Melton Mowbray CC chairman James Culy has admitted the club’s unprecedented County League title double came a little out of the blue.
Having seen the Second XI confirmed as Division Nine East champions seven days earlier, Melton’s first team followed suit on Saturday when victory at Maher Stars earned them the Division Three crown with two games to spare.
Coming on the back of a big clubhouse renovation last winter and spring, the on-field achievements have dovetailed perfectly with the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
“The idea was really to concentrate on getting the second team up because there is such a big gap between the two teams so our main aim this year was to reduce that gap,” Culy said.
“We wanted the Firsts to have a good season, to finish top-half and maybe put themselves in with a shot of promotion, but we didn’t think they would have such a god season. It has been a surprise.
“Everyone is really happy with how things have gone and it’s good to see the youngsters coming through as well and really starting to contribute this year.”
Culy, who has been with the club for 11 years, believes it is the first promotion the seconds have achieved since 2002 or 2003, while the First XI will next year play at their highest level this century.
But such landmarks don’t come quickly or without plenty of toil – this season’s highs have their origins in adversity.
“We did have a very strong first team back in the 1990s, but we certainly haven’t been this high since 2000,” Culy added.
“Melton took a big hit and lost a lot players around 2003 and 2004 and it has taken a long time to recover.
“It’s only in the last few years that both teams have been strong again.”
It has been a feelgood summer across the board for the three Melton clubs in the Leicestershire and Rutland County League.
Thorpe Arnold are on the verge of the Division Two title, while Egerton Park Second XI sit top of Division Seven East with two games to play.
“It’s been good for the town as a whole because all of the clubs have done well this year,” the chairman said
“It will be really nice to play Egerton Park next year.
“We are hoping to get our teams at the same level as the other two clubs in Melton, to the point where you can’t tell who’s the strongest in town anymore.”
An important addition to the First XI this year was Australian batsman James Cusack, while long-serving Kiwi bowler Karl Tew dropped down to spearhead the Second XI’s promotion drive.
But most of Melton’s matchwinners have been developed from within.
Like many clubs, they rely on developing talent from within, and the seeds of today’s championship wins can be traced back to the launch of a junior section at the start of the decade.
Culy added: “Three of the kids who came through the junior programme are playing first team cricket, five or six are regularly playing second team, and seven or eight on Sundays.
“Without them we would struggle to put two teams out.
“We have managed to bring in one new player most years which has helped to add freshness, but we haven’t gone out and tried to bring in new players, and luckily we haven’t lost many over that period either.
“We are very much a family club now with youngsters coming through, and many of them are the children of players.
“And on the flip side of that, we are seeing dads coming back to cricket here because their kids are playing which is really nice.”