Andrew Carney has admitted that Lancashire’s first team will not be playing at Trafalgar Road next season but Southport and Birkdale CC’s new chairman believes he has instigated a series of policies that will enable the club to reconnect with the county in the medium term.
Carney was elected unopposed to succeed Tony Elwood at the beginning of October and while his news about the county match will be a disappointment to some cricket lovers in the town the early announcement might also come as a relief to those who tired of last winter’s “will they, won’t they” soap opera. It also allows Carney to focus on his main objectives as he settles into his new role and to pay tribute to his predecessor.
“Both Tony and Chris Firth enjoyed remarkable tenures,” he said. “Their combination was the centrepiece which enabled the club to grow on and off the field and they built a team of capable lieutenants. We have some great characters at S&B and they give us a really strong leadership base. It’s a great legacy for me.
“My number one priority is the players. I want to do all I can to give our cricketers, both male and female, the opportunity and facilities they need to succeed and represent the club as well as they can. That applies to every single team from the under nines to the first eleven.
“I’d like us to have a special focus on girls’ cricket because I think that will encourage a family culture at the club. The progress that we’ve made with women’s cricket this season has encouraged my resolve to develop that branch of S&B.”
However, in order to achieve his goals Carney is determined to look beyond S&B and to see what sort of mutually beneficial links can be established in the surrounding area.
“The next thing is that we have to connect much more strongly with the community,” he explained. “There are a lot of schools in the area and I want to have stronger contacts with them. We need boys and girls coming through because that is clearly good for our cricket and it will also bring more families to the club.
“Off the field I’d like us to be the best-run club in the competition, because that will filter through to the playing side as well. To achieve that we reed to create a top-class volunteer culture. And if we put this basket of measures in place, we can contemplate reconnecting with Lancashire and regenerating that relationship.
“The return of county cricket to Southport is a medium-term objective and Paul Allott [Lancashire’s Director of Cricket] and I are due to get together in the next few weeks to have an end of season review. But while there won’t be county cricket at S&B in 2020, there is reason to remain optimistic thereafter, subject to us working well together and satisfying mutually agreed criteria.”
As to the somewhat vexed question of paying players Carney has delegated substantial authority to the new skipper, Adam Phillips, and his leadership team. He is also adopting a typically realistic approach to the matter.
“It’s never an easy one in respect of what is basically a community, amateur sports club but I’ve given Adam a brief and a budget and he is now working with a group of people to strengthen the first-team squad,” he said. “We won’t spend money for the sake of it but we have lost not only Gary Keedy and Will Affleck but also Brad Yates, who has decided to join Bradshaw.
“So it’s a given we’ll have to invest in professional talent, although to nothing like the extent other clubs are doing. We need to give ourselves a foundation to be competitive in the Premier League and we need to be able to explain such a strategy to the volunteers, many of whom are working hard to raise that money in the first place. What I like is that having to make these decisions is forcing us to think through our whole strategy.”