GREATER MANCHESTER CRICKET LEAGUE 2016-PRESENT
The new league comprised 8 divisions on its inception, with the Premier Division at the apex of a pyramidal structure. Thornham’s First XI was placed - on the basis of final league positions in the L&CL, in Division 2 - the third tier - alongside Prestwich and Glossop Second XIs, and Wythenshawe First XI, the last of whom they had not encountered since the closing years of the Lancashire and Cheshire League. The Second XI would begin life in the new structure contesting Division 4 East. There were an additional 5 Sunday Leagues, and Thornham’s Third Team featured in Division 1B. This brief description gives a flavour of the administrative complexity of the new order.
The First XI were reinforced by the arrival of Kaleb Day and Jack Baird, young Australians who were able to bring junior coaching competences to complement their playing ability, and George Walker, who joined Thornham from Middleton. The team got off to a flying start, winning their first three matches, before the realities of life in the new league crystallised. Winning 9 and losing 7 - their best performance for several years - the team finished in ninth place out of the twelve in the league, but with sufficient positives to draw out of the season to encourage optimism. The Second XI fared less well, winning only 3 games and losing, finishing thirteenth and being relegated to Division 5 (South and East) for the 2017 season. In contrast, the Third XI shone in their new league, and won the championship at the first time of asking. The events of the season were overshadowed by the loss, in September, of Sam Micklethwaite. Sam succumbed to the disease with which he had been struggling throughout his heroic efforts in spearheading the improvements to the Club. Survived by his wife, Marie - already an indispensable committee member - and his sons Andrew and Matthew, both of whom had performed with distinction in the First XI, Sam’s loss was keenly felt by the many members and locals who had been seized with admiration for his efforts. Knowing how precious time was, Sam appreciated how much could be wasted in discussion, and his decisiveness and drive cut through potential obstacles. Marie would take up his determination to complete the replacement of the 1963 pavilion, but the lasting impact of Sam’s personality permeates the whole Club. The prudent management of the budget for the completion of the A. J. Crook Pavilion, and his willingness to do whatever he could himself, along with the many volunteers who gave so generously of their time over the building, landscaping and decorating period, meant that a healthy reserve remained to prime this new project. Stephen Alan Micklethwaite - universally known as “Sam” - arguably accomplished more in a very short time, in transforming the appearance of Thornham Cricket Club, than any individual in the proud history of the Club, and deserves to be celebrated as a true “giant” in that history. As long as cricket is played on our little village ground, Sam will be remembered.
2017 saw the return of a player who had several spells at Thornham. Phill Sutcliffe returned and Phil Deakin, a very experienced campaigner with Littleborough CC, would be captain. With the addition of overseas players, Sam Kindlen, Ryan Fletcher and Tom Sargeant, and homegrown players Scott Howarth and Chris Heywood - both sons of longserving players - Deakin’s influence galvanised a collection of talented individuals into an effective team, and the First XI achieved their first major honour since 1985, defeating Bolton’s Deane and Darby CC in the 1st XI “Per-Fit Windows” Cup Competition Final, on Bamford Fieldhouse’s ground. The hero of the final, at a time when the Thornham batting line-up was looking vulnerable was the ever-reliable veteran Alec McClure. With a typically pugnacious innings of 60, he turned a moderate total to a winnable one, a feat which saw him securing both the cup for his team and the individual Man of the Match Award, and Player of the Season for Thornham. In the league, the First XI finished the Division Two season in third place. The Second XI found the season more demanding and finished eight out of the ten teams on the Fifth Division, and the Third XI, now in the Sunday Premier Division, finished seventh out of nine clubs. The statistical highlight of the season was the success of Chris Heywood, fulfilling the promise which had seen him named Player of the Year in 2016. Chris secured lasting fame in the Club by setting a new record for 81 the number of wickets taken by an amateur player for Thornham, with a remarkable tally of 81 wickets in all games. In league and cup games he took 79 wickets, at an average of 11.04. In bowling his way to the top of the wicket-takers’ list, he displaced his father Ian, whose record 76 wickets had stood since 2002. Ian’s reaction was justifiably mixed: “if anyone was going to beat it, I’m really pleased it was Chris!”
The dissolution of the Pennine League meant that an influx of former CLL and Saddleworth League clubs into the GMCL necessitated a further restructuring for the 2018 season. Thornham find themselves in the company entirely comprising first elevens of league opponent clubs, for the first time in the new league: some of our former partners from the LCCL, such as Dukinfield, Stand and Glossop; some whose paths we crossed in the Lancashire and Cheshire League, such as Moorside; some new opponents to initiate competition, such as Egerton, Monton, Winton and Saddleworth. The finances of the Club gave an opportunity complete the revitalisation of the off-field facilities, and Marie Micklethwaite took up her husband’s baton in leading this. Sport England declined to support the building of a new pavilion: while the bid was an excellent submission, they were vastly over-subscribed, and would have to limit contributions to those facilities directly related to the playing of the game, rather than the social life of the Club. Viridor, however, were more encouraging, and approved an application for £40,000. To delay would mean the loss of this one-off award: another bid for the same cause would not be countenanced, so the decision was taken to commission the building work, even though the requisite funds to complete the fixtures and fittings was not yet accounted for. Once again, as soon as the playing season closed, the demolition team moved in, and the pavilion that had served the Club for 54 years was flattened. Through the winter of 2017- 18 work continued , with a variety of fund-raising opportunities explored, including the offer of purchasing Lifetime Membership. With the external block- and brick-work finished, and the roof in place, came the most welcome announcement from Rochdale Borough Council that the Club qualified for £40,000 in “Section 106” funding (the fund devoted to the development of leisure facilities in the borough), again as a result of the bid-writing skills of Marie Micklethwaite.