FOR more than 100 years Lowerhouse Cricket Club were the bridesmaids of the Lancashire League.
Trophies were something other teams won, the House, always friendly, were rarely in the mix for anything other than that most unwanted of prizes, the wooden spoon.
Lowerhouse were always used to fighting their corner…and now those fights have been rewarded with success beyond their wildest dreams with the 2004 Worsley Cup win the start of what is rapidly turning into a golden era.
They have won the league title for the past two seasons and last year claimed the glorious league and Worsley Cup double as well as the seasonal curtain-raiser of the Ron Singleton Colne Trophy.
But they are hungry for more success this season – and skipper Charlie Cottam is determined to make sure his troops are fighting fit come April thanks to weekly sessions in the boxing gym throughout the winter.
Forget the made-for-TV spectacle of Andrew Flintoff’s ring career, what happens with the House each Wednesday night at Burnley Amateur Boxing Club, in Albert Street, just a decent boundary throw from the Turf Moor home of the cross-town rivals, is the real deal.
“We have done it for the past couple of years and it’s great for the lads,” said Cottam, who also coaches boxing at the gym along with owner Graham Bennett and his brother and fellow coach Wayne.
“It’s as much about keeping the lads together during the winter as much as keeping them fit, any successful sports team has to have the good spirit and it seems to be paying off for us at the moment.
“I am not saying it’s all down to the boxing training – but a few other Lancashire League clubs are doing the same sort of thing and it can’t do any harm.
“People ask what good boxing training is to cricketers but the benefits are there for all to see.
“Some of the lads don’t do much fitness work in the winter – and some of them try to avoid it in the summer – but because of the nature of the training you don’t need to do too much before you feel the benefit.
“The Australians have been boxing in their cricket academy since the mid-80s and now it is as much a part of professional sport training as anything else.
“I want Lowerhouse to be as professional as is possible for an amateur team to be because that’s how you have to be to win things, you need that attitude and determination.
“People don’t think cricket is that taxing on your fitness – but it’s as much about the mental side.
“On a double header weekend you are on the field for a long time and if it’s a hot day it can be draining. But you can never switch off. We all know that is when you win or lose a game, in that one moment.
“But if you can stay sharp you can win games – and the professional game shows the levels the players need to be at.
“Our old pro Aaron Heal used to have a pre-season boxing camp with Western Australia and current pro Francois Haasbroek does the same each year in South Africa and they swear by it.”
The 32-year-old Cottam knows the Wednesday workouts are not the sole reason for his side’s recent domination and insists the whole ethos of the club has been the spur behind the transformation at Liverpool Road.
“The attitude is tremendous,” he added.
“I’ve played at Lowerhouse for a lot of years and certainly now is a time with the best spirit I have known.
“Yes, obviously winning helps but all the lads at the club want to be there.
“It seems to be working but we know there is more hard work to do if we want to achieve more.”
That hard work starts with the boxing sessions – sessions that Cottam and his squad relish.
“They are hard work but good fun and they are tremendous for the squad,” he added. “They bring people out of themselves in an age when so many prefer games consoles.
“A gym can be an intimidating place but the way Wayne and Graham run their club is good.
“We have a real mix of players and some of the ones you would expect to be introverted in that environment really come out of themselves.
“You wouldn’t really expect the Martin boys Paddy and Joe to be at the front of the queue – but they are last off the bags and the first in the ring for sparring.”
Some players take to the ring more naturally than others but there is one most try to avoid.
“Opening bat Ben Heap,” smiled Cottam. “He’s a big unit and a natural in the ring…not many volunteer to step in with him.”