Stardust is sprinkled by Vaughan and Root
Jimmy Booker discovers that Sheffield Collegiate still holds a place in the hearts of two men who have excelled for England
According to the website of Sheffield Collegiate, it is “one of the world’s finest cricket clubs”. That’s quite a claim from the Yorkshire South Premier League team, although having produced one former England captain in Michael Vaughan and one future England skipper, Joe Root, in the space of two decades it certainly carries some weight.
For first-team captain Matthew Dixon this is less of a declaration of famous Yorkshire confidence, and more the playful touch of the club’s then technology guru who built their website in 1993.
Nestled just a few hundred metres away from Dore and Totley train station in South Yorkshire, Sheffield Collegiate has spawned some stellar cricketing names, Root and Vaughan being the highest-profile among them.
Dixon, who will be first-team captain for the 11th straight year in 2017, says the jewel in the club’s crown is the youth set-up. Collegiate pours time and resources into giving youngsters success and an untarnished love of the game.
“Taking all junior members into account,” Dixon said,“the club has close to 200 names on its books – and given the pedigree of former youth products their investment appears to be paying off.
“The strength and depth we have in our junior section is something we are very proud of, and we hope that will be the case for a good few years yet,” said Dixon, whose side finished fifth in the South Yorkshire Premier League last season.
“We have four under-9 sides, and 150 kids aged five to eight running around on Friday night. It’s great to see the ground awash with youngsters enjoying cricket, and being taught by coaches who have come through our youth ranks themselves before getting their ECB qualifications.We run five senior teams on a Saturday, and we have a Sunday league side as well as various cup commitments.
“There are about 30 to 40 senior members, and if you take into account the junior section, we’ve probably close to 200 as registered members.
“Putting five teams out every Saturday is very challenging, when you’ve got holidays, exams and you have such a young element to the club.
“We managed to put teams out in every game bar one last year, on Sunday we have two teams to put out, which can be difficult.”
The most notable Collegiate alumni currently playing is England vicecaptain Root, who looks set to follow in the footsteps of Vaughan as a Collegiate son turned England skipper.
Root and Vaughan maintain close ties with the club. Root’s father Matt and brother Billy are still involved on a regular basis and the England star frequents Abbeydale when his time allows, even bringing some of his international teammates along with him.
Dixon said the involvement of players like Root and Vaughan has acted as a catalyst for the continued youth interest in playing for Sheffield Collegiate.
“We’ve been very lucky over the past few years to have had some of our members to have gone on to great things in the cricketing world,” said Dixon.
“Joe still comes along, his dad is still involved with the club and comes down and watches us, obviously his younger brother Billy as well.
“Joe comes down for some net sessions every now and again. He got Jos Buttler to come down to the nets as well for a practice session.
“Root and Vaughan have both been very good in terms of coming down when their diaries have allowed them to, to see the kids and sign caps. That’s had a major impact for us in terms of juniors coming through the club.
“They’ve both given up ample time for us over the years, and we’re very grateful for their continued involvement at the club.”
As well as big-hitting players, Collegiate have also nurtured Sheffield-born umpire Richard Kettleborough.
Kettleborough played for Yorkshire and Middlesex, and has been voted ICC Umpire of the Year in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Despite the picturesque setting, Dixon noted that the club does not own their own ground, renting their facilities from Abbeydale Sports Club, which also caters for rugby, hockey, badminton, tennis and squash among others.
Dixon said this meant the club, like many others in the country, are always looking for ways of raising funds for additional facilities and improvements.
“We have to manage how we spend our money, we are constantly looking at things we can approve of, we’re constantly looking at ways we can improve the square and surrounding facilities,” he said.
“We’ve got plans in place but it’s about picking the rights things at the right time to do, but we’re hopeful.”
One event he was hopeful of is a charity dinner night, featuring a question and answer session with Vaughan, Root and Kettleborough within the next few months.
The quality of the facilities and fervent popularity of the game in this pocket of the county has led to calls for more first-class Yorkshire games to be held at the ground.
“There’s a continued shout from the South Yorkshire element of supporters that there should be some sort of fixture at the club,” Dixon said.
“We haven’t had a first-class fixture there for some time – the brethren of south Yorkshire think we’re a bit hard done by!
“That’s where we miss out to a certain degree, we’ve hosted a few 2nd XI games, but I think it’s a place where opposition teams like to come and play.
“We do get quite a few supporters from away sides as well, and it always makes it a better day when you’re playing in front of a crowd, as opposed to two men and his dog.”
Root even made an appearance at Collegiate the day after England defeated Australia in the 2015 Ashes.
He served the players drinks, and, according to Dixon, was fairly red-eyed after the England’s team’s celebrations the night before.
“We were playing on the Sunday and he came on to serve us drink at the half time break,” said Dixon.
“He was looking slightly worse for wear.”
They have both been very good in terms of coming down when their diaries have allowed them to, to see the kids and sign caps
Back home: Joe Root returned to Sheffield Collegiate earlier this year
Family: Joe Root with (L-R) grandad Don, Dad Matt and brother Billy