A catch came to me, I dived and needless to say I dropped it - of course I got some ribbing for that when I took all ten wickets Bill Jeffrey - Spondon CC
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6: The New Season

I’ve been promising you a better update from my trip to meet the new clubs for far too long and apologies for that – pre-season Lord’s is an exciting place, but kind of manic! As the sun is shining brightly this afternoon and it feels as if the season should be underway already, frankly, I thought we should look towards the next few months with excitement! So, a little report on first impressions on the new clubs – Spondon, Astley Bridge and Marple.

From TTF’s point of view the most exciting part of the trip was meeting three clubs who were so enthusiastic. In each club I met a large group of people all so proud of their clubs who were just really excited about telling their stories. I also, I have to admit, very much enjoyed the lovely hospitality of all three – so thank you so much for that, it was great to explore your clubhouses and enjoy your bars!

So firstly, Spondon CC on the outskirts of Derby. Spondon have just moved to a fantastic new ground with beautiful views over nearby Locko Park in order to provide facilities good enough to play in the Derbyshire Premier League. While the new place is fantastic you can tell there’s still a real fondness for the old ground. The club remains important in the community though, the guys told me a lovely story about how one local couple had started coming along last summer, enjoying a lovely free cuppa and the cricket – and at the end of the season donated £100 to the club in thanks. There’s a large youth section, a thriving girls’ section, and a great deal of enthusiasm for new ideas and to keep the club going. The latest scheme to place solar panels on the clubhouse - funding permitting - to help keep bills down. A forward thinking club but with a long history, I’m looking forward to the stories from these guys and how the challenge of running a large club has changed.

I then travelled up to Bolton, to a club in one of the oldest leagues in Britain – the Bolton and District Cricket Association. Astley Bridge CC themselves have been members for over 100 years.  This was a great, proud, working class club, and many of the club elders turned out to meet me and tell me some of their stories. The local area includes a large Asian population and many play for the Astley Bridge youth teams, although there is some trouble keeping the youth playing for the team and stop them being tempted away by other distractions or the lure of playing for money at a richer club. Astley Bridge are a small club but one who proudly keep players because they want to play for them, not because they are paid. One players’ wife told me of her fury when her husband turned down playing for money at another club during one difficult year for the pair in the 1970s - but he would not leave Astley Bridge! On top of this snapshot into Northern league cricket expect some fantastic stories about the test and county players who played against Astley Bridge, especially the West Indian greats.

My final trip was not far from Bolton, to Marple, a lovely small town just outside Stockport and another very different club. Marple CC was only reformed 60 years ago, after the club folded and lost its ground during WWI. The club has had good and bad times since then; expanding into a squash club and nearly folding altogether just 15 years ago. There’s something of a renaissance at the moment as the club won ten trophies this year alone; but the difficult period still has a mark on the club as there are no playing members between their mid-twenties and mid-thirties. What’s really exciting about Marple, as well as the great stories they started telling about keeping the club going, is their interest and experience in technology. With several club members with TV experience, TTF are looking forward to some professional filming tips from the guys to compliment fantastic stories!

All in all, a very successful trip, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming summer with real excitement! Just a website to build, trips to arrange, a Museum exhibit to put up in the meantime...keep wathcing this space!