Cheeky request pays off for Blyth
Five clubs were chosen to receive helicopter visits from England players on NatWest CricketForce weekend, but one club not selected showed great initiative by setting one up themselves.
Evelyn Hetherington at Blyth CC arranged for Nottinghamshire and England wicket-keeper Chris Read to arrive in style with the help of a local businessman, who provided his personal helicopter to allow the dream to come true.
Evelyn was inspired by a presentation from ECB National Development Manager (Clubs) Dave Leighton, in which it was mentioned that several clubs were receiving helicopter visits from Matthew Hoggard, James Anderson and Vikram Solanki.
Having already arranged for Read to visit the club on April 3, she then looked to go one step further by securing a helicopter for the occasion.
The first step was to write to all the airfields in the surrounding area, which proved unsuccessful, but when driving home from the club one night with her son Rory, Evelyn saw a local businessman coming into land and decided to pay a visit.
She explained: “I said to Rory ‘right that’s it, I am going to go up and knock at his door and see if he will pick Read up for us’. Rory was dumbstruck and didn’t believe I would do it.
“So off I went and knocked at the front door. His wife answered and I asked if I could speak to her husband who had just landed. She took me around the back and I was introduced to Graham.
“I explained what we were doing at the club and told him all about CricketForce. I said to him ‘I just need you to go down to Nottingham on April 3 and bring Chris Read back’. He replied ‘Yes, ok!”
“I was gobsmacked - here was a man who didn’t know me from Adam, knew nothing about cricket, didn’t even know who Chris was and in fact had never heard of him!”
After finally convincing staff at Nottinghamshire CC that the plan was serious, Read confirmed he was willing to travel in the helicopter and plans were put in place for him to be picked up from Tollerton Airfield on the day.
Two of the club’s junior county players were allowed in the helicopter as it set off to pick up the player and Read was greeted by a champagne reception - donated by a local Tesco store - as he touched down at Blyth.
He then spent the day umpiring a cricket match, helping with the club’s refurbishments, signing autographs and presenting ECB volunteer badges and certificates.
Evelyn added: “We had a brilliant day. We would never have achieved so much if it hadn't been for CricketForce. The clubhouse and changing rooms have been totally transformed.
“We have formed many valuable links with businesses and individuals, a lot of these have nothing to do with cricket. It has been fantastic!”