Finchley revamp can help Middlesex attract promising youngsters

17:04 05 December 2012

Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser gives some tips to the academy youngsters

Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser gives some tips to the academy youngsters

Dieter Perry

A team based at the best-known cricket venue in the world would, you might imagine, automatically have their pick of the best young talent around.

That certainly isn’t a view shared by anyone at Middlesex CCC, who have dipped into the club coffers to try and tempt the cream of the next generation with top-level facilities not just at Lord’s, but elsewhere too.

Last summer Middlesex completed a substantial investment programme at Radlett CC, which is now the base for their second XI and will host a first-team match for the first time in 2013.

More recently, the club have spent in the region of £70,000 on revamping their academy at Finchley, which hosts training sessions not just for the senior players but also the teenagers who are earmarked as candidates to take their places one day.

To underline that aim, the new-look Finchley centre is festooned with photographs of recent graduates who went all the way to the top with England – Andrew Strauss, Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn.

Middlesex’s managing director of cricket Angus Fraser – who also came through the ranks and progressed to England fame, said: “It’s partly to brighten the place up, but also you’re trying to inspire young lads to get out there and achieve.

“It’s been brilliant to have the likes of Strauss, Finn and Morgan playing regularly in the England team in recent years and we want to keep that treadmill going.

“It’s great to have players that were here eight or 10 years ago appearing on TV. We want boys to feel that, if they perform to a good level, they’ve got a chance of following in Finn’s footsteps.

“Previously Finchley was a tatty old place. When I was playing, we used to meet in a dusty, dingy gym and there was a bloke called Arthur who used to serve cheese sandwiches and pints behind the bar.

“We’ve always had Lord’s, which is a selling point, but we’ve now got three venues we can be proud of.”

During Fraser’s playing career, many of the mainstays of Middlesex’s first team – Mike Gatting, Phil Tufnell and Paul Weekes – were drawn from the county’s traditional heartland around north and west London.

And the Middlesex chief accepts that the county cannot afford to rest on their laurels if they want to lure tomorrow’s most promising youngsters to Lord’s as well.

“I was chatting with Mike Atherton during the summer and he asked what our players coming through were like,” Fraser recalled. “I said ‘we’ve got some nice young cricketers coming through’.

“Being Athers, he said ‘well, you should have. If counties like Middlesex aren’t producing players we might as well all go home’.

“There’s a huge interest in cricket in north-west London and there’s a big population. Sadly there’s not a lot of schools’ cricket played inside the North Circular.

“So you go out to the primary schools and the grammar schools in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hertfordshire. But we’re not complacent enough to think these are our territories and ours only.

“You’ve got parents in Hertfordshire looking towards Chelmsford. What you offer kids has to run deeper than nice pictures on the wall – there’s got to be a sense that your son or daughter is going to get coached as they need.

“We took a lot of pleasure from Ravi Patel coming into the first team at the end of last year and taking 14 wickets in three games. Other young players like Ollie Wilkin and Gurjit Sandhu also showed what they could do.

“If you’ve got a contract in an academy at a big Premier League football club, it might look good – but, if the centre-forward gets injured, they’re not going to bring you in, they’re going to sign someone else from Spain, Argentina or somewhere. Cricket doesn’t work like that.”

As well as resurfacing the training area, setting up new practice nets and better lighting at Finchley, the county have also appointed a former professional, Alan Coleman, to oversee their new youth structure.

Assisted by Rory Coutts, he is in charge of identifying the best boys and girls in borough and regional cricket and moving them on to the county squads for ages 10-17.

Boys are then selected for Middlesex’s emerging player programme, directly below the ‘elite’ squad of just 14 in the academy for 15 to 19-year-olds, while girls can move through four age groups to join the senior women’s side.

Coleman, who grew up in Feltham and attended a non-cricket playing state school, emerged from club cricket with Wycombe House and then Eastcote to make four first-class appearances for the county.

And the 28-year-old, who has succeeded Graeme West as Middlesex’s head of youth cricket, is keen to emphasise that a route to the first team is open to youngsters from all backgrounds.

“It’s very much a pyramid system,” said Coleman. “We’ve been working towards establishing a clear pathway and that isn’t just for boys who go to public school – far from it.

“I want boys from all backgrounds, whether they’re from Hounslow or Tower Hamlets, Enfield or Richmond. If they’re playing good cricket, being competitive and enjoying the game, hopefully we can help them be the best they can be.

“We’re very much a product of how good our clubs are – we’re reliant on them delivering good coaching to their young players or our standard will obviously drop.

“At senior level, Ollie Wilkin was signed on the back of his performances for Ealing Cricket Club, and we’ve already seen how successful he could potentially be.

“We don’t look at wins and losses, it’s all about producing players. I’ll be judged in years to come by how many we get through the system to play professional cricket for Middlesex.”

Latest Sport Stories

Yesterday, 11:56
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho

Former Tottenham and Chelsea midfielder Micky Hazard says Blues manager Jose Mourinho has lacked dignity this season and believes the Portuguese could benefit from showing greater humility.

Yesterday, 10:51
Arsenal fans show their colours and support in the stands. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti suggests the sanctity of match-going is being replaced by passionate fan communities online.

Thu, 20:00
Mauricio Pochettino (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Harry Kane fired Tottenham into the knockout stages of the Europa League as they finally overcame stubborn Group J minnows Qarabag 1-0 in Baku.

Thu, 19:50
Maksim Medvedev of Qarabag challenged by Christian Eriksen  (Photo by Epsilon/Getty Images)

Spurs beat Qarabag 1-0 to qualify for the Europa League last 16 in Azerbaijan, here’s how we rated the players.

Thu, 18:36
Surrey winners of the Division 2 LV County Championship  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

English cricket will break with tradition in 2016 after the England and Wales Cricket Board announced a new rule which will see the forsaking of the toss.

Thu, 12:24
Haringey Borough manager Tom Loizou. Pic: Tony Gay

Jerome Martelli struck the decisive goal as Haringey Borough earned a crucial home win in Saturday’s basement battle against Heybridge and climbed out of the relegation zone in Ryman League Division One North.

Thu, 12:05
Andreas Sotiri scored a try in his first game for Haringey Rhinos. Pic: Tony Gay

Andreas Sotiri scored a try on his debut for Haringey Rhinos’ Under-14s as a side featuring a number of young players put in an encouraging performance, despite their defeat to Chingford.

Thu, 11:56
Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino

Baku, Azerbaijan. The Spurs squad are halfway through a 5,000-mile round trip and face FK Qarabag this evening just 64 hours prior to another London derby - Chelsea are the visitors for a midday kick-off on Sunday at White Hart Lane.

Most read sport

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


MAC Makeup

MAC are renowned for their flawless, fabulous make up that is used worldwide by the stars. You too can have the chance to have the perfect makeup to suit your needs with £1,000 to spend on all the glam goodies you like!


You are never far from an Argos, wherever in the country you may be. They are like a magical cavern where whatever you need they seem to have it out the back behind the counter. So why not put them to the test with this great MyOffers competition to win £1000 to spend in-store.

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder