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

The Cricket Paper - - CLUB CRICKET SPOTLIGHT -

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

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Back home: Joe Root re­turned to Sh­effield Col­le­giate ear­lier this year

Fam­ily: Joe Root with (L-R) grandad Don, Dad Matt and brother Billy

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