“Lots of energy, lots of excitement but lot’s of reward for the hard-work!”
Southport & Birkdale CC chairman Andrew Carney sat down with Merseysportlive to discuss the fantastic news.
Without doubt, the beauty of county cricket is the opportunity to venture out to towns within the county, and host professional cricket matches away from the big test match grounds.
Southport & Birkdale is a thriving example of this.
Lancashire have announced that the club would hold a four-day first class match against Somerset in the middle of July.
After becoming chairman two and a half years ago, Carney had a clear vision to welcome Lancashire back for the first time since 2018.
“I started to build up communications with Lancashire and put in a programme of transformation of improvement within the club and put a three-year development plan together,” he said.
However, hosting a professional game of county cricket, doesn’t happen overnight and Carney explained just how much work was needed.
“It isn’t easy hosting a first-class game on an amateur basis, you are looking for a 95% volunteer effort.
“It’s a big event so you have to rely on a lot of good will from the members and the volunteers.”
The week long ‘festival’ will be a fantastic advert for cricket in the area with the hope of attracting 2,000-2,500 people each day of the Lancashire fixture.
In addition to the eye-catching men’s game, the women’s game will also be on show.
“We’ve also been incredibly keen to get the ladies game. The women’s game has exploded, it is phenomenal and it’s very exciting.
“We’ve started our own women’s section, because what Lancashire are doing as well, is giving us the whole week, as well as the four day men’s game, on the Saturday, the professional franchise Northwest Thunder will play against South East Stars and that’s a 50 over game.”
Having hosted women’s cricket in the past, the introduction of the women’s section to the club has boomed which now sees more than 700 members of all ages, men and women.
Having hosted Lancashire against Worcestershire back in 2018, in the four-year absence, there have been a number of academy age group matches which culminated in a second XI fixture last season.
“There are a number of advantages of doing this,” Carney added.
“Firstly, we get to test ourselves in terms of hosting these games, starting with the age groups first then moved onto the second XI, last year we did Durham and Nottinghamshire against the second’s.
“That went well with both sides very complimentary, not just the facilities but the experience.
“When these sides come, you’ve got to be organised in terms of food and drink, the whole four days have got to go well and make sure they have everything they need.”
The good work has built up to this summer of celebration. Proud chairman Carney explained what the festival week has to offer.
“So we have a week’s cricket, a marquee up, designed a real party week with hospitality, so if we get the weather it should be really enjoyable for everyone.”
Liaising with Somerset was fundamental, too.
This is to ensure not only Lancashire but Somerset enjoy the best possible experience.
Carney recalled when he was a junior at the club how the Somerset stars rolled into town at Southport.
“When I was growing up in the juniors, I attended a Lancashire Somerset game.
“Our job for the U17s was to collect all the beer glasses and help with the chairs.
“But in the Somerset team, Viv Richards scored 189, Ian Botham and Joel Garner both played for Somerset, on the Lancashire side there were internationals too!
“This is the first time we have had Somerset since then so we want to ensure they and their supporters enjoy the experience so we’ve been writing and talking to their team down there.”
Carney joked about the plans to bring in the finest west country cider for the travelling support.
The success of this summer will hopefully set the standard for the club as Carney hopes this will not be a ‘one off’.
“To have that level of exposure, is important because we are hoping this is not a one off, we are hoping this is a new era for the next 3 to 5 years, commercially we can benefit from the occasion.”
Without doubt, the week of July 11 there will be no better place to be than the Trafalgar Road ground, home of Southport & Birkdale.
And who knows, with his England career up in the air, a possible appearance from all time Lancashire legend Jimmy Anderson.