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Boss Lewis is 20 not out with Himley

Dudley | Sport | Published:

Gordon Lewis can look back with great pride as he celebrates his 20th year as chairman at Himley Cricket Club.

But you get the impression that the summer of 2015 will give him more satisfaction than any other.

The Stourbridge Road outfit have taken massive strides on and off pitch, under the guidance of Lewis and a dedicated committee.

The club have progressed from the Staffs Clubs through to the top flight of the Birmingham & District League, built a new home, formed a thriving youth section and added a second pitch to their base.

But if Lewis was looking for the way to mark his personal milestone, it came this month at Oundle School in Northamptonshire, where the Himley Under-15s were crowned ECB National champions.

And Lewis, who manages the side with coach Tony Lea, is bursting with pride.

As he sits in Himley's clubhouse on senior training night, a stream of committee members, players and parents wander in.

Each one is asked the same question – "Have you seen the new cabinet?" – before being directed to the back room where the two trophies that come with being the best in the country are housed.

"The club has come a long way and a lot of people have put in so much work to help us achieve so many things," said Lewis, 52.

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"But out of all the things we have achieved the youth section gives me the greatest amount of pride and that day at Oundle was the pinnacle of everything."

It's all a far cry from when Lewis stepped into the chairman's role - a position his dad also filled. "When I took over there was no junior section," said Lewis.

Lewis helped celebrate the club's 125th year in 2008.

"For the first five years myself and Terry Pearce basically had 20 kids who played under-13s and under-16s. We really struggled.

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"Some parents started to help us but the junior section really kicked on when Guy Whittaker took over as junior chairman.

"Guy and his committee have been incredible. The youth section is thriving and we have plenty of youngsters playing senior cricket for us on Saturdays and Sundays."

Lewis was just seven when he first went along to watch his dad play for the club. And apart from brief spells playing for West Bromwich Nomads and Dudley, Himley has been his cricketing home.

"I used to go and watch my dad play and then I started scoring," he said. "That got me hooked on cricket.

"I played for a couple of other clubs for a while because I couldn't get a game at Himley and just wanted to play.

"But I came back when Dudley's ground collapsed in about 1985 and I have been here ever since."

The club bears little resemblance now to the one that wicketkeeper Lewis used to play for. He spent his winters playing rugby for Dudley Kingswinford Rugby Club, where he still coaches.

He said: "We were in the Staffs Clubs in those days and we had some good players such as Steve Walker, Andy Shorter, Jack Day and Tony Lea.

"We had some good times and reached the Village Knockout final at Lord's in 1988."

But when Lewis became chairman the club were at a crossroads. "We were in a position where we could go forward or we could go into oblivion," he said.

"The old clubhouse needed a fortune spending on it. We were left a sizeable legacy, £95,000, by our former president Bill Simpson and we had two options.

"We could spend the ninety five grand on the existing clubhouse or have a bash a trying to get a grant from the National Lottery."

Disaster then struck when the club were left without a club-house at all. "While trying to get the extra money we had to do something with the old clubhouse," continued Lewis.

"I went off on holiday with my wife and when we got back at the airport, her father picked us up and said you had better read the paper.

"While we had been away they were trying to patch the roof up and put a tin of bitumen mastic on the cooker in the kitchen and set fire to the clubhouse! We ended up with a mobile huts for three years."

The bid for lottery cash was successful and as a new clubhouse went up in 2001 Himley were also making progress on the field, going from Staffs Clubs throughto the Birmingham League in successive seasons.

"We had expanded the committee by then," said Lewis. "As in every club the older people were running things and we felt we needed younger people to drive the club forward.

"Jack day and Steve Walker came on the committee and Carl Brandrick was involved. We were successful on the pitch but at the time I felt it was all a bit too quick.

"I can remember the night we got promoted to Birmingham League Division One in 2001 saying 'what are we going to do?' We had got a load of old blokes and not many young players.

"But a big plus for us was our overseas player, a West Indian fast bowler named Lincoln Roberts. He used to win us games almost single-handedly.

"The youth section also was a big thing and we slowly started to bring through some players."

The club stayed in the top flight for over a decade, with impressive overseas stars including TP Singh and current pro Wasim Jaffer signing up, before suffering relegation last year.

Lewis is confident they will recover from that blow but he has some concerns for the future – most notably travel, Sunday cricket and loyalty.

"The social side of game has been killed by travel and early starts," he said. Our lads played at Oswestry the other week and set out at about 9am.

"There is a lot of travelling in the Birmingham League. I think there is a real case to have separate South Staffs and North Staffs Premier Divisions with a play-off to decide the Staffordshire champions.

"Sunday cricket is also struggling. A real bee in my bonnet is that all kids district and county cricket is played on a Sunday. District and county cricket used to be played in the summer holidays.

"We had to call a game off against Beacon earlier in the season and, on that day, we put 47 players out to play cricket.

"But only 11 off them were for Himley. The other 36 were playing county and district at various age groups.

The issue of loyalty is also a bugbear for Lewis. "Players and their nomadic instincts also bug me," he added.

"Blokes such as myself and our committee who stay at one club for years are going to be hard to come by.

"I do wonder where your next committee members and chairmen are going to come from if players are moving club every two or three seasons."

But Himley have no pressing concerns with finding a new chairman with Lewis planning to stick around for a few more years.

"It can be tiring," he said. "But I absolutely love the place and I plan to stick around for a while yet."

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