It’s been cricket mania in Manchester with England retaining the Ashes.

On Sunday Man United legend Gary Neville spoke to Radio 5 Live about his early days playing cricket in the Bolton League for Greenmount.

Both Gary and his brother Phil were extremely talented cricketers before they chose to follow a career in football.

Local cricket clubs around the region play an important role in bringing their local community together. Strangers come together at a young age to develop friendships and become part of a team. It also gives parents the opportunity to get involved too – whether it’s helping to run the many teams, coaching or even umpiring.

In the interview Gary tells of the important role that his cricket club played in his development as a successful sportsman. Unlike football, cricket allowed a young Neville to mix and play with older players and the experience aided his personal and sporting growth. He also talks about how the professionals at the club immersed themselves in the wider community.

Forever Manchester’s Marketing Director, Paul Haworth, also played cricket in the Bolton League for Kearsley Cricket Club and, being of similar age to Gary and Phil Neville, he played against them in junior cricket. Paul’s teammate was West Indian cricketer Steve Dublin, who was mentioned in the interview, and he can relate to Gary’s comments regarding the importance of local sports clubs in benefiting the local community.

“Kearsley was a well-supported club with over 500 local people turning up to watch the first team games. Everyone was connected in some way or other. I was up at the cricket club seven days a week – it provided us with somewhere to hang out as well as keeping us active. It was great for my parents to get involved with something that I was doing too. My dad became a qualified umpire as a result and he met other people in the area. Some parents helped with maintenance of the ground whilst others helped preparing refreshments.  We needed transport for away matches so some parents would give lifts. It was a real sense of community.”

Many sports clubs are self-sustaining but like any community club or project they need financial support from various funding bodies to continue providing for their local community.

We need to continue to support clubs like this and help to encourage local people to get more involved.  Over the last 3 years Forever Manchester has awarded funds to over 50 cricket clubs across the region but we’d like to help even more.

If you have a passion for cricket or sport and want to help us to continue to support grassroots clubs like this please make a donation HERE.