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This was at the "Top" in Rio This was at the "Top" in Rio

We begin to think ahead to the cricket season of 2013

I left Old Trafford Indoor Centre on Sunday evening with Sophie after the Girls Under 15’s session to see snow falling. She was most anxious that bucketfuls fell from the sky and that school today would be cancelled. Tough luck on her as although we had plenty of snow this morning it was of the soft, slushy type that melts away and Woodhey High School stayed open. That session at OT was the fourth of the day and marked the beginning in earnest of the County Squad Training Sessions. They began at 10.00am with the Under 13’s Boys. This could have been a complicated day as Thomas was involved with that session but Mrs Heaton Junior had made arrangements which would see me going off to Blackburn with Sophie and not off to OT with Tom. As it happens just as the Under 14 Boys session was taking over from the Under 13’s at midday came the news that Sophie’s footie match was off. This was going to be a shortlived one half game for her as we needed to speed off to Old Trafford in plenty of time before her Squad Session at 4.00pm. The reason for the need to get there before 3.20pm was down to the fact that 80,000 people would be leaving the other OT following the end of the United v Liverpool game at that time. The postponed match enabled me to get there even earlier to see the Under 15’s who were scheduled for 2.00pm to 4.00pm. The Mighty Titch, Rudra and Brysie were taking the Under 15’s through their paces. Sophie kept us up to date with the score from across the road using her eyephone. Brysie did of course get some stick when the final result came through. All sorts of devices and apparatus are now part and parcel of these coaching sessions. The inevitable bowling machines and the merlin gizmo were in use but the bit that fascinated me the most was the “chucking stick” that Rudra employed in one of the nets. These sticks remind me of some that I have seen people with dogs use to propel balls some distance for their animals to chase after. Rudra’s “chucking stick” was much thinner and longer and he placed a cricket ball into the cup. He was able to generate some pace and swing and gave some of the Under 15’s a torrid time. He got through quite a number of “flicks” – and will probably have been a little stiff today as a result. How Chris Benbow felt the other day I do not know as it is believed during one of the LCCC Pro Sessions in the Indoor Centre he used the “chucking stick” for the equivalent of 90 Overs – amounting to 540 “flicks”. I would have needed to go on a cruise for a month if I had done that.

 

Talking of going on cruises – our investigations have been completed and last week we decided on our next venture. When and where will have to remain a secret until we return and I am allowed to report to you. I can say that we have chosen the royal theme again and I have asked the good lady if she wants to go to the “Top”.

 

My other good news is that I am heading into Headquarters tomorrow (Tuesday) to meet with Dipesh and our ICT Guru, Martyn to look at some enhancements to our Database and Email Software. I will be taking with me the Under 10 (Boys) to Under 15 (Boys) Fixtures which are now 95% complete. They should be up on the website some time tomorrow. I am delighted to say that we will have Development Teams in four of our age groups in 2013. These programmes sit alongside the Main County Teams and give opportunities to players on the fringes of selection to show what they can do. At Under 13 and 14 levels these Development Teams will also take part in Inter-County Festivals often against full County teams.

 

Jenny Laycock is making good progress with her girl’s fixtures and I am hoping some of these can be on the website list within the week.

 

Wednesday will see me return to Old Trafford yet again as I am due to meet with the Sage of Merseyside and the indomitable Scarlet Pimpernel to discuss which grounds to approach for the matches to be played in Lancashire. There are quite a number of clubs who have supported us over the years but we do try to include other clubs who have expressed interest but have not staged a County Age Group game before. It is also important that we look at the distance our visitors will have to travel and the direction they will come from. Other counties in general do the same except perhaps Northumberland who tend to use the principle that the nearer to the Scottish border the better. We have been known to take Yorkshire regularly to the coast – but Southport and St Annes are pretty decent grounds. This year they have invited us to their 90th Birthday at Scarborough. That’s a fair way to travel for an 11.00am start but Scarborough is quite a venue.

 

I am sure with the gathered knowledge of cricket fields across Lancashire we will have few problems reaching our decisions. Mind you in the good old days before chips were banned then the catering side of things was a vital factor in choosing grounds. We had our favourites. I am not too sure what my favourite watering hole would be now on the county circuit. I am not really a pasta and salad person. I suppose Bootle CC might be up there possibly with Middleton near the top in the catering stakes. Greenmount Cricket Club got top marks from the Under 11’s of Lancashire and Nottinghamshire last season but that was down to the Heaton Mobile Catering Service. In the past visits to schools for matches produced some inspiring catering moments. Rossall School produced a memorable tea for an Under 14 game a couple of years ago which we had in their dining room which was just like a Harry Potter movie set. Probably the number one school for top teas is Manchester GS where David Moss can be counted on to produce a bottle of vintage red. Away from Lancashire the town of Taunton tops the catering league table. Kings College has now taken over from Taunton School in keeping our county squads more than happy with their food when playing in the Festivals there.

 

Possibly the one day that stands out above the others in terms of catering and entertainment was when we played Hampshire at Under 15 level on the Tidworth Garrison Ground a good many years ago. This was in the time of Major Tim Bible. The team were on tour with Tony Hemingway the Ring Master. It was a glorious day and the Tidworth ground was a picture. This was an army ground next to the Barracks. Tim Bible was involved with the Army Careers Service. Bob Stamp was our Chairman at the time and never missed a tour. I had gone down part way through the week but made sure I travelled on the coach to Tidworth. Lunch was served in a marquee next to the Pavilion and we gathered together our food from a lavish buffet and then sat outside and listened to the Regimental Band who had set up stall outside on the outfield. The Major always ensured we had suitable wines from the Garrison’s wine cellar with a glass of port to finish. On this particular day he had a couple of bottles of his home brew for him and Chairman Bob to try out. As the game continued into the afternoon they retired to what became known as the Major’s Bench. The feeding operation continued with tea and a top up leading eventually to the Major and Chairman Bob nodding off on the bench in the corner of the ground.

 

Major Tim was a great supporter for ESCA and Hampshire Schools and one day a couple of years later went to watch Hampshire Schools at Tidworth. He had an enjoyable lunch and a glass of wine and went to sit on his favourite bench. About an hour later one of the umpires pointed out to Hampshire officials that he thought something was wrong with Major Tim. Indeed there was. He had quietly passed away.

 

I am now turning my attention to sorting out the Under 16 and 17 Boys Fixtures. This is a much simpler task. I will need of course to speak to my good friend John Stanworth with regard to the Under 17 games. I wonder what was his favourite catering establishment on his travels. My son spent four years at Lords as an MCC Young Cricketer and he waxed lyrical about someone called Nancy there. There was also the time he went up to Scotland with an MCC team and they played in Aberdeen.

 

I mentioned ESCA above - the English Schools Cricket Association. Prior to the arrival of the ECB then this organisation was the one which we looked to for in terms of the then Under 15 and Under 13 National Competitions. I also said earlier that the Fixture List is now in good shape and will be on the LCB website pretty soon. You will notice that at Under 13 level the ECB Competition is no more. Someone decided it would be better for us to arrange fixtures to suit our own needs. In 2013 we see the Under 13’s as in need of good competitive matches to prepare them for the Under 14 competition in 2014 which is still run by the ECB. What better I thought than reviving the ESCA Northern Counties Competition from way back. I am delighted to report that five other counties have joined with us – Cheshire, Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire – and we will be playing five 45 Overs matches to the ECB U14 rules, and have agreed to have a Final between the top two teams. ESCA are delighted and are looking to financially support our venture. The Final will be played in September. Back to the Future.

 

Need to spend a little time looking at ideas for the meeting with Dipesh and Martyn. So enough for now. Now talking of going to the “Top” on our next cruise. Is the “Top” 180 storeys or is it a little lower.

 

Quick mention of the Shakers. Away at MK Dons on Saturday. Came away with a point. Still in the doldrums financially and points wise. Do you think Rory McIlroy might sub us for a while with his Nikey money. Do you think Mr Aboombravitch might have a thought for our plight? We’ll be there on Saturday when the might of Stevenage Borough come to Gigg. Unless of course the big freeze messes that up and the Shakers cash flow subsides further,

 

Where’s the Tesco

 

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