the club’s history books alongside some of the notable amateurs.

In 1984, Australian professional Steve Wundke and skipper Bob Cooke led a great side to the League and Wood Cup double before a barren spell.

In the years leading up to the new millennium, only a young Zimbabwean called Andy Flower and the 1993 team provided some joy for the supporters with a memorable Wood Cup triumph.

But out of what looked like a bleak situation at Crimble, when there were times when it looked as though the club may struggle to surivive, a young side developed together.

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Some of the work in the build-up to Natwest Cricketforce 2012

Bobby Cross came through to establish himself as one of the club’s greatest-ever batsmen, and also went on to become one of the club’s youngest skippers – if not the youngest ever.

A resurgent Heywood won the Wood Cup four times, reaching the final in six successive years. Two Central Lancashire League titles also found the way to Crimble, with Test stars Johan Botha (South Africa) and Sherwin Campbell (West Indies) playing significant parts.

And 2012 saw many of those former greats return to see the club and reminisce with old friends on a reunion weekend.

Off the field down the years, the club’s fortunes have been similar. The initial difficulties of the move to Crimble were overcome, and the post-war era saw huge crowds and the club managed well.

There were periods of crisis, too. Towards the end of the 1970s, it took the courage of a committee led by the late Norman Coates to spend the last £2,000 the club had on renovations to take the plunge to open throughout the winter and ensure that the club survived.

Similarly, in 1998 with the club on the verge of folding, chairman David Fare and his committee were strong enough to resist the easy option and vowed to fight on.

The response was more volunteers and the introduction of young players into senior cricket, paving the way for years of success on the field.

And now, in 2012, the club has reached another of these landmark periods. Never in the memory of most members have so many people done so much for the club.

On January 26th, more than 150 people descended on Heywood Civic Hall to listen to the concept of NatWest CricketForce. The response for the English Cricket Board-backed initiative was overwhelming.

Throughout February and March, in rain, sleet, snow and ice, scores of people came to the club to help dig foundations for the Bob O’Keefe patio.

The ladies toilets were stripped and the TV lounge completely refurbished. Tradesmen gave their time and equipment for nothing, club members laboured together and local businesses heard about the cause and donated materials or sponsored the event.

On Saturday, March 31, the club was finally ready to host their NatWest CricketForce showcase day. It was supported by 350 people, and will stick in the memory as one of the great days in the history of the club.

The host of improvements and activities undertaken during the day included:

+ Junior members painting walls, planting flowers and playing on the Cricket Factory.

+ Players painting the dressing-rooms.

+ Members and supporters repairing the benches around the ground and putting up new advertising boards.

+ A team of tireless workers virtually completing their weeks of work on the new patio, which was flagged and became the showpiece overlooking the ground.

Other innovations included nets being installed on the square, the ladies toilets were tiled, hanging baskets put up, a new garden was created, the scorebox was decorated and 120 metres of fencing was painted in just 11 minutes.

Ex-England skipper Mike Gatting, TV commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, former Test match umpire John Holder and current Lancashire star Stephen Moore lent a hand along with our own Kate Cross – herself a member of the England Ladies Cricket Academy.

Asda catered all morning at no cost, the events were captured on film and the drinks in the bar at the end of a long but historic day were well merited.

The visual results were obvious to all, but the event translated into much more than that. The players responded to the atmosphere around the club, and every team started the season as never before.

Membership increased, and, on the junior side, a new Under-Nines team inspired a fantastic response.

Attendances on junior training nights reached unprecedented levels, as did the number of volunteers who coached them. Parents also became involved, sponsoring teams and pitching in to help when they could.

At the end of May, the club held a beer festival in conjunction with our brewery, J W Lees. It was a huge success and the bar has retained a J W Lees “guest” beer as a legacy.

If the shocking weather dampened spirits on the field of play in June and July, they were soon lifted again when work commenced on the £50,000 Sport England-funded artificial nets.

These have proved to be a wonderful addition to the club’s facilities and will give the next generation of players a fantastic chance to develop their skills.

It is appropriate that the nets carry both the “inspire a generation” logo as well as the names of Keith and Flo Cromarty, two people who did so much to encourage young talent at Crimble.

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The cricket was great in 2012

On the field, the season ended in slight disappointment, as both the first and second teams could not quite capture some silverware to show for their notable efforts.

The performances of some of the younger players foster the belief, however, that even better is to come.

The presentation night highlighted the fact that the junior section is going from strength to strength, and, with the current crop of coaches and volunteers, the future looks to be in good hands.

Draft figures show that the bar has taken significantly more money in 2012 than in previous years, and this bucks the trend of other cricket clubs given the terrible summer.

And yet the achievements of 2012 are still not complete. Work remains to be done to the kitchen and the main lounge, there are social events to come and the climax of a quite remarkable year will come when the club opens on New Year’s Eve.

Looking further ahead, there are plans for a new changing room block where the Portakabin currently stands. The University of Bolton are currently producing designs for this facility.

There are also plans to cover the artificial nets with a permanent dome, to ensure it becomes a true “all-weather” facility, and the ground’s perimeter fencing is set for improvement.

Important periods in the history of a club can only truly be judged given the passage of time. Perhaps many will look back and say that 2012 was one of those years.

We think it is just the beginning.

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 November 18, 2012  Tagged with: , , ,  Add comments

  One Response to “2012 – A Year That Has Set A New Benchmark For Effort, Loyalty, Commitment And Passion At Heywood CC”

  1. What a terrific article. A great summary of a monumental year in the Club’s history.

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