“Edgbaston is where I grew up as a cricketer,” Allan Donald recalled on a recent visit, “I still feel emotional every time I come back.”
When Anton Ferreira was last in Birmingham on business, he made a bee-line for Edgbaston, walked out to the middle and spent some time there, lost in memories and emotion.
Dennis Amiss and John Jameson are regular visitors to the ground they graced for so long with their batting. Of more recent vintage, the likes of Nick Knight, Darren Maddy and Neil Carter remain fiercely proud Bears.
As A.D put it: “Being a Bear gets in your DNA.”
It’s that passion and love for the club that drives the Warwickshire Old County Cricketers Association. Founded in 1958, the association itself has a proud history, maintaining contact with former players from locally to UK-wide and across the world.
But while WOCCA is a body which treasures much about the past, in 2016 it is also forward-thinking.
“A lot of guys are extremely proud to have been played for the Bears,” said WOCCA chairman and former Warwickshire batsman Jason Ratcliffe. “It is a big club with a fantastic history and it is lovely that so many players from former eras are involved with us.
“I was lucky enough to play for Warwickshire and Surrey, two big clubs with great histories, and I know how much both value their heritage.
“That’s certainly the case at WOCCA but alongside celebrating the past, as an association, we want to stay relevant to the modern game. We want our members to include former players of all eras, including the current one.
“That’s why we have put one or two new initiatives in place this year. They include the offer of a day in a hospitality box at Edgbaston for the opening day of the Test against Pakistan next week.
“There has been a good take-up of members for that and we are very grateful to the club for that gesture, as we are for all the help and support they give us. It is great that the club today has such a great respect for its history and the people who shaped it.”
Another initiative sees this year’s Autumn WOCCA get-together tweaked for greater convenience to members travelling from outside the Midlands. Still built, as always, around a round of golf, this year it will feature a lunch rather than evening meal.
The association currently has around 150 members including the likes of Donald, Ferreira, Deryck Murray, Bill Bourne, Rudi Webster and Paul Harris overseas. A player becomes eligible for WOCCA the moment he has played his final game for the club, providing he was contracted, although pre-professional days mean that eligibility extends to those who played first-team cricket before 1967.
Members have access to the WOCCA Facebook page which offers news and information compiled by honorary assistant secretary Keith Cook. It is a well-visited site and a great way to keep in touch.
WOCCA members also form the nucleus of the Warwickshire Legends team which plays charity games. Ian Bell, not a WOCCA member yet, of course, is a passionate supporter of the organisation and it was the present Bears skipper’s idea to create the inaugural Neal Abberley Charity Match at Knowle & Dorridge, where monies raised went to WOCCA, the year’s Bears beneficiary and the cricket board (alongside his giant contribution to Warwickshire as batsman and coach, Abberley was chairman of WOCCA).
Warwickshire Old County Cricketers Association has a proud history but is also looking towards a long and busy future. It you are eligible and would like to become further involved please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.