Fylde coast cricket preview: The rise of Kirkham and Wesham
One of the success stories of this cricket season on the Fylde is being written at Kirkham and Wesham CC.
Not only are the team holding their own following promotion to the premier league of the Palace Shield, they are leading the way among the Fylde coast’s five top-flight clubs.
Last weekend’s three-wicket win over struggling Fylde left K&W in fourth place as the season moved into its second half.
That success on the field mirrors impressive growth off it at the club on Kirkham’s Wellington Street.
Chairman Jason Oldfield has been involved since joining the club as a junior player 30 years ago and is thoroughly enjoying the current campaign.
He told The Gazette: “What’s happening now is the culmination of a 10-year plan, which has all come together for us.
“Before then, Kirkham and Wesham were languishing in division two and didn’t even have a junior section. We were on a downward spiral which was difficult to reverse.
“The start of the process was to bring the junior section back and we have built from there.
“The current first team contains players who have come through that junior structure, with a few others we’ve gathered along the way.
“Some clubs have folded in recent years, including our arch-rivals Freckleton, and a couple of their players joined us to supplement our young side.”
Jason is just as pleased by the development of the club as a community focal point.
He added: “The rise of the team has gone hand in hand with the growth of the club off the field.
“We open the clubhouse as a pub most evenings and have benefited from a lot of pubs closing.
“We’ve gone at it full bore and established the club as a real social hub.
“We used lockdown to completely overhaul the clubhouse.
“We’ve built a huge patio and we’re packed most evenings.”
A cornerstone of the rebuilding work on the field has been Antony Wilson, now in his fifth year as first XI captain.
“I think we have surprised ourselves this season,” Antony said. “In the one-off competition last year we played premier division teams and really struggled, so we thought we would be in a relegation battle – but we’ve focused on doing the basics well and that has really paid off.
“This is my 11th year at the club and there have been ups and downs. At the start it was about stabilising the team and getting us winning.
“Now it’s a different type of captaincy – it’s about maximising the potential of the team and getting the best out of the group.”
A Lancashire Cricket Foundation coach who works in schools, Antony also runs his own coaching business but still manages to give his all for the team.
His best return of the season is a five-wicket haul in this month’s victory over Garstang in the league’s T20 competition.
Kirkham and Wesham are riding high in that format too and are second in their group after four games.
Like chairman Jason, Antony is a product of the junior section and has been part of the club’s growth.
“Having so many players coming through to the first team from the juniors is really pleasing for me as captain,” he said.
“Some of these lads have been at the club for a long time and it just proves that hard work behind the scenes can pay off.
“I started in the Under-13s and worked my way up through the age groups.
“It’s been a great experience and I love seeing the young players on the same journey I have made.”
Kirkham and Wesham, who are 18 points behind Shield leaders Vernon Carus, are in derby action again this weekend when they travel to eighth-placed Great Eccleston.
It’s a double-header weekend for the Fylde coast’s Northern Premier League teams – and a triple-header in Blackpool’s case.
That’s because the second round of group games in the league’s Readers T20 competition takes place on Sunday.
As one of the ‘home’ teams, Blackpool are scheduled for two matches on the same day, against Kendal and then Longridge.
However, with Stanley Park unavailable for a further fortnight, Longridge have agreed to stage both matches.
Blackpool won their opening tie in the competition at Fleetwood, who are still seeking their first victory, as are St Annes.
Northern Premier League (12.30): Garstang v Blackpool, Fleetwood v Netherfield, Lancaster v St Annes, Kendal v Fulwood and Broughton, Leyland v Longridge, Morecambe v Chorley
Liverpool Competition first division (12.0): St Helens Town v Lytham
Moore and Smalley Palace Shield premier division (1.30): Barrow v South Shore, Croston v Thornton Cleveleys, Fylde v Vernon Carus, Great Eccleston v Kirkham and Wesham, Eccleston v Penrith, Penwortham v Preston
Division 1B: Chorley 2 v Blackpool 2, Garstang 2 v Fleetwood 2, Longridge 2 v Great Eccleston 2, St Annes 2 v Kendal 2.
Division 2: Preston 2 v Wrea Green, Thornton Cleveleys 2 v Great Eccleston 2, Vernon Carus 2 v Norcross.
NPCL Readers T20 (3.0 unless stated): Blackpool v Kendal (11.30), Blackpool v Longridge (both Blackpool matches at Longridge), Fulwood and Broughton v Fleetwood, Netherfield v St Annes