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Nervous with anticipation

Posted in NatWest CricketForce 2009

Writing one day ahead of the weekend there is the obvious nervousness as we wonder what might be in store over the course of the next two days. More attention could not have been paid to the preparation as every foreseeable detail has been ironed out in advance by the CricketForce committee.

However, everybody is realistic enough to know that there will be hitches during the course of the two days and some thinking on our feet will no doubt be required. The main point of concern, meanwhile, is the weather.

Two days of sunshine would be most welcome, however, with snow having been forecast, the fact that the 2008 project at Kirby Muxloe was carried out despite plenty of the white stuff remains something of an inspiration as we hope for the best but fear the worst with regards to the weather.

The first battle facing the committee was making a decision about which work would be carried out. Although the opinion that getting as much done as possible to maximise the opportunity of being a Staffordshire Showcase Club was universal, the theme of ensuring that we were realistic remained uppermost in mind; largely thanks to the calming influence of the two Chairman (NatWest CricketForce Committee Chairman Elgin Smith and Club Chairman Ian Plant).

It was for the purpose of ensuring that we remained realistic that the idea of installing an electronic scoreboard was shelved for the time being while sponsorship is sought.
Although general maintenance of the ground and the painting of just about everything is scheduled, the way I see it is that there are three major projects taking place: toilets, members’ pavilion and nets.

The need for a toilet refurbishment is clear and David Leighton’s claim that basic toilet facilities is one of the primary reasons why women tend to avoid cricket clubs up and down the land only confirmed that this work would have to be carried out.

The presence of a professional plumber on the committee, fun loving local sports fanatic Pete Bentley, is therefore a real godsend.

It is correct to point out the fact that our Club Chairman and reigning Clubman of the Year, Ian Plant, affectionately known as Sid, is also our groundsman. It is due to his valiant efforts making the best of a bad job that net practice has managed to continue at the club throughout recent years.

The now decrepit main infrastructure of the nets has, however, remained the same since I, now 23, was netting with the under 13’s. NatWest CricketForce has happily been deemed as the right time to give them a complete refurbishment.

The flagship project in many ways, however, is the complete refurbishment of the members’ pavilion. Having made the decision to completely rip out the contents and start again, this job was always going to be far too big to be carried out over the course of the weekend alone.

Although I wasn’t able to be there, I am sure terrific fun was had during the highly delicate process of ripping the room to shreds! Much of the work has been carried out in advance and when the finishing touches are put to the project over the weekend, the transformation of this room from old-fashioned, dull and decaying lounge with a layout that actively discourages socialisation to contemporary, bright, customer friendly lounge should be the part of the project that gives our members the wow factor.

I, for one, can’t wait to see this completed and the Team Barker partnership of father Mick alongside son Chris have been the perfect duo to manage this leg of the project. With Chris providing the creative flair and knowledge of modern fashion while Mick is ever the practical, methodical workman, they have done us proud with this project to date.

With the help of plenty of volunteer labour over the weekend let’s hope that this job can be seen through to completion by close of play on Sunday. Nobody will want to face Mick if this is not the case. I’m not sure he would ever get over it.

Clearly all of the jobs we are undertaking have required materials. On that score, we have been fortunate enough that a local supplier, Travis Perkins, have been generous enough to beat the prices offered by the ECB’s National Partner, Wolseley, in almost all instances.

In terms of media coverage, the volume achieved in the local media prior to the event has been sufficient, although most of the volunteer base has been recruited through word of mouth. In the aftermath, however, this should really kick in as Uttoxeter and Cheadle Voice, Cheadle and Tean Times, Cricket World Magazine, Derbyshire County Cricket Club’s Night Watchman Magazine and the Cheadle Post and Times have all agreed to run stories about the event.

Boosted by the fact that local footballers Gareth Owen (Port Vale) and Andy Wilkinson (Stoke City) will be attending, BBC Radio Stoke have also agreed to send a reporter on the Sunday.

Although Andy is currently the bigger name, Gareth’s story is a particularly interesting one for them to cover as he played junior cricket throughout the age-group system at Cheadle before specialising in football later on; making it as a professional and leading Stockport County to Wembley glory last season before signing for Vale.

Speaking of former Cheadle players, recently retired Derbyshire County Cricket Club stalwart Kevin Dean will also appear at the ground on the Sunday. He too was a product of the Cheadle youth system before enjoying a first-class career that saw him take 401 wickets at an average of 26.10.

All in all, the pre-weekend activity has been extremely positive and I believe that the committee have done all in their power to maximise the opportunity that NatWest CricketForce 2009 has brought to the club.

We seem to have come a long way since out IT expert Steve Plant and I were greeted by a wall of blank faces when we asked about getting a JPEG of the club’s logo in an early meeting back in December.

Fortunately no IT, or cricket, jargon busting is required for a community to pull together and get the job done and the work carried out free of charge by a selection of local tradesmen already is extremely heart-warming. Let’s just hope that the club members and the local community, possibly braving the elements if required, come out in force to provide the necessary legwork tomorrow.

The snowman can be built later, possibly to wear a NatWest CricketForce t-shirt and a Cheadle cap. It would provide a fitting icon for the weekend, but I’m sure we would all happily settle for giving this a miss.

One member of the club clearly didn’t consider the fact that Cheadle might be selected as a showcase club for NatWest CricketForce when he arranged to get married tomorrow, although it is one way to get out of labouring in the snow.

His evening reception on Saturday night will ensure that, if nothing else, the bacon sarnies will do a roaring trade come Sunday morning.