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Willey writing new chapter in family history

By Matthew Sherry

At the start of this season, the name Willey was only really synonymous with former England all-rounder turned umpire Peter.

The north-easterner’s playing days are remembered fondly, for he remains one of the toughest to don the Three Lions.

Almost a specialist competitor, it is telling that of Willey’s 26 Test appearances, 15 came against a West Indies side featuring the greatest battery of pacemen ever seen in the world game.

What is more, Willey did not just survive against them; he struck his two five-day centuries versus the fearsome bowlers from the Caribbean.

In the modern day, a comparable player is Paul Collingwood; Willey, too, was a man for whom combativeness and character far outweighed skill.

And it is that relentless competitiveness that jumps out every time you see Willey’s son, David, playing for Northamptonshire.

It was perhaps in evidence more than ever during his remarkable Friends Life t20 final performance against Surrey.

Fired up following words with paceman Jade Dernbach, David responded by striking the fastest half-century in this year’s competition.

Not content, he then produced a hat-trick to complete figures of 4-9 and a 102-run triumph at Edgbaston.

That performance was the highlight of a fine season for Willey, who - having shown an ability to prosper when the stakes are at their highest - has subsequently been backed to follow in his father’s footsteps by representing England.

“He has been fantastic,” says Willey to ecb.co.uk when asked about Peter’s influence on his fledgling career. "At times during the season we clash and bang our heads together a bit but hindsight is a wonderful thing and looking back I wish I would have listened to him earlier.

"He had almost 15 years in the first-class game and understands what it takes to be the best and where I need to improve.

"It has only been the last few years that I’ve realised he has got some fantastic knowledge on the game. I’ve started to pick his brains and, you know, he is very supportive. I know that he only wants me to do well.

"I am very fortunate to have him as a father and he has been a very positive influence on my game. As I’ve grown up, I’ve opened my eyes quite a bit and not just to him. I am quite a stubborn character but I am starting to realise the more I listen and learn from other people can only benefit me in the long run.

"To have someone so close that has been involved with the game for such a long time, I am very lucky.”

But does Willey agree that he has picked up some of the aforementioned characteristics from his old man?

“We are both tough competitors who do not like to lie down,” he adds. “Certainly when there is a little bit of pressure, a few words flying around and it’s a tough environment where people are looking at you, it is the best place to put out your best performances and that is where you get noticed. Hopefully, I can continue to do that and get recognised as I progress my career.”

By his own admission, Willey is already fulfilling a childhood dream by playing for his father’s club, Northamptonshire.

However, he has plenty of unfinished business and is hoping to emulate Willey Senior by representing his country at the highest level.

“I’ve grown up a Northampton lad playing all through the age groups and obviously my father played here,” he reveals.

“Obviously as a child my dream was to follow in my dad’s footsteps. I am gradually doing that and hopefully I can continue to do the same.

"If I was to get anywhere near what he achieved in the game then I will have had a pretty successful career and go on to represent England. If I can get anywhere near that, I’ll have done well.”

He is certainly going the right way about doing that, for if you ask cricket lovers now what images the name Willey conjures, they may well tell you about the lad at Northants who thrives on the big stage.

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