Keedy and Af­fleck can bol­ster S&B in Prem

Southport Visiter - - Game - BY PAUL ED­WARDS

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.

An­gus Math­e­son

South­port & Birk­dale first XI skip­per Chris Firth

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