If you are a sports lover in the county’s famous Steel City, