Vibrant East Kilbride develop whole club mentality
Neil Drysdale (CricketEurope)
The days when Scotland’s leading cricket clubs used to hire expensive imports, who would score 120 and/or take seven for 30 every other week, before jetting off into the sunset, never to be seen again, are mercifully being consigned to the past.
In their place, there are vibrant organisations, such as East Kilbride, who have developed a “whole club” mentality towards planning for the future whilst prospering in the present, and investing their cash on facilities, equipment and the creation of youth networks, designed to nurture indigenous talent. Already this season, the CSL Western First Division club, who are celebrating their 50th birthday, are reaping the benefits, having maintained a 100% record with three consecutive victories, but, according to their president, Brian Kampman, this is just the launch pad of their ambitions for top-flight cricket on the pitch and a structure which encourages every member to contribute to the cause off it.
Kampman is one of life’s prescient characters, and speaks passionately about his conviction in what he and his confreres are striving to build at Torrance House. “We don’t have a professional, because we believe it is better to spend our money on things which will assist everybody at East Kilbride, and I don’t think we are doing too badly, given that we have won eight matches on the bounce,” said Kampman, whose charges have claimed some notable scalps in the process. “We have taken steps to enter our kids’ teams in every under-10 tournament, we have junior sides at all age-group levels, and we have people such as Ross Lyons regularly turning out for our First XI, but the whole aim of what we are doing is to create something which lasts and establish a club where everybody has a role to play, whether it is for the Firsts, as a coach, a scorer, or on the social side. Basically, nobody is more or less important than anybody else.”
Lyons’ inclusion in the New Town’s ranks is a coup for Kampman, but also raises the question of why somebody with 64 Scotland caps, at the age of 27, should apparently have been discarded by his homeland, especially considering the paucity of spin talent beyond Majid Haq and Moneeb Iqbal. Yet, although the former Clydesdale man has not ruled himself out of selection entirely, it is evident that he now has other priorities than sport. “I can’t give the same commitment to cricket that I used to do, because I have a full-time job [in the retail business] and I have to devote myself to that,” said Lyons, who was part of the Scottish squad at the 2007 World Cup, but has drifted out of the picture since 2010. “I would love to play for Scotland again, but I know that Pete [Steindl, the national coach], wants the guys to be concentrating on cricket full time and I can understand that. It is always a dream to represent your country, and I have some great memories, but my life has changed tack, I am enjoying myself at East Kilbride, they are an ambitious club with a five-year plan, and I want to be part of it, whenever I can.”
For his part, Kampman didn’t mince his words when we talked about Lyons – “I think it’s a disgrace that Scotland don’t pick him, because how many games have we won recently?” – but he has been at the helm long enough to appreciate that organisations such as East Kilbride, which plough their own furrow, frequently have their achievements overlooked, with greater attention paid to their big-city rivals. “We are a friendly club, but we are also an unfashionable club, and we just have to get on with life,” said Kampman, whose charges tackle second-placed Ferguslie on Saturday in a battle of the undefeated. “We want to keep strengthening our resources and get into the Premier League, but we can’t afford to look too far ahead and we won’t do so. Ross wasn’t available last Saturday, but he still texted me asking what the score was on a number of occasions and that shows you how much people like him care about this club.”
It is fitting, perhaps, that East Kilbride now have Lyons, because they entertained the Lisbon Lions in 1968, when Jock Stein brought his European Cup winners to Torrance House for an eagerly-awaited contest. Jim Brogan took a wicket with his first delivery, but Tommy Gemmell and Billy McNeill proved less successful as the hosts reached 144 for 8, before bad weather brought a premature end to the proceedings with Celtic in trouble at 44 for 5. It was a bold move for East Kilbride to stage such a high-profile encounter in their early years. In the intervening period, they have progressed with that same mixture of steely ambition and pride in performance.