‘Dad went to watch our title rivals and I received text updates in the field’

To have one Premier Division title is an achievement, two makes you lucky, but five… well, that could be seen as being downright greedy.

“And don’t forget they were all as captain!” quips Richard Harvey as he reflects on his career – which is still going – during an hour-long chat.

But five North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division titles only tell part of batsman Harvey’s story.

He may be the most successful league captain in NSSCL history, but it wasn’t just his leadership skills which set him on the path to unprecedented title success.

The left-hander accumulated runs for fun in his pomp, most notably in 2004 when he racked up 1,239 – at an average of 103.25 – to help Longton to be the top dogs in local cricket once more.

Throw in a distinguished Staffordshire career, including six seasons as captain, and it’s easy to see why Harvey always figures in lists of top local players.

Back-to-back titles with Stone put the icing on the cake for the 45-year-old, who is still turning out for the club’s second team in the twilight of his playing days.

Memories are stirred, though, by the hat-trick of championship crowns he harvested with Longton between 2003 and 2005 – a feat no club has repeated since.

“We just had a really good team, you can’t argue with that fact. It was an all-round side, which had all bases covered,” said Harvey.

“It had a core of players for those three years. Dave Edwards opened the bowling and at the other end we had Andrew Tweedie for the first two seasons and then Alfonso Thomas for one.

South African Andrew Tweedie formed a productive new-ball partnership with Dave Edwards at Longton.

“So for those seasons we had the best opening attack in the league. Eddie was in his prime, bowling fast and being aggressive, while the two South Africans were competitive cricketers.

“Gareth Morris came in to it in 2003 and in 2004 and 2005 he was the best amateur spinner around.

“Nigel (Nidge) Davies and Andy Kenvyn bowled steady medium pace and we also had Dave Womble for a year when he came back from Cannock.

“Batting wise there was myself, Mike Longmore and Peter Wilshaw. Steve Aston also kept wicket during that time. If the top order didn’t quite cut it, you knew you had people lower down to get you out of the crap.”

Harvey had an enviable range of talent at his disposal during those golden times, but he says their success was down to a couple of factors.

They had a huge desire to win, but never felt that they had the ultimate team and were always striving to stay one step ahead of their rivals.

“We never felt satisfied and we improved every year,” explained Harvey, who is vice-principal at the Excel Academy in Sneyd Green.

“We won the league in 2003 and then in 2004 Andy Kenvyn came to us. He was like an unsung hero. He would settle in at one end and provide a different challenge to the batsmen.

“Ahead of the 2005 season we had a difficult meeting. Tweeds had been the leading pro, but we felt that to take things further, we needed to change it up.

“We signed Alfie and he was fantastic for us. Rob King also came in. We always looked to improve and didn’t rest on our laurels.

“The attitude was just amazing. We were arrogant. A lot of teams didn’t like Longton, whether that was because we were a good side or just not pleasant to play against.”

The Longton team for the first game of the 2005 North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division season against Knypersley.
The Longton team for the first game of the 2005 North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division season against Knypersley.

Longton had comfortable winning margins in their first two titles triumphs, but 2005 proved to be a different kettle of fish.

They ended up winning by four points as their game against Betley and title rivals Moddershall’s match at Audley were both cut short by the weather.

“The 2005 title was my favourite at Longton because it was the toughest,” explained Harvey.

“I sent my dad up to Audley to watch Moddershall on the final day. I took my phone out on to the field with me and he kept letting me know how things were going on.

“We were behind the eight-ball at the halfway point. We certainly weren’t top of the league.

“We needed to do something different. I changed Alfie’s batting position, he’d been at five, but we pushed him up to number three.

“All of a sudden he was getting big scores and red inkers and we were knocking sides over.

“From a personal point of view, 2004 was my favourite year because I scored a lot of runs and got the double hundred (201 v Checkley).

“When you had the players we did, it was a nice job to do (captaincy). Little things influenced me.

“I took over the Longton job from Nidge and later took the Staffs captaincy from Steve Dean. Looking back I replaced two very experienced cricketers with very strong opinions on the game.

“I had to think about how to do things differently, but to maximise the effort. The players bought in to what was required.

“It made it easier that we all got on. There were occasions we didn’t get it right, though.

Richard Harvey, front row second left, with his Little Stoke team-mates.
Richard Harvey, front row second left, with his Little Stoke team-mates.

