Growing strong on their production line of talent
Andrew Lawton visits a club that has come a long way in 30 years with a family friendly culture
Four years ago Newton Aycliffe were promoted into the North Yorkshire and South Durham League, quite an achievement for a club which was only formed in 1986. The club started on the bottom rung of the league ladder but following promotion in 2013, they have taken the NYSD Gold Award for Club of the Year every year.
The award takes into account the match-day experience, marks from umpires, player behaviour and even the quality of the administration at clubs throughout the league.
Newton Aycliffe, like most up and down the country, is run entirely by volunteers and puts out two teams on a Saturday afternoon as well as having a strong junior section from U11s up to U15s.
The 1st XI compete in Division 4 of the NYSD League now and club secretary Lee Weldon, who joined the club in 1988, has seen the club come a long way in nearly 30 years.
“I burst with pride (winning the gold award), it’s a team effort,” he said.
“It’s something we set out to do and we are jealous if anyone gets near us, we have been in the league four years and won it four times.
“From where we started in 1986 it’s snowballed, I am very proud of the progress we have made. We’ve joined what I think is the best league in the country.” Weldon was also instrumental in helping the club set up its junior section and the club secretary insists out of the 22 senior players out on a Saturday, as many as 19 or 20 can be former juniors. It’s a system which has seen the club flourish and no longer is Weldon required to fill secretary, treasurer and fixtures secretary on the Newton Aycliffe committee as he was when he first joined. “I started an U11s when my son was young and with local advertising managed to get enough players where we could join a league. My daughter used to play, too,” he said. “The U11s did really well and when my son was too old for them we formed an U13s and we got new youngsters coming through.
“That got the momentum going and then we created the U15s and it’s snowballed. We have as many kids now as we have ever had in the club’s history.
“Now we are reaping the benefits and that’s what makes the club. The parents have been watching for years and are part of the club, it’s become a familyorientated club.
“It’s all volunteers who want to take the club forward, it’s a big family. The chairman’s wife is our commercial manager and the wife of one of the players is child welfare officer, which is fantastic.”
Newton Aycliffe sits around five miles north of Darlington, and Weldon and the fellow members of the club committee, including chairman Ian Palmer and commercial manager Valerie Palmer, have big plans to keep the club moving forward.
The club are in discussions about building new changing rooms and are continuously on the search for ways to keep the club on a stable financial footing, something sponsors Franks have played a key part in.
In time, Weldon hopes that a third team can be developed at the club and he is confident that if the junior section continues to go from strength to strength under their junior development officer Adam Gittins, it will.
“Ian Palmer has taken over as chairman and put a hell of a lot of work in but the club is nothing without the juniors,” he said.
“In recent years Adam has galvanised the junior section. He started here as a 13 or 14 year old and is putting lots back into the club.
“He’s only in his 20s, he’s in charge of the U11s and it’s great to see him develop from a young boy into doing what he does, so much coaching.
“Our major thing obviously is to keep that conveyor belt of juniors coming through, getting the juniors playing quick cricket.
“You cannot stand still. There’s always something to do and that’s why I can’t walk away. I have not finished yet, there’s still more to do. Once it gets under your skin, you’re hooked.”
We have as many kids now as we have ever had in the club’s history. Now we are reaping the benefits and that’s what makes the club
A bit of club life: Newton Aycliffe CC
On parade: Newton Aycliffe’s seniors in 2014 with some of the club’s juniors