I spent several years trying to track down when the Syston Town club was established. The earliest reference to cricket being played in Syston that I could find was in E.E. Snow’s ‘A History of Leicestershire Cricket’. Snow mentions a team from Syston playing against Leicester in 1785. In those days there was little or no organised sport as such and teams representing towns and villages would just play each other on an ad hoc basis.
Eventually, during my third visit to the County Records Office in Wigston, I discovered the proof I was looking for. In a copy of the Melton Times was a reference to the ‘newly formed Syston club’ playing their first ever match against Walker, Kempson & Stevens on 7th May 1904. Subsequently a Fixture Card and Balance Sheet for that season have also come to light. There is no doubt therefore that the club was formed in 1904 and there are records to prove its continued existence since that time.
Club Photo c. 1907
The club has played on a number of grounds in its history. The first ground was a field owned by a Captain Parry which was known as the ‘cricket field’. This is now the northern half of the Central Park where the play area is. This field was acquired by the Parish Council in 1919 to extend the Recreation Ground which then was the southern half of the Central Park part of which is now the bowling green.
The Club then became tenants of the Parish Council and it appears that throughout the twenties it was an uneasy relationship. The ground had to be shared with other sports and vandalism was a serious problem even in those days. The club perceived a lack of protection from the Parish Council and almost inevitably this led to the club looking for a new ground. A move was finally made in 1930 to a new ground on the Fosse Way. It was opened by the club President Mr Claude Brown on 3rd May. The land was rented from a Mr Wood and was the field later owned by Syston Rugby Football Club. Unfortunately the club did not settle there and were looking for a new ground almost immediately. Overtures were made to the Parish Council but they initially refused to have them back as tenants. This situation prevailed until just before World War Two when in 1939 the Parish Council finally relented and allowed the club back on to what is now Central Park.
Sileby Cup Winners 1931
In the late sixties and early seventies the cricket club started to get restless and to look for a ground of their own once more. This came out of a desire to improve their facilities to a level which could not be achieved on Council owned land. Many possibilities were explored before the land off Fosse Way was identified and eventually purchased in 1973. The club moved in mid season in 1974 and the first match, a second team game against New Lount, was played on 13th July. I had the honour of bowling the first ball in a competitive game on the ground. The club has continued to develop its facilities since then and has now what we consider to be one of the most beautiful grounds in the county.
Club Photo 1971
In the early years the club played only friendly matches until joining the North Leicestershire Cricket League in 1908. They were placed in Division 1 along with Barrow, Loughborough NMC, Loughborough Park, Mountsorrel, Rothley, Shepshed PC, Shepshed Town and Woodhouse Eaves. I have been unable to locate a scorecard of the first league match which was against Loughborough NMC on 2nd May. However, in those days Mountsorrel were the dominant team and I discovered a report in the Leicester Daily Mercury of a surprise victory by Syston over Mountsorrel. Syston won a very close contest by 69 runs to 64 and the report concludes ‘All praise to Syston for their splendid success in which be it noted, fine fielding played a big part’. Syston entered a second team into Division 2 in 1909 and apart from the war years have fielded two league teams every season since with one exception. That was in 1926 when for reasons not entirely clear Syston left the league. However, just as quickly they returned in 1927 and have played league cricket ever since.
The 1980s proved to be years of change in local cricket with attempts made to form a pyramid structure. In 1983 Syston joined the newly formed Leicester Senior League, then in 1989 moved on to the Leicestershire Club Cricket League in which they still appear today. A Premier Division of the league was added in 1997 by the addition of five former Central League sides and it is recognised by all as by far the strongest league in the county. Syston achieved Premier Division status in 2001 and have remained at that level ever since.
Under 13 County Champions 1993
Today all league and cup matches are limited overs affairs varying from 40 to 50 overs depending on the competition. This was not always the case because until the early seventies all games were ‘time’ matches. If they could the side batting first would occupy the crease until they thought they had got enough runs and would bat on after tea if necessary. Gradually, however, overs cricket was introduced from 1973 onwards until now it predominates. The curious thing is though that no matter which system operates the team that wins the most games is usually crowned champions and the team that loses most matches is invariably relegated.
The club has had eight Presidents from Mr Wakerley in 1904 to David Fox today. The longest serving was Fred Toon with 21 years closely followed by Pat Arnold with 19. Bert Cooper with 12 years was our longest serving Chairman so far and Ron Cooper also with 12 years is our longest serving Secretary. I have been the longest serving Treasurer with 17 years closely followed by John Newton and Harold Gamble both with 12 years. I left the committee in 2011 having served for nearly 40 years of which 29 have been as Chairman, Secretary or Treasurer. The club has had 24 First XI Captains the longest serving being Brian Sutliff with 13 years. Of the 21 Second XI Captains John Greasley led the team for 10 years in four spells.
In 2010 Syston were very fortunate to acquire the services of Saqlain Mushtaq the former Pakistan test cricketer. His spin bowling has added another dimension to the club’s bowling attack and he played a major part in the 1st XI achieving a club record number of wins (10) in the premier League.
Saqlain with Scott Cooper
Clubmark Status Granted
In 2013 Scott Coopers stepped down after captaining the side for 11 seasons. He was replaced by 18 years old Charlie Taylor who is leading very successfully what must be the youngest first team in the history of the club. Currently we are running three senior teams and youth teams at all levels from Kwik cricket to under 17 level. The emphasis of the club is very much on youth but new members are always welcome as we strive to maintain the club’s position as one of the top sides in the county.