“A couple of times I had to dish out massive b*********s and the players took it on board. I’d never played in any other team like it. We had a competitive edge and were so hungry to win.

“A lot of people thought half-a-dozen players at Longton were getting paid. That wasn’t the case. We had the pro, but we had experienced players and we married that with the younger lads – the like of Gaz Morris, Wilsh, myself, Rob King.

“That’s a lot of the Staffordshire minor counties side there, so the stuff we were doing with Staffs was just transferred back to Longton.”

Harvey proudly lifted the Premier Division silverware in September 2005 – and all thoughts turned to whether Longton could continue their dominance of the local cricket scene.

But that turned out to be Harvey’s last act as not only Longton skipper, but also as a player at the club.

At the start of the next season he was beginning the first of a four-year stint at Little Stoke.

“I felt like it had come to a natural end at Longton. I was ready to move on,” said Harvey, who lives in the Westlands with wife Lucy and twins Jack and Tilly.

“I got the opportunity to move to Little Stoke as a paid player and it was an easy decision.

“We had won three in a row at Longton, but I could tell things were not as I would have liked them to be moving forward.”

Harvey’s move to Little Stoke looked to have backfired initially when they were relegated from the top division in his first summer at Uttoxeter Road.

Richard Harvey skippered Stone to back-to-back NSSCL Premier Division titles.
Richard Harvey skippered Stone to back-to-back NSSCL Premier Division titles.

They bounced back immediately, then consolidated, before finishing as runners-up in 2009.

The following year they were league champions, but Harvey wasn’t in tow.

Instead, he was scratching a long-standing itch.

“We had a chat at the end of the 2009 season – myself and Nick Bratt. We felt that to push on, the club needed a bowling pro,” added Harvey.

“They ended up with Shabir Ahmed and won the league the following year. Bratty said to me: ‘We’re going to have a bowling pro’. I replied: ‘yeah, I think that’s the right decision, but I think it’s time for me to move to Stone as well’.

“I think he was a bit disappointed, but I went to Stone as a paid player. To have the opportunity to play for a club I wanted to play for and be paid, albeit it less, why wouldn’t I?

“Looking back, the only regret I have at Little Stoke was not carrying on for another year with them as an amateur. I perhaps owed the club that, to be fair.”

Stone had long been in the blood for Harvey and his family. His dad, Peter, played for the club and Harvey junior had been a scorer in his teenage years.

Harvey’s first playing experience was at Moddershall, though, as the number of junior sides afforded him better opportunities to cut his teeth.

It was no surprise, however, to see him end up at Stone… and add a couple more titles to his collection.

“When I’ve moved clubs, it’s been for specific reasons. It was a huge wrench to leave Moddershall when I was 21 or 22 because I knew everyone there,” explained Harvey.

Richard Harvey accumulates more runs for Staffordshire in a Championship game against Bedfordshire.
Richard Harvey accumulates more runs for Staffordshire in a Championship game against Bedfordshire.

“I needed to go to a club like Longton to help my case to be picked for Staffordshire.

“The chance to be a pro at Little Stoke was another challenge and then I ended up at Stone. I was in my 30s and I wanted to play there.

“Stone was certainly an itch I needed to scratch. It was just the right time. I’ve always felt I was a Stone person, even though I’d played for other clubs.

“The back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 capped things off nicely. Longton was amazing and we had a great team, but Stone was just as good.

“We had a side full of exceptional amateur cricketers. At Longton we could fall back on the overseas to get us out of trouble, but at Stone is was local lads. That is what made it really rewarding.

“You had the core of Luke and Phil Cheadle, Jimmy Dawson and then a young overseas. We had Cocko (Matthew Coxon) who was raw, but still got 50 wickets a season.

“And for a couple of years we had Steve Morgan as our spinner. The bowling units at Longton and Stone did follow a similar path.”

Following a similar path also applied to Harvey. In 1997 he trod the same road his dad had done and made his Staffordshire debut.

A draw against Buckinghamshire at Beaconsfield – Harvey making 30 in the second innings – marked the start of a fine county career.

One which was carved out, in the early stages at least, alongside the likes of Steve Dean, Laurie Potter and Mark Humphries.

“I vividly remember my debut,” explained Harvey. “You always had a team meal and the debutants had to make a speech.

“I decided to do my speech with some helium balloon influence. Dave Pashley sorted me out with a few looseners and then I did it.

