FLEETWOOD Cricket Club have certainly rediscovered the winning habit this season, with a little help from the local rugby union team.
Wicketkeeper Lee Jones captains the Fleetwood RUFC first XV, who now find themselves just one level below union’s national leagues after being crowned North Lancs and Cumbria champions.
Other commitments prevented Jones from donning the gloves too regularly last summer, but this season he has been a fixture behind the stumps a side usually seen struggling at the wrong end of the Northern Premier League table have won seven of their first dozen games, losing only once.
Last Sunday’s eight-wicket win over the Lancashire Cricket Board Academy saw Fleetwood take full advantage of a change in the weather (everyone else had been rained off on Saturday) to climb to second in the first division, though Jones plays down any notion that his availability has been the catalyst in the Broadwater club’s transformation.
Indeed, Jones has no doubt where the credit belongs: “A lot of it has to do with (captain) Matt Clark . I think he is the main reason things have turned around.
“He has brought the right mentality to the club, and getting that side right makes a big difference.
“I’ve never known net sessions as intense as they are now and the winning mentality we’ve got brings more competition for places.”
And Jones acknowledges that a well-appointed professional in South African Shaun Liebisch has played its part too.
“We have the ideal pro because he’s competitive too and he complements Matt well.
“Some say Shaun is a bit angry but he leaves it on the field. He has the same mentality as Matt and everyone wants to buy into it.
“We have 30 lads turning up for nets and that’s unheard of. Fleetwood is a small town and we are all good mates, which helps.” Jones is thoroughly qualified to comment on the changing fortunes of Fleetwood CC, having made his debut as a 15-year-old two decades ago.
The former Millfield pupil, who works as an accountant in Blackpool, has played for Fleetwood RU for a similar length of time and he does see similarities between the clubs.
“I said to Matt that rugby is all about momentum and we’re seeing the same thing at the cricket club.
“A winning dressing room makes all the difference. We had a losing spirit at this club for years.
“But I came back this season from a winning dressing room (at Fleetwood RU) and now it is just the same here. The atmosphere is great.”
It makes Jones’ demanding workload all the more enjoyable: “Yes, rugby training starts in a couple of weeks and I’ll alternate between the two – a net session, then a rugby session.”
And he sees no reason why his cricket team can’t emulate their oval-ball counterparts by remaining in title contention all season.
He added: “I think we can carry on pushing at the top and will be there or thereabouts.
“Barrow (the leaders) are a very strong side, but none of our players go out on to the field thinking we will lose and so many are contributing.
“The likes of Naveed Yousaf and Micky Clinning are going really well but we aren’t a one or two-man team, unlike most teams in the league.
“There are probably more talented teams in the competition but they don’t have our spirit.
“But one man I would single out for big thanks is Mark Wilkinson, who was all on for retirement at the ago of 44 but is really enjoying his season – and when we had a race to find the quickest man on the team he won.”