MATTHEW WOOD made a very welcome return to Drakes League action with League champions Honley, although for the former County batsman admitted it is a time of mixed emotions.
Having spent most of his 15-year career with Yorkshire, before being released by them and playing one season at Glamorgan last year, Wood is currently now out of the County loop and admits it’s not been easy to adjust.
“It was always going to be difficult in the first pre-season away when you see all the counties touring and preparing themselves for the start of a new season,” confessed Wood, who last played for Honley in the 2006 season – the second of their four-year winning run.
“It’s very different being out of the game, but although it is hard, it does have its pluses.
“I’ve got a wife and a young family which I now get to see a lot more of. I’m not having to commute to Cardiff (which is where he was based while playing for Glamorgan) and it makes a pleasant change to have more normal working hours and coming home on an evening.
“I don’t regret going to Glamorgan and there are some good lads there, but circumstances have changed.
“It was never an option to move my family down there, so obviously there was the distance factor to consider.
“And although I started off ok, I then lost a bit of form and didn’t feel quite as sharp as I had, and everything added into the pot, which finally made me decide to call it a day there.
“Glamorgan were very understanding about it and released me. Perhaps if I’d still been at Yorkshire things might have been different, who knows? But there comes a time when everyone has a shift in priorities.”
One of Wood’s main priorities is to get Honley back on the winning trail after opening their 2009 campaign with defeat to Elland.
Of course, that’s nothing new to the champions, who seem intent on giving their title-rivals a start every year. In 2006 and 2007 they also lost their opening matches, and last season crashed out of the Sykes Cup (to eventual winners Barkisland) and then lost in the League programme, in their third Premiership game.
“I think we all misfired a bit last Saturday, and although it was nice to get some runs myself, I was very disappointed not to see it through,” continued the club’s new player-coach, who finished unbeaten on 92, and who may well have won the game for his side, had he not lost strike on the penultimate ball of the last over.
“Timing was difficult throughout the game, but as the match wore on the pitch was getting lower and lower, but that’s not to take anything away from Elland, who played well, particularly Greg Buckley.
“He did really well with the bat, picking up the pace when he needed to, and then did the business with the ball, getting seven wickets.
“It was a tough game first up, but we’ll play better.
“I think the League looks pretty strong this year with five or six teams at the top, and we have been handed a tough start, with Elland, followed by a trip to Delph & Dobcross (today), and then a testing match against Shelley in the Sykes Cup. So it’s up to us to make sure we don’t slack off.
“The first team are all very experienced players and I’m sure Archie (first team skipper Rob Moore) has them all well-rehearsed on match days.
“My job as coach is mainly concerned with overseeing practice on Tuesday and Thursday, and hopefully bringing an extra few per cent to the team in matches. It’s a case of getting to know everyone first, working with the juniors and hopefully feeding one or two of them through into the second team, who are also looking strong.
“The first team are quite established, and obviously winning the title four times in a row is proof they are a very good side. It’s just a case of keeping everyone as sharp as we can.”
The 32-year-old opening bat helped Honley land one of their four titles in 2006, when he played eight games – notching centuries against Elland and Kirkheaton, although he has played on and off with the Far End Lane side since 2001, when his commitments with Yorkshire allowed, with a brief excursion to his home village club of Emley Clarence in 2007.
“The great thing about coming back to Honley is that it was an easy move to make because I know virtually all the lads, so it was not like having to make a fresh start,” added Wood.
“In fact it’s a bit like old times, except of course, we are all getting that bit older.
“Now I’m just hoping to have a good summer with Honley, play some good cricket, and hope to keep it interesting.
“Cricket is something I’ve done for a long time. It became a way of life, and I’ve been very lucky to have played at county level, both with Yorkshire and with Glamorgan, and there’s no doubt that I am certainly going to miss it.
“But then I am looking forward to being back home – and back in Yorkshire!”
And I’m sure everyone (except Honley’s 13 Premiership rivals, of course) will be delighted to see Wood back in the groove in Huddersfield.