After reaching the top of the world this summer, Chris Woakes got the chance to take a trip down memory lane back to humbler beginnings.
Having claimed the ultimate prize in the most unbelievable fashion with ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup glory at Lord’s, Aston Manor Cricket Club in Birmingham was the venue for an equally emotional outing for Woakes.
As part of The ECB’s Winners’ Trophy Tour, and with the World Cup in tow, some of England’s World Cup heroes are returning to where it all began to keep the momentum up from an unforgettable summer in order to inspire the next generation.
Mobbed and celebrated by awe-struck youngsters, adoring fans and former club teammates alike, Woakes reflected on cricket sessions at Perry Park which gave birth to a lifelong love of the game.
“I’ve got many happy memories here, I started as a six-year-old and I remember being here on Friday nights with a lot of other kids getting coached,” Woakes said.
“All sorts of age groups were here, we had a really good youth system and some really good coaches so it’s been really nice to come back and see some old faces.
“I owe Aston Manor a hell of a lot, this is where I was introduced to the game and where I played growing up and made a load of friends.
“That was the dream at the time, to play with a load of friends on a Friday night and the cricket was almost a bonus.
“Had I not come as a six-year-old maybe I wouldn’t be standing here as a World Cup winner so I’m delighted to be back.”
The day saw the 30-year-old all-rounder lead a set of coaching sessions with local kids, before an engaging Q&A session saw one child in particular ask the cricketer how it felt to make people happy.
Before answering, a noticeably moved Woakes took several moments to take in the occasion in a heart-touching display of how much this once-in-a-lifetime year has meant to him.
Taking stock of the event, Woakes added that it’s hugely important the grassroots level of the game continues to be developed and is given back to by those at the top.
He said: “It’s really important for England players to be taking the trophy back to grassroots level.
“It’s nice to give something back and people to see you after so many years. I’ve seen some faces here tonight I haven’t seen in probably 20 years or so it’s nice to catch up.
“I think it’s really important for the kids to be inspired. To see the World Cup in person and to see the professional players, you can’t take that stuff for granted and it’s been great there’s been so many tours back to local clubs recently.
“Events like this show there is a pathway which is great, and it’s a very good one, but you constantly need to keep improving that.
“The grassroots level is so important, hopefully this summer we’ve inspired many people to take up the game and watch the game.
“Grassroots level clubs like this are so important in making sure people go through the system and go along that pathway in the right direction.”
To find out where to play cricket in your local area, head to ecb.co.uk/play