First class cricket returns to Southport & Birkdale Cricket Club when Lancashire entertain Hampshire, in June. Lancashire Cricket Club’s Director of Cricket Mark Chilton gave the club the thumbs up seeing first hand ground improvements made when Lancashire 2nds and Northwest Thunder Ladies team, played there last summer.
Andrew Carney, Chairman of Southport & Birkdale CC, said: “It reaffirms the two-to-three-year redevelopment plan we’ve had at the club.”
As soon as Carney took over as Chairman three years ago, a club review got under way for improvements and investment: “We started on a two-year investment programme on the square and the outfield. Then we put in a new groundsman, called Colin Maxwell, who played at the club.” The Chairman said that the club review aims Tom benefitting club members, and the He said the Lancashire interest again is a a bonus.
Lancashire’s former Director of Cricket, Paul Allott, preferred hosting games at Liverpool Cricket Club. He stepped down from the role in 2021, Chilton took over with new ideas.
The club will be reinvesting cash from the first class game, with plans for new nets for the summer which will benefit not only the county players, but members of the club.
The top level games held at Trafalgar Road last year were successful especially the 2nd team game against Somerset. There was high praise on Maxwell and the rest of the ground staff for the quality of the pitch.
Apart from the ground staff and the bar staff, the rest of the help around the club is voluntary. Carney says Lancashire’s decision to host the games at the club spurs on all those that help the club: “It gives everybody a vote of confidence. It’s phenomenally hard work because it’s mostly volunteers. But we’ve got a team now that has one county game under its belt. So the theory is we have a bit more experience, and we’re well set.”
Despite all the voluntary work it’s still a big task to make the ground ship shape for County Championship cricket : “Seven days before the event, 2000 chairs will arrive. They’ve all got to be cleaned and put out. We’ve got to jet wash the patio, make sure the changing rooms are painted, make sure the Wi-Fi is working. There’s lot of different pieces to the jigsaw, and that’s where you need to work hand and glove with Lancs.”
The 61-year-old added: “Lancashire take ownership of the ground two weeks before the match, from an operational and pitch point of view. But it’s more really about their ground staff working with Colin to make sure the pitch is an absolute belter.”
The club field teams across age groups, as well as a women’s hard ball team. “The women’s section is flying,” according to the Chairman. They also help out a lot with these big occasions.
Southport & Birkdale have taken steps to make make the sport and this game in particular is open to all and inclusive: “We have to make sure we see beyond the boundaries of cricket,” said Carney. “We have a disabled area which I supervise. So that means making sure people get dropped off, that there’s chairs for people if they are waiting for carers. We have to make sure the toilets are nearby, make sure the food is nearby.”
Carney believes playing games away from Old Trafford, taking the first class game out into the regions can only benefit Lancashire, and club cricket. He says it gives fans an intimate cricket experience. He’s also hoping star players from both teams will rock up, although given England it is not certain whether the likes of Jimmy Anderson will turn up at Trafalgar Road.
There’s no guarantee that Southport and Birkdale CC will become a consistent home away from home for the Red Roses. Locations are chosen year by year, and Carney says that’s fair enough: “We’ve got to put a good performance in, on and off the field so that when Lancashire do their review, they say ‘Southport did a good job this year; they’re on the shortlist for the following year.’ I think that’s good because it keeps everyone on their toes, on both sides.”
Southport & Birkdale has a proud history of hosting first class cricket. The game in the summer will be a repeat of the fixture from 2013. They’ll be looking to top the 5000 attendance achieved that summer, all they can hope for now is some decent weather.