While the country, and the world, are still in a desperate place, there now seems to be the faintest glimmer of hope; the smallest pin prick of light at the end of what has been the longest and darkest of tunnels. With the prospect of a vaccine being rolled out across the country, we can now allow ourselves the small luxury of entertaining the prospect of a slightly brighter future, one in which we can dare to plan and dream for the future. With this in mind, this article will also be sharing the Club’s plans and ambitions for the coming year and beyond. While any planning for the future must necessarily come with the caveat that circumstances could change at any moment (especially in present circumstances), the club are still excited about continuing and expanding upon some of the initiatives and good work that 2020 and Covid so cruelly halted.
2021 Preview – General
As was mentioned a couple of times over the summer, even though cricket ceased to be possible for what seemed like the longest of times during lockdown, improvements to the ground and clubhouse continued to be made. And, with Steve Preston returning as head groundsman for 2021, we can look forward to the improvements continuing this year. Many will have seen the drainage improvements currently in progress at the ground. Once these have been completed, and with the continuation of the practices implemented last summer that help keep the moss in check, we can all look forward a vastly improved drainage situation for the 2021 season, with fewer games falling foul of the troublesome Scottish weather!
The focus on improving our facilities to help ensure that we can offer the best possible experience goes far beyond simply providing excellent cricket pitches for our members (although that still remains the club’s top priority, of course). On top of attracting more top-quality representation matches at the ground, the board are dedicated to turning Stirling County Cricket Club into an integral part of the local community. By improving links with local community bodies, as well as increasing the utilisation of our facilities by a wide and varied group of organisations, we are hoping to create strong links and relationships that will help boost our standing and exposure in the Stirling area in addition to allowing us to make more of a meaningful contribution to the local community. Leading the efforts on this front will be current chairman Jason Jones, who will be giving up his position in April to focus his efforts on this and fully utilising our revenue generating potential.
Speaking of the chair, Jason relinquishing these duties in April to focus on the commercial side of the club leaves a rather important hole at the very heart of the club. It is, therefore, with great pleasure and excitement that we can announce that Graeme Taylor will be stepping into Jason’s shoes in April. Graeme is a County man through and through, having played at the club since a young lad, and is just the sort of person to ensure that the club’s priorities and values are protected, while also ensuring that club continues to improve and grow. We wish Graeme every bit of luck in his new role, and we are certainly keen to see in what new and exciting directions he will help take the club.
2021 Preview – Senior Cricket
If 2021 cricket activities are allowed to take place in some form, the coming season promises to be an extremely exciting one for the club’s senior teams. 2021 welcomes in two new captains at Stirling, with Vamsi Machede and MJ Phillips taking over the 2nd and Sunday XIs respectively. Vamsi will be looking to continue the great strides that Fergus Martin made during his spell as 2nd XI captain, while MJ will helm a Sunday XI that will approach the new season with a renewed focus on junior and senior player development. In fact, the whole senior selection process will undergo an overhaul, with a selection committee ensuring that a more collaborative and holistic approach to team selection is adopted.
Finally, the 1st XI look set to have an exciting and productive 2021. Having punched above their weight in 2019 – finishing safely in mid-table against teams who could all boast at least one overseas player – it was hope that, with a strengthened squad, the club’s premier team could finish in the upper half of the WDCU’s Premier Division. And with the team seeing a further strengthening thanks to the addition of several young and talented players, this hope has increased greatly for the forthcoming year, with the possibility mounting a serious challenge on the league not a ridiculous proposition!
2021 Preview – Junior Cricket
2019 was a fantastic year for our juniors and the club along with all our coaches were looking to improve on that fantastic foundation in 2020. Things were looking promising until the lockdown struck and, after a difficult but ultimately successful return at the end of the summer, Brian and his team will be looking to take the whole junior section to new levels in 2021!
As in 2020, we will be looking to hold an open day/sign-up session as soon as is possible, with indoor training also starting as soon as (or, indeed, if) we’re allowed to. Obviously, such events are unworkable given the current restrictions under which we are all living, but once the situation allows it, rest assured that the club will move quickly to get things up and running!
