Big Interview: Mark Woodhead's Northern League milestone
Adam Lord speaks to Morecambe Cricket Club stalwart Mark Woodhead after the opening batsman joined an elite club by reaching 10,000 Northern League runsMark Woodhead has posted some big numbers for Morecambe Cricket Club down the years but you would not know it by speaking to him.
Last Saturday, when reaching 29 of his 40 for the second XI against Longridge, the 44-year-old passed 10,000 Northern League runs.
The opener joins a fairly exclusive club, fewer than 20 having reached the milestone in competition history, Woodhead the second from the Woodhill Lane club.
Having joined Morecambe as a junior, he makes no boasts about his ability but certainly has a real sense of accomplishment at what he has achieved at the top of the order for his hometown club.
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“I know I’m not the best cricketer, if that makes sense,” Woodhead says.
“I’m not going to break any records for ability but longevity is something I pride myself on.
“I’ve been with the same club since I was seven.
“You see a lot of people come and go to better themselves or because other commitments come along.
“I’ve always been loyal, though.
“I never thought of playing anywhere else so by default it gives you the opportunity to break some longevity records.
“Last week I looked around the changing room and there was only one person who was born before I started playing!”
Woodhead broke into first-team set-up as a teenager and has not looked back, winning four league titles along the way with the last coming in 2015.
“I played my first second team game in 1989 when I was 15,” he says.
“And then in 1991 I broke into the first team against Darwen and that happened to be the season where we won the league for the first time in about 25 years.
“We’d not won it since 1967 and I played the last seven games.
“At the time it didn’t really mean much to me because I was 17 and just wanted to play cricket but as you get older you realise that was quite a big thing back then.
“We’ve won six in our 125-year history and I’ve been fortunate enough to win four of them under four different captains.”
Around 9,000 of his runs have come for the first XI with the rest coming for the seconds and there have been some memorable knocks along the way.
There have also been some formidable opponents too, West Indian great Malcolm Marshall and South Africa’s Jacques Kallis among the illustrious names to have lined up in the Northern League.
“My first hundred is one that stands out,” says Woodhead, an environmental health officer for Lancaster City Council during the week.
“I got 129 not out against Lancaster in the League Cup which is memorable both because it was my first and because it was against our local rivals.
“Probably my favourite innings was away at Netherfield because of the calibre of opposition and it was my first league hundred.
“Playing against Malcolm Marshall was another highlight when he was the professional at Leyland.
“You watch him on TV bowling England out and then a few years later you’re cracking an extra cover drive for four.
“There was Jacques Kallis too, which was really memorable.
“The difference is Marshall was at the end of his career whereas Kallis was with Netherfield before he played for South Africa.
“He was a superstar in the making and stood out like a sore thumb both with bat and ball.
“It brings home the kind of standard you’re playing at and the calibre of players you’re playing against.”
Woodhead, who has had 46 different opening partners, was also keen to pay tribute to some of his team-mates too.
“I played with Phil Thornton, Graeme Fisher and Peter Stephens who are basically league legends,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky to play in an era where there have been so many good players.
“Some people can go through 20 years and have one really good player but I consider those three to be league legends, all record-breakers in their own right – Peter for his wickets, Phil for his runs and Graeme is the only other person to reach 10,000 runs.”
A combination of injuries and a desire for more family time mean that Woodhead plans to take a step back from now on.
“I’ve already spoken to the club about maybe captaining the second team next season,” he said.
“It’s the fielding that I really struggle with because of the intensity of first-team level.
“Now I’ve reached the goal it would be nice to give a bit back and help bring a few of the younger lads through.
“I did my Achilles four years ago and I’ve never been the same since.
“I’m down to one game a weekend. People at work on Monday know how my cricket has gone because if I limp in I’ve done well, and if I walk in I’ve got a single-figure score!
“I’ve got a young daughter Isabelle, who has just turned seven as well.
“I had family later than some and I think that allowed me to play as much as I did. But now my priorities have changed, whereas cricket always used to come first.”