IN THE space of a decade Lechlade Cricket Club has been “to hell and back” according to its chairman Paul Rowley.
Rowley, part of the riverside club for 30 years, has seen the good times, the great times, the bad and the sad during his time at the Manor Ground.
From having to recruit his burly rugby mates at his local pub after one pint too many a little over 10 years ago to guiding the club to the Gloucestershire County Cup in 2013 and to within an inch of a second successive promotion, Rowley’s ride has certainly been some rollercoaster.
Looking back on his time with Lechlade, he remembers a period when his club almost went out of existence and the success they are currently enjoying seemed an awful long way away.
“Going back 10 years we were a club on its knees,” he told the Advertiser.
“We had some good times in the late 80s and early 90s but we were on our knees. We couldn’t put out a first team, I had to get my rugby mates out of the pub on a Friday night to play for us.
“We had no second team, we had no third team, we had no junior cricketers, we didn’t have a lot going for us and that’s the honest truth.
“I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say we could have folded back then.
“Luckily there are some good guys at the club, we dug in, levelled out and consolidated and spent the next six to 10 years getting to where we are now. It hasn’t always been rosy at the club by any stretch of the imagination.
“It’s important people know that because we all go through tough times as well as the good times and some clubs aren’t lucky enough to get themselves out of trouble.
“I remember going to a game in 2002 or 2003, I was captain and we went to a first-team game with seven players. We won actually but that’s probably more of a reflection of the team we were playing rather than us. That was our real low time.
“Since then we’ve stopped the rot and then since 2005 we’ve begun to kick on again with overseas players, good new players like Paul Godding and bit by bit began to get us going with positive momentum.
“We’ve kept building on that and adding to it. We started our juniors section again, having failed to make is sustainable two or three times. That is going fantastically well now.”
Now Rowley is in charge of a revolution in Lechlade.
The club have the funding in place to draft in talented overseas players, the facilities are being improved on an annual basis and youth cricket in what is in reality a small outpost on the Gloucestershire/Wiltshire border is thriving.
There are four juniors sides who play regularly through the summer as well as a girls section, from which a number have gone on to represent the county thanks largely to the tutelage of club coach Luke Sellers.
On top of it all, the first team just keeps on winning and were only denied promotion to the West of England Premier League Premier Two by Potterne on the final day of last season.
It’s an impressive achievement but Rowley isn’t yet satisfied.
“We’ve had to go out and hunt players down because Lechlade is a backwater and there are only a couple of thousand people that live in Lechlade,” he said.
“I don’t know what the average age is here but it’s on the wrong side of 50 so we’ve had to go and make it happen.
“We’re an ambitious club, we’re driven, we’ve got a wonderful committee and volunteers at the club who are all rowing the boat the same way. We’re trying to reach for the stars.
“It’s a tricky one but personally I don’t see the point of doing anything in life - your job, cricket, a local skittles club - if you don’t want to be the best we can be. We want to be the best we can be.
“If we can get to Prem One one day we’d love to do that. For me, maybe I’m just overly competitive but league cricket is about playing the best cricket you can and trying to win the thing.
“We’ll get as far as we deserve to get on the back of our efforts, skills and our drive and determination.
“The whole club is buzzing, from our seven-year-old boys and girls right the way up to Joe Breet who’s captaining the first team.
“We’re offering high-quality coaching for juniors and seniors, we’ve got the new nets in which we had installed last season and it’s all part of the quality of the infrastructure of the club.”
Lechlade are currently searching for a main club sponsor for the upcoming campaign and any interested parties should contact Rowley on 07967 480666 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
New players are always welcome at the Manor Ground and more information can be sourced from Rowley by using the above contact details.