A look back whilst looking forward – Ben Heap

This is the third year in a row that Ben has had to endure some grueling questions from our historian and statistician Paul Hargreaves. After such a magnificent season, here’s what Paul had to ask:

Hi Ben.  Before looking forward to an interesting and challenging year in Lancashire League Div. 1 in 2019, we’ll have a look back on a very good season for our Club in 2018.

Q.1 If I’d said at the start of 2018 that the team would win the Worsley Cup and would only lose 2 league games all season, would you have expected a repeat of the 2012 ‘double’ winning season? 

Stan has already dubbed me as the unluckiest Lowerhouse captain ever by not winning the league and only losing two games! But in all seriousness it is what it is. If you look back at last year’s preview I did suggest with the format set the way it is somebody could run away with it and Walsden were never really put under too much pressure. Walsden were the best side by far.

I do think however that only losing two league games is a Lowerhouse record (certainly in limited overs) and that’s something we should be proud of.

Q.2  As things turned out Walsden were the fly in the ointment and handed Lowerhouse their only heavy defeat all season. Did their intense approach surprise you that day? There was almost something of an ambush going on that day and what were their qualities that made them worthy Champions?   

They were no different to any other top side intensity wise to be honest. We just completely let them off the hook at 70/80 for 4. You can’t drop that many catches against a good side and expect to win! Second half they bowled well on a wicket offering plenty and we were on the back foot constantly.

Walsden were a well organised team who had consistent opening batters and opening bowlers, with a pro who dictated the game from the middle order.  They all know there role in the side and have plenty experience.

Q.3 The team lost Ocki to a season ending injury after just 10 league games but didn’t seem to miss a beat. Who were the sub-pros’ that impressed you the most? 

All the sub pros played there part and all had good attitude’s in each game (even the rained off ones) I was especially impressed with Akbar Ur- Rehman in the Burnley game at Turf Moor. We had been let down the night before last minute and he was the only one available if I’m being brutally honest. Akbar also knew Burnley’s pro so I was unsure what frame of mind he was in. But Akbar showed great composure and put his friendship aside to help us win easily. A True Professional on and off the pitch.

Obviously the man who impressed us the most was Mark Cosgrove for obvious reasons on the pitch but for believing in me and the team.  I won’t discuss the conversation we had at drinks as it’s something I like to keep to myself and my players….

Let’s not forget his slippery bowling as well and quality knocks against Accy and Darwen.

Q.4 How big a part did you have in choosing the sub-pro for the Worsley Cup final?   

Ultimately it was my decision and was based on gut instinct and what I felt was best for the team on the given day. Of course I had discussions with other senior players and senior club officials but the final call was left to me based on what I thought the side needed.

Q.5 The Cup final was such a big day for everybody. At 50-odd for 5 did it cross your mind that we’d blown it? Tell us a little about the post-match celebrations?   

I’ll let you into a secret I never ever once in my thoughts or dreams pictured us losing the final. It never crept into mind once … until of course Francois and Paddy’s dismissals. Yes I was worried that I was about to lose the biggest final in Lancs League history. But in the back of my mind I know it’s only one partnership away and the players to come in had tons of experience and lots of ability to come with it.

After the match it was just about enjoying the moment with Family, Friend’s and spectators. Once the presentation had finished I actually nipped home for 45 min just to let my dogs out and have a moment to myself. When I arrived back it was just nice to see everyone so happy and I took my time in the changing rooms having chats with various players and players from other teams.

Once the sun set we did then party long into the night!

Q.6 I speculated in my Worsley Cup match report about your final motivational speech to the team. Can you give us an idea of what you said?       

There wasn’t too much Churchillian about my final words to the team. It was about keeping calm and looking after your own game. I truly believed man for man we were slightly the better team and if we looked after our own performance we would come out on top.

I do however find it totally disrespectful from some people who claimed we only won because of Mark’s innings. Yes he held us together and it was a match winning knock. But Charlie Cottam under a huge amount of pressure and against arguably the most professional like bowling attack in the League scored more than any Burnley player at a strike rate of nearly 60 (Higher than both professionals). Let’s not forget the fielding and catches taken. Both Blez and Hawkey when under huge pressure again took it to the bowlers at a run a ball when many would perhaps tried to nervously see us over the line.

 Q.7 On to 2019. Are you looking forward to Jonny Whitehead’s return?  I have to ask you, tongue in cheek, who’ll run the other out first? 

Jonny is a high class player and it’s great to have him back. He will score big runs for Lowerhouse and can win games on his own.

Don’t be so presumptuous Paul… We may not open the batting together…..

Q.8 A criticism of the Club might be that after the introduction of the Martins, the Baileys, Walker and Whitehead about 8/9 years ago, that we are now finding it harder to produce first teamers. Do you think that is valid and if not which promising youngsters do you tip to emerge in the next couple of seasons?   

I think the strength of the first team compared to 10/11 years ago has had a huge impact on this. Boys aged 14/15 rarely get exposure in the 1st XI like some of those players you mentioned did. The talent is still there it’s just perhaps taking a little longer to come to fruition.

There will be a number of 2nd XI players who aren’t the youngest any more but will want strong starts to the season to try and force their way into the side.

 Q. 9 The team for 2019 seems to have most bases covered. Are there, though, any areas that might constitute an Achilles heel?           

I don’t think so, no. We do have most bases covered however that means nothing. It’s about all pulling in the same direction and it not being about one person. Enjoying ourselves is the main thing then the rest will follow

Q. 10 Give us an idea of the fitness work you and the team do as part of your winter training?     

Unfortunately with the ever changing society and people with busy jobs and young families we don’t get together as much as we used to. We do a group run once a week which has been good fun but the squad all look after themselves pretty much.

It’s no secret that when I first got the captaincy I was the un-fittest in the team. I think this has now changed and I’ve tried to be more of example to not just the players but the juniors at the club.

Q. 11 I know by your nature that you’ll be competing hard on all fronts in the coming season but is there one competition that you’d have special satisfaction in winning? 

With the strength of the league these days I don’t think you can single out one competition. You just play game by game and hope that come the business end of the season you are in the mix for some silverware.

 Q. 12  Normally the Ron Singleton trophy would be seen as just slightly more important than a pre-season friendly but with it being against Walsden, is it very important to put an early marker down?       

Possibly…..But I’m sure both sides will be a different animal come the league games.

Q.13 Walsden are obviously a dangerous team and I’d suggest Darwen are in the same category. Who else do you predict to have strong seasons in 2019?

Burnley will be strong for sure along with those two. Perhaps Church and Clitheroe as well will challenge for a trophy.

Q. 14 from Anne Crochane: Given the success of your step daughter Liberty, would you like to see a ladies team at Lowerhouse?                                                

I personally would like to see a women’s team at Lowerhouse but I know there are many obstacles to overcome for this to happen. Some I can acknowledge and some I disagree with.

On a personal note  though I hope to see Liberty in the new fourth team this year and hopefully push for third and second team games by the end of the 2019 season. It will be great to potentially play in the same side with her for Lowerhouse one day.

Good luck Ben. I think the competition will be very strong in 2019 but also that the ‘House will be up to it and very much a force to be reckoned with.

 

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