NERVES, excitement, anticipation. Three words not normally surrounding a Stayley Cricket Club match.
Scouting trips on the opponents are not usually needed either.
Then again, it is not often the Millbrook-based club is one match from playing at the home of the sport, Lords.
Sunday, July 30 sees them head to Staffordshire outfit Milford Hall in the semi-finals of the Voneus Village Cup – and plenty of fans will be joining them.
The winners will step out at the game’s temple on Sunday, September 3 and it is fair to say tension is rising ahead of the huge clash.
Michael Jones, a 31-year-old middle order batsman said: “Lords does feel just one game away now the semi-final is looming. It’s exciting.
“It’s hard to come to terms with really but until we reach it, we can’t really think about it. Everyone says things like that in the professional game – I understand why now!
“It’s a great opportunity for the club and the lads that have been involved this season.
“This run has brought people at the club together, from juniors right the way through to the open age team.
“We’ve a 50-seater bus going and lots of people I now are going in their car. Some are ever staying over the night before. There will be a lot of people there.
“It’s a step into the unknown really. You just have to turn up and see what happens!”
Jake Barlow, a 19-year-old batsman, admits he is ‘very’ nervous about what lies ahead but is determined to not let the chance pass him by.
He said: “I have been for most of the games if I’m honest. When we won the area final and looked how far the team we beat got last year got, that’s when we started to realise there’s a chance.
“To be this close is just exciting.
“I’ve been at this club since I was nine-years-old, it’s where I started playing and I’ve never seen us get anywhere like this before.
“So to see how much the club has grown because of it and in the 10 years I’ve been here means a lot to me.
“There are people here who’ve been here 60 years or longer who’ve never seen us get anywhere near close to this.”
Before Stayley can even think about the semi-final, they have an important Greater Manchester Cricket League match against Werneth to get out of the way as they look for promotion from Division One.
While they are on the pitch, their new chief scout will be watching Milford Hall in action. Well, captain Andy Gleave’s father Ray is.
Andy said: “Excitement’s going through the roof. I’m trying to keep a cap on it with the players.
“It’s all the fans have been speaking about. There’s a buzz around the place, it’s brilliant.
“There will be nerves but we’ve a decent amount of experience. It’s up to us senior players to bring that to the table.
“But get to the last four of a national competition and you’re not going to come up against a poor side, are you?
“We need to get our league form back, though, and I’ve put a simple message on the dressing room board.
“Win 10 games, we win the double. If you don’t, we’ve failed. Semi-finals mean nothing unless you win them.”