Big Interview: New Eccleston pro Tom Foster hoping to do his late father Tony proud

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Spearheading his home village club’s inaugural season in the Northern Premier Cricket League felt like a duty for Tom Foster.

​The experienced and seasoned cricketer, now aged 30, agreed to make a return to his boyhood club Eccleston for this summer – 15 years after he flew the nest for bigger and better things.

He will act as the club’s professional as they look to make their mark at the higher level after winning promotion from the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield Premier Division last year.

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It is certainly expected to be a challenging – and somewhat daunting – prospect for the village outfit this season as they try to compete against established, powerhouse town teams such as Blackpool, Chorley, Fleetwood and Leyland.

Tom Foster, centre, is back Eccleston CCTom Foster, centre, is back Eccleston CC
Tom Foster, centre, is back Eccleston CC

But for Foster it is a challenge he is relishing, especially as the club is where his heart is.

The sudden death of his father Tony – a stalwart former player and junior coach of the club – just a few weeks after promotion was clinched, was certainly a major factor in his decision to return home.

And when he walks out to the middle for today’s season opener against Penrith at Tynefield Park with the Eccleston emblem on his sweater, Foster is sure to feel a tad emotional – and proud.

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"My dad passed away two weeks after last season finished,” said Foster. “We had discussed about me coming back.

Eccleston celebrate winning promotion from the Palace ShieldEccleston celebrate winning promotion from the Palace Shield
Eccleston celebrate winning promotion from the Palace Shield

"He sort of said it was up to me but when he passed, I think that was a motivating factor for me to come back.

"Eccleston was his club and he played there all his life. I think there is a sense of sadness that he won’t be able not just to see me play but the team play in the Northern League.

"Obviously, he saw them win promotion but he would have loved to have watched them play in the Northern League.

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"I know he was really proud of the team and what they had achieved. A lot of the lads in the team, he had coached them as juniors, so he was really thrilled about that.”

Tom Foster has enjoyed a varied career as a professional cricketerTom Foster has enjoyed a varied career as a professional cricketer
Tom Foster has enjoyed a varied career as a professional cricketer

Some of Foster’s earliest recollections of life are of himself swinging a bat or throwing a ball in the outfield at Doctors Lane as a toddler.

Indeed, his grandfather Wally played for the club, while his mum Carole’s dad Harold played for Croston, so it was always likely to be the case that he would continue the family’s cricketing dynasty.

"My first memories as a little kid is watching my dad play at Eccleston with all his mates,” said Foster. “My grandfather played there, so I guess from the age of two or three, I was down at the club every weekend.

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"My dad was a good player. I think he played for Leyland for a few years in his early 20s but then went back to Eccleston.

"It was his life; he absolutely loved it. He would be down three or four nights per week coaching. He was a massive part of the club and we’ve all tried to take on little bits to compensate for his loss.

"I started playing as a kid and he sort of ran our age group all the way up so I think pretty much any junior who came up through the club would have been a part of one of his teams at some point.

"I think I had my first game for the club at the age of six and by the time I got to the age of 11 or 12, I was in the men’s team.

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"The club is a massive part of my life and I was absolutely buzzing when I saw the club win promotion last year."

While last season’s success is one to savour for a club the size of Eccleston, Foster knows that it will count for nothing when the first ball is bowled in the Northern League.

The existing clubs will be looking to knock the villagers down a peg or two, although captain Michael Atkinson has been busy bolstering his squad over the winter to complement those players who earned promotion.

Experienced all-rounder Nathan McDonnell has joined the ranks, so too opening batsman Martyn Brierley, who has arrived from Penwortham.

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The club will also be able to call upon the services of South African overseas amateur Reece Thomas who has returned after impressing last season.

Foster knows he and his team-mates face a stiff challenge but he believes they can flourish.

"I think we have got a good mix of players,” he said. “Obviously you can’t knock the lads who got promoted from the Palace Shield.

"They showed that they were too good for that league last year when you look at some of the stats.

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“Reece did really well last season so getting him back has been a big bonus.

"Matt Ashcroft would probably have played at a lot higher but he was a Preston footballer for a while so he is obviously a good sportsman.

"Tom Wilkinson has done really well in the Palace Shield for years and the keeper/batsman Adam Norris is good.

"I think we will do all right. I think we have got some lads in the squad who are ready to make the step up.

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"We have got a good mix of youth and experience and hopefully we can get off to a good start against Penrith this afternoon.”

Foster is proud of what he has achieved as a cricketer – and insists there is plenty still left in the tank.

A rising star at Doctors Lane as a youngster, he broke into the club’s first team as a teenager.

He was soon on the radar of Lancashire and although he didn’t quite progress from academy star to the first team at Old Trafford, he has gone on to have a fine career.

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He has operated as a professional and captain in club cricket in the north west of England and has played as an overseas pro in both Australia and New Zealand.

Initially, he joined Leyland in the Northern League in his teens from Eccleston before earning his first professional job with Adlington in the Bolton League.

He has since skippered Leigh and Birkenhead in the Liverpool Competition.

"The years I came through at Lancashire, there were some unbelievable players there like Liam Livingstone, Alex Davies, Gavin Griffiths, Luis Reece," said Foster, who has played overseas for Maroochydore and Surrey Hills in Australia, and more recently for Lake Taupo, in New Zealand.

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"I remember when I was in the academy, the coaches said that probably one of us would make it.

"But about seven or eight out of that group went on to make it. There was some tough competition and it wasn’t meant to be for me.

"I probably wasn’t quite good enough at that age. I don’t think I was quite developed enough. It’s one of them of ‘If knew then what I know now’ then I might have had half a chance.

"I can’t complain, it’s been a good ride and hopefully I can have a few more good years.”

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