Keedy and Affleck can bolster S&B in Prem
FOR some enthusiasts the countdown has begun. When this edition of the Southport Visiter lands on doormats around our town there will be fewer than a hundred days until the start of the new Liverpool Competition cricket season.
If you are so inclined, you can watch the seconds tick down on an unofficial league website.
Southport & Birkdale’s first-team cricketers, of course, may occupy themselves rather more usefully by considering the demands which the new season will place upon them.
This month is usually the one in which club players think about winter nets but it is often February before they actually pitch up at an indoor school.
The challenge facing Chris Firth’s squad is a familiar one.
This will be the fifth time this century that S&B have returned to the top division hoping to consolidate their place among some of the best club sides in the country.
Yet none of their stays has lasted longer than four seasons and they have never finished higher than the seventh place they managed in 2012 when they won nine of their 22 games.
In the current climate even that achievement seems faintly remarkable and S&B’s championship season in 1996 belongs to that distant era in which a club could employ one professional, rather then 10, and still have a chance of winning the title.
The domination of the top division by a well-funded élite concerns many of the Liverpool Competition’s supporters, including well-intentioned committee members.
It bothers Firth, too, but S&B’s skipper knows there is not much he can do about it in the short-term.
Rather more immediate will be the task of leading a team whose strength will be bolstered by the presence of the former Lancashire slow bowler, Gary Keedy, and the Parramatta first-grade batsman, Will Affleck.
Both Keedy and Affleck are used to playing with and against Test cricketers. Watching them perform should be one of the summer’s intriguing delights.
The prospect of performing alongside such cricketers should inspire S&B’s players and may even encourage them to get to nets sooner rather than later.
It is, after all, what many other clubs in the Premier League will be doing.
And when Firth’s players do begin their preparations, one hopes that as much attention as possible will be given to fielding, often a neglected art yet one by which good teams are judged.
Few things encourage a bowler more than being well supported in the field; and few things deflate a batting side more effectively than seeing good shots go for no runs.
Fielding is one of the little things that makes a big difference and it is always noticed by professional county coaches. Good fielding is not a matter of athleticism; it is a matter of basic fitness, alertness and, occasionally, courage.
Fighting for every run is never credited in an official scorebook but it will help sides like S&B compete with the best teams in the Liverpool Competition, a task which will get under way in 99 days and counting.
Drivers of the standing of Tony Trimmer, Mike Wilds and Mike Walker all have Formula 5000 firmly inscribed on their career records.
All three are still active racers.
Less often seen around race paddocks these days are Damien Magee and Teddy Pilette, but both are due to be on hand at the NEC for what promises to be a terrific event.
Now aged 73, Belfastborn Magee raced F5000 in 1974 on his way to a brief spell in Formula 1 with Williams, while celebrated Belgian racer Pilette, now aged 76, won the 1973 and 1975 European titles for the standard-setting VDS team.
Former motor racing drivers Ray Allen, Chris Craft, Dave Berry, Alan Rollinson, Gordon Spice, Ian Ashley and Cyd Williams are all planning to attend the special event in the Midlands along with renowned F5000 entrant Sid Taylor and Nick Gethin, son of multiple F5000 champion, Peter.
Southport & Birkdale first XI skipper Chris Firth