“I was also rooming with Steve Dean, which was quite scary.

Richard Harvey celebrates a Surrey wicket with his Staffordshire team-mates in the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy tie at Stone in 2003.
Richard Harvey celebrates a Surrey wicket with his Staffordshire team-mates in the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy tie at Stone in 2003.

“But Deany, Potts and Humpty were brilliant. For the first couple of years for Staffs I spent a lot of time under the lid at short leg if Alan Richardson was bowling, in the covers, or in the famous slip cordon with those three. I was always in on the action.

“I learned a lot off Humpty. The way he batted and how he put his body on the line and Potts knew the game as well.

“Deany didn’t suffer fools and didn’t shy away. They ripped in to Derek Randall one day and I had to check that they were actually doing this to a player of his calibre. But they didn’t care. They got close to the line on a few occasions.”

Harvey was celebrating being a minor counties title winner the following season when Staffs faced Dorset in Bournemouth.

And there was more cause for celebration in 1999 when Harvey scored the first of his five Championship tons for the county.

Harvey amassed 153 against Cumberland at Leek, rescuing the innings from 36-5 alongside Humphries.

“I was capped on the same day as my first Staffs hundred,” recalls Harvey. “I got lucky. I received a juicy wide one early on, which I went after and hit it to backward point. He dropped it.

“I must have been in single figures still. We had struggled in a couple of games before that, but we stiffened things up and Humpty knew how to dig in.

“That’s one of my favourite tons. I also got 160 at Bishop’s Stortford (v Hertfordshire) the day before my 30th birthday. That was an amazing period for me. I had got married a few days earlier, Lucy was there watching, I was captain, scored the hundred and then went off to play for the minor counties representative side.”

Harvey had taken over captaincy duties from Dean ahead of the 2003 season and was in position for six summers.

He couldn’t bring any silverware back to the county, but still enjoyed memorable moments.

Richard Harvey walks out to bat with Joe Leach in Staffordshire's 2009 one-day final against Norfolk at Durham.
Richard Harvey walks out to bat with Joe Leach in Staffordshire’s 2009 one-day final against Norfolk at Durham.

“I would have loved to have won a trophy as captain. There were times we were close, but never quite good enough,” he admitted.

“I’ve got no real regrets and I loved playing for Staffordshire. It was the right time to step down as captain and it was an honour to lead the county side.

“I played with some fantastic cricketers and had Kim Barnett alongside me the whole time. I couldn’t have wished for a better mentor than Kin.

“You look back at some of the players at the time – David Follett, Graeme Archer, Guy Bulpitt, Paul Shaw… the list is endless.”

There were also clashes against first-class counties to recall in both the NatWest Trophy and the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy.

Harvey says there’s two matches which immediately leave him wondering what might have been.

“The two games against Surrey spring to mind,” he revealed. “At Stone in 2003 Adam Hollioake bowled the last over and I hit him for two sixes. That left us needing 10 off the last two balls and they were worried.

“But I couldn’t get the penultimate ball away and we lost by nine runs.

“And a couple of years later at Leek, that was a game we felt we could have won. One crucial decision there went against us.”

Staffordshire had been bowled out for 186… but then reduced Surrey to 47-4, before the key moment, according to Harvey.

“Mark Ramprakash was stone-dead lbw to Dave Womble. Tim Robinson was the umpire and didn’t give it. We couldn’t believe it.

“They would have been five down cheaply, but Ramprakash then marshalled them to victory.”

Harvey’s Championship career – which featured 3,306 runs – came to an end when he called time on his captain’s stint at the end of the 2008 season.

He kept playing one-dayers, and was part of the side which lost to Norfolk in the final at Durham in 2009. A handful of appearances were made in the following campaigns, before stumps were finally drawn on Staffordshire duty in 2011. He’d also added 1,093 one-day runs to his tally.

Stepping away from county commitments enabled Harvey to channel all of his energy in to masterminding those back-to-back title triumphs with Stone.

And he can still be found churning out the runs in the lower reaches of the NSSCL for the club’s second team.

“I spend a lot of time with juniors at Stone, run Jack’s side and do coaching as well as being on the committee,” he said.

“The cricket on a Saturday is an enjoyable social with old mates like Womby, Liam Hickey and Phil Cheadle, and the young lads who enjoy some good banter.”

Just a word of warning for players in Division Three. You can bring up Harvey’s titles, but don’t mention Tim Robinson…

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