The school that produced one of the County Club’s finest captains has formed a ground-breaking partnership with Northants Cricket to help develop the outstanding young cricketers of tomorrow. Freddie Brown – the man who dragged Northamptonshire out of the doldrums after the Second World War and also led England in an Ashes series in Australia – attended The Leys School in Cambridge between 1925 and 1929.
The place has moved on a bit from the days of cricket master NJ ‘Nipper’ Holloway, who coached young Brown and would prove one of the formative influences in his illustrious career, and groundsman Tom Merriman.
But the school’s impressive sporting heritage – coupled with its ideal geographical location – makes The Leys the perfect site for the new Northants Satellite Academy, which will provide facilities for the nurturing of young players enrolled on the Northants Elite Player Pathway. The club has ‘looked east’ to good effect in recent years with, for example, current first-teamers Olly Stone and Rob Newton both cutting their cricketing teeth in Norfolk.
Now The Leys will provide a secondary satellite base within the region, allowing Northants Cricket to develop and monitor the pick of the area’s up-and-coming talent.
“The need for us to mentor and bring through young players on a regular basis is key to ensuring an effective pathway that could lead to a professional playing career,” says Phil Rowe, Second XI coach and Academy Director at Wantage Road.
“The geography of that part of the country sometimes inhibits regular trips to the County Ground, so we were keen to develop a satellite ‘hub.’
“And The Leys School – with its excellent facilities – is ideally placed for us to meet with young cricketers and their families during the winter months, spot talent earlier and support players more effectively.”
The school can also boast a Northamptonshire connection rather more contemporary than the great FR Brown.
Head of Cricket at The Leys, Richard Kaufman is a Northampton boy who progressed through the County’s youth programme and still plays regularly for Old Northamptonians in the Northamptonshire Cricket League, as well as achieving success for Oxfordshire in the Minor Counties competitions.
He and Will Earl, Director of Sport, will team up with Phil Rowe and Northamptonshire’s head coach David Ripley in a working relationship set to benefit the school as well as the club. Because Ripley and Rowe will offer support and direction to The Leys’ own cricket teams to boost even further that strong sporting profile.
Phil Rowe adds: “The partnership is up and running already. We have just signed Andrew Bramley to our Academy, a student at The Leys School who performed well in the Bunbury Festival.
“The school’s facilities are top-class and whilst it’s still important for young players from clubs in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Huntingdonshire and right across the eastern counties to visit the County Ground occasionally so they feel part of the Northants set up, the opportunity for additional, regular training at The Leys is going to benefit all.”
Cricketers aiming to follow in the footsteps of Monty Panesar, Graeme Swann and David Willey (all products of the Northants system who have gone on to gain international honours) have a clear path to the top…given the required ability and commitment.