Flower praises club volunteers
Andy Flower is delighted that his former side Heywood have been chosen as a showcase club for NatWest CricketForce which takes place this weekend.
The England team director spent two happy seasons at the Lancashire team who are one of 1,930 clubs - a record - that have registered for this year's grassroots initiative.
"It's great that NatWest CricketForce are working with Heywood this year," Flower told ecb.co.uk. "Heywood is close to my heart. I spent two great seasons there. Well, they were great for me anyway."
NatWest CricketForce is a volunteering initiative aimed at rejuvenating cricket facilities throughout England and Wales. Cricket supporters, their friends and families are encouraged to give back to their local cricket club by volunteering to undertake renovation work in club houses and grounds before the season starts.
Heywood are one of three showcase clubs for this year's NatWest CricketForce - Merstham in Surrey and west Yorkshire club Copley are the other two.
"It's great to put back into the community," added Flower. "Those clubs like Heywood are great for the community. They are a focal point and give youngsters a healthy outlet for their energies and Heywood embodies that type of spirit.
"The sort of people that are there, three or four days a week, doing the right thing by the club, Heywood is abundant in that regard. People like the Fares and the Crosses and many other people I could name, families associated with the club, are absolutely vital to their success.
"I think Dave Fare enjoyed that he had me putting up fences in the snow in my first week. That was an experience to remember."
England fast bowler Chris Tremlett will pick up a paintbrush at Merstham on Friday, which signals the start of this year's NatWest CricketForce, before the event moves to Heywood on Saturday and then Copley 24 hours later.
"It's great seeing the passion of this sort of work go on at clubs," said Flower. "People like Alastair Cook have put their painting gear on and got down and dirty with people at their various clubs in Essex. I know the boys at Heywood will be doing the same."
Flower added that the hard work undertaken at grassroots level does filter up into the professional game - something which benefits him in his role.
"I have always maintained that you can only have a good international side if your base is wide and strong," he said.
"We are very lucky in England that we do have this base of club cricket and cricketers that are so passionate about the game. From such a wide and motivated base we can get the crop of the best cricketers together and make a very competitive and hopefully great international side."