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Shropshire County Cricket Club chairman John Hulme shares his thoughts ahead of the start of the new season this weekend


As the curtain rises on a new season, Shropshire cricket followers can look forward to what promises to be a summer of competitive and exciting cricket.

With significant steps having been taken to strengthen the squad over recent months, it is very much hoped that our supporters will have something to cheer with the prospect of better times ahead.

A full complement of white and red ball cricket, the keenly awaited Showcase game against Worcestershire CCC, and an attractive schedule of Development/2nd XI fixtures, playing under the new banner of Shropshire Leopards, should cater for all interests.

Since the end of last season, there has been much change, both on and off the field. Charlie Home has returned to the fold and will take over the captaincy from Graham Wagg and Sam Whitney, to whom we extend our special thanks for their joint efforts last season in difficult circumstances. We all wish Charlie every possible success in joining forces with his father, Ed, our new head of cricket.

Andrew Huxley, whose family and company, Besblock, have been long-standing and generous supporters of the county club over the years, will become president elect, following Bill Bromley’s decision to step down. We extend a very warm welcome to both Ed and Andrew.

Ed’s appointment is seen as an important piece in the jigsaw as we look to improve the overall performance and development of the side which remains in transition.

After the progress made in 2021, we were faced with new challenges last season, in terms of availability of players owing to illness, injury, university commitments, examinations, and scheduling of first-class county 2nd XI fixtures. This meant we used nearly 40 players in all three formats.

Whilst this gave opportunity to others, it became increasingly apparent as the season developed that following the financial cuts made to personnel owing to the impact of Covid-19, there remained a pressing need to appoint a team manager and co-ordinator on a voluntary basis.

Ed happily answered the call. Shropshire cricket has long been part of his family’s DNA. Ed has impressive credentials and he has worked extremely hard with the coaching staff of Dave Nock, Ian Roe and Rod Jones over the winter months to assemble a core squad of players ready for this coming season.

Ed himself has played a lot of good cricket. He has a very sound knowledge of the game with extensive contacts.

With increased sponsorship facilitating new signings, Ed’s appointment, it is hoped, will help harness and underpin performances on the field of play.

Our playing resources in Shropshire are nowhere near as great as those of some of our counterparts. It is a simple matter of demographics and the need to strengthen the squad is fundamental if we are to remain competitive at all times, attain a greater level of consistency and ultimately challenge for honours.

The permitted use of three players from outside the county who have not been born or educated in Shropshire, or currently play their club cricket in the county, will not only add much-needed experience to the side.

It will also help to support and develop our own young home grown players which remains first and foremost our overriding objective in helping them progress to playing at a higher level should that chance present itself. Competition for places can only be healthy and we remain very keen to achieve a balance between development and success.

The Shropshire Leopards Development/2nd XI will play a pivotal in the county pathway, in helping those aspiring young players bridge the not insignificant gap between age group cricket and National Counties level. It will also give late developers and those, who may hitherto have slipped under the radar, the opportunity to display their talents and come under the selectors’ eyes.

In the meantime, tribute must be paid to Bill Bromley. His service to the county club over the last 50 years and beyond has been immeasurable. One of life’s true characters, Bill’s love and enthusiasm for the game knows no bounds. The affection and respect with which he is held extends well beyond the boundaries of Shropshire.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the county club winning the Minor Counties Championship in 1973, and to mark Bill’s contribution to the club, there will be a gathering of capped players and specially invited guests to the Showcase game. It is fitting that it should be staged at London Road where Bill served as a player and president, and together with his sadly departed wife, Di, gave so much to Shrewsbury Cricket Club.

We also welcome on board Chris Wiseman who through his previous work at Oswestry is well respected within the local cricketing community. Chris will bring additional administrative and marketing skills to the management committee.

A newly-branded gazebo for members will be in place for the start of the season, with plans for people to be able to purchase merchandise both on match days and online. There will also be a drive to increase membership, with the proposed setting up of a 200 Club which will include monthly draws and a special Christmas draw. It will be open to all members and immediate family.

Another new addition is Kevin O’Connell as our new scorer. He served Staffordshire in a similar role previously and replaces Nathan Bradley, who has increased commitments as a scorer elsewhere. We thank Nathan for his efforts during his time with the club and wish him every success in the continued progression of his scoring career.

The winter months have also seen important strides made in the restructuring of the club in terms of incorporation after the members overwhelmingly ratified the decision for the club to move to a corporate status by way of a special general meeting last December.

I’m particularly indebted to club secretary Richard Lees who on top of his many other tasks has worked closely with the lawyers in taking matters forward.

It was apparent that the existing constitution had become obsolete in parts, given the passage of time. A company limited by guarantee to be registered as a charity with a governing body of directors – it is widely believed – will lead to a more agile and effective administration of club affairs. We must move with the times and it is fully anticipated that the new company will be operational shortly as the county club enters a brave new world!

In the meantime, our committee members continue to work extremely hard behind the scenes. Their wide ranging skills and considerable knowledge of the game play a crucial role in the day to day management of the club, both on and off the field. My particular thanks to treasurer Simon Aucott who keeps a very firm hand on the financial tiller as we seek to build back reserves following the pandemic.

The last 12 months has seen the sad passing of two former Shropshire CCC players, namely John Aspinall and Don Lowe. John played for the county in the late 1980s and was a regular supporter at games following his retirement from club cricket.

Don, of course, will be remembered by many of our older members. He was always immaculate in his appearance, both on and off the field. He played 53 times for the county, captaining the side in 1964 and 1965.

He was the first Shropshire player to score a century in Minor Counties cricket, scoring 112 against Somerset II. Don, who started his career at St George’s CC, went on to captain Wolverhampton CC for five years and became an integral part of the club’s success. He also captained the Midlands Club Cricket Conference side on its tours to Australia and the Far East in 1973 and the West Indies in 1974. To many, ‘Lowey’ was Mr MCCC!

In closing, I wish to thank our loyal corps of members and followers who travel far and wide to support the team. A special word of thanks also to the band of hard-working volunteers at clubs across the county in helping to host our games. The facilities and hospitality provided by those concerned remains second to none. Shropshire cricket is very fortunate to be blessed with so many grounds worthy of hosting representative cricket.

Wishing you all a very enjoyable season.

John Hulme, Shropshire CCC Chairman