November 2017 - Goatacre CC

Goatacre is a cricket club with a fair share of history behind it. Known most famously for two National Village Cup victories in three years, and a perennial challenger in the competition, the club will make its debut in the highest level of league cricket available to them in 2018 after winning promotion to the WEPL Premier Division on the last weekend of the 2017 season.

Goatacre CC 1st XI - 2017

Kevin Iles was the hero in the national successes of 1988 and 1990, hitting the fastest century ever seen at Lords in the later final, after taking 4-45 and scoring 91* in the ’88 event. This season saw a new hero emerge in the form of Jif Wilkins, after an incredible finish to the final game of the WEPL Premier Two season. The home side were in control against their nearest title rivals Cheltenham, at 194-5 chasing 226 to win, before losing 4 wickets for 26 runs. Unable to walk and carried to the wicket by two of his team-mates after injuring a knee earlier in the day, Jif was able to strike two boundaries and release utter elation around the ground. Remarkably, 29 years after the first National Village Cup triumph, Kevin continues to hold down a place in the first team as well and was part of the game against Cheltenham.

Goatacre CC 1st XI - the 1988 National Village Cup winning team

As with all clubs though, there are many stories, many barriers and many other unsung heroes that have helped, shepherded and supported the club to where it stands today – on the verge of competing against some of the biggest clubs in the history of West country league cricket.

Born from humble origins and housed in a small playing field tucked off the main road through Goatacre, the club represents many of the very best elements of a community club. It’s growth, sustenance and development is testament to the desire of local people to play cricket in their own back yard, and is characterised by a strong sense of belonging; indeed, the Iles family have ties with the club that go back to its creation in the 1920’s.

Whilst the first team go on to represent the village in the top league next year, there is so much more to Goatacre CC than the achievements that have come to represent them. It was only 1986 that the club started playing league cricket but within 10 years there were already 3 teams involved in the Wiltshire League alongside a burgeoning youth section. The importance of such depth in the club is highlighted with this year’s first team featuring 6 players who have come through the club’s junior section over the years.

It’s also significant how successful the club has been at attracting players, particularly in the last couple of decades, and how one of their own has had an important influence despite moving on to bigger things. Liam Dawson grew up and played his cricket at Goatacre, was picked up and contracted by Hampshire and has represented his country in all formats of the international game. However, on occasion, and when available, he can still be found playing for his local club and the impact of someone like him committing to the club has resonated with players and members throughout the club.

This loyalty can be found through the heart of the club. A number of the committee including Kevin Iles, John Wilkins, Jon Haines and Eddie Jenkinson started playing at the club in the 1970’s whilst at school, the treasurer, Clive Chivers, has been in post for 40 years and Pat Murphy, the driving force behind fund-raising activities, started playing at the club in the 1960’s. This is old school cricket club territory. And it still works.

One of the benefits from having local people involved for such length of time in the club is that relationships are generally sound and the club is very much central to the community – over 300 people were there to witness the drama on the last day of this season. With Goatacre, more so than many clubs, this is essential. Club members take an active role in the management of the Village Hall, which houses the club’s changing rooms and showers, and work closely with them to deliver improvements. Following a lottery grant application in 2012 the changing rooms and balcony were upgraded and there are now plans with the Village Hall to improve the toilets and showers and provide a disability toilet. In the words of Jon Haines, ‘the Village Hall and bar opens every day of the year, not just for the cricket season, so if the club need it for the summer months we must, and do, provide our support all year round.’  

The growth of the club has always been limited by its relatively closed in surroundings. When the third XI was created in 1996 the team used a ground in Cherhill for three years before moving to Spye Park and subsequently Buckley Barracks (just off the M4), when both Cherhill and Spye developed their own 2nd XI’s and required their grounds on a weekly basis. In typical fashion, a plan was created, formalised and implemented with a square laid down on ground owned by the Iles family no more than half a mile along Goatacre Lane. Further increasing club spirit and bar takings, by bringing all four teams to the clubhouse after games on a much more regular basis, and providing junior cricket facilities, the second ground has been an instant success. It has also enabled the development of a 4th XI, enabling juniors to get a taste of league cricket on a Saturday under the supervision of more experienced players. Once more, community was to the forefront of the development, with a lot of fittings and materials for the changing rooms being donated and Natwest CricketForce used as the motivation to spark the build.

Junior cricket has thrived as a result of the extra ground facilities.

Innovation is key to the growth and success of local sports clubs and Goatacre, alongside Potterne Cricket Club, another Wiltshire club making waves in WEPL, are a shining example of that. Constantly looking forward, they have made the absolute best of the facilities and the environment in which they exist. Fundraising has been critical to developing their facilities and with limited local businesses to rely on for sponsorship, the club have been reliant on external funding, and very successful at securing it, thanks to the efforts of Sue Reynolds, a parent of one of the club’s junior players. Her contribution has made the club much more aware of the opportunities available to them, and far better at developing successful grant applications. They’ve also maximised the skills of members whether that be plumbing, building, electrical or management skills, to deliver improvements to the facilities. As Jon indicates, ‘self-help has been, and still is, very key here.’

2018 will be a steep learning curve for Goatacre CC in ensuring that playing standards are maintained and improved, whilst matching this up with expectations in terms of playing facilities and provision of additional facilities off the pitch. They will continue through the policy of introducing juniors into adult cricket through their 4th and 3rd XI’s and the provision of coaching and playing opportunities at all junior levels. One of the key areas will be succession planning in ensuring that there is a new generation of players that are willing and prepared to step into administering and managing the club. This will be a critical challenge across all local cricket and not just Goatacre CC.

For now, it’s a great opportunity to look back on a colourful history, a remarkable journey and reflect on that final day of the season that brought such a roller-coaster of emotions to a small village harbouring big dreams!

Many thanks to Jon Haines, in particular, for support, insight and imagery to help provide information and background material for this article.