The coaching and league structure will remain much as it was in 2019. All Stars will be returning in the Summer (if the official ECB scheme is cancelled, for whatever reason, the club will look to organise its own programme) and our Kwik Cricketers and J1s will look to continue their fantastic success in the area’s local leagues and tournaments. Our J2s will once again take on the top clubs in the West.
The club is represented on the board of the Western District Junior Cricket Union and is also active in the running of our local Area Development Group. By using our influence in these areas, over the past few seasons we have managed to greatly reduce the distances players and parents are expected to travel, while still ensuring juniors are provided with fun and competitive cricket. It is hoped that further improvements in this regard can be made as we continue to play an active and influential role in the organisation of local and regional junior cricket.
Brian and his coaches made some great strides in 2019 and we would ask everyone to get behind them for the coming year and help them continue to improve and build for a bright and exciting future at Stirling County!
As the clock ticked over to midnight and fireworks over the Wallace Monument ushered in the new year, many of us bade a thankful farewell to what has been, by most accounts, an annus horribilis. While the majority never believed that 2020 would be the ‘fantastic year’ that a certain poor-man’s Honey Monster predicted back in January, I don’t think anyone envisioned 2020 being quite the deeply soul-destroying year that it turned out to be. Having said that, some cricket did manage to get played in the end, and progress and improvements have still been made at Stirling County. As such, in this article we would like to offer a brief review of the year at New Williamfield. A subsequent article will dare to take a peek into the future, now that the hope of a vaccine means that the prospect of a return something approaching normality no longer seems quite as fanciful as it once did.
2020 Review – Senior Cricket
What started as a year pregnant with hope and promise very quickly descended into disappointment as the nationwide lockdown swiftly put paid to any hopes of a normal summer. Things looked promising in early March: player numbers were looking good at winter nets and there was the genuine possibility that the 1st XI could mount a serious challenge on the league in 2020. The 2nd XI, too, had reason for hope and were looking to improve upon some promising signs shown in 2019. By April, however, there was serious doubt about whether any cricket in 2020 would be possible at all.
The fact that we managed to play a number of games in August and September feels, with the benefit of hindsight, like a minor miracle. The ‘season’ at Stirling began in mid-August with a series of intra-club games prior to the friendlies against other teams that became possible after Government guidelines allowed them. The intra-club games were an enormous success, both in the level of interest that they generated and for proving that cricket could be played in a safe and socially distanced manner.
The promising numbers seen during the intra-club games continued once games against local clubs became possible, with the arranging of enough matches to satisfy player demand becoming a real issue. The club managed to field teams on both Saturday and Sunday on numerous occasions, with the playing of two fixtures on a single day possible on more than one occasion. Results proved to be positive, too, with the previous season’s league winners Uddingston the only team to defeat the 1st XI. Given that many of us seriously doubted whether cricket in 2020 would be possible at all, the late and truncated season that was managed should be considered a considerable success!
2020 Review – Junior Cricket
2020 for the club’s junior section began in a similarly positive way. The open day in February and indoor training at Dollar both saw a fantastic turnout, and there was palpable anticipation to be felt as the season approached. Unfortunately, as with the club’s senior teams, the quickly escalating pandemic and resulting lockdown halted the momentum that Brian, Vicki and all the coaches had worked so hard to build over the winter.
Junior cricket was actually allowed to make an earlier return, with group training resuming in early August. Once permitted, arranging fixtures proved extremely difficult, however, with many clubs struggling to raise teams or secure pitches after such a prolonged cessation of cricket activities. Nevertheless, some fantastic work by all those involved resulted in a mixture of intra-club development games and matches against other clubs that ensured that our fantastic juniors were given several opportunities to get some important game time. And, despite the struggles of other clubs, raising a team was never a problem for us, with County players even utilised to ensure that opposition clubs were able to field a full side on more than one occasion!
The restrictions continued to play havoc with the junior schedule even once this shortest of seasons had finished. The restrictions on indoor gatherings meant that neither the winter practice or end of season awards and fun day could take place, as would normally happen. Despite this, and to recognise the tremendous effort and achievements made by all the junior players during this truly extraordinary season, all our junior players were awarded with a commemorative medal. Additionally, two of the club’s older and more experienced players were presented with their senior cap by club Chairman Jason Jones, while several of our players are actively involved with regional and national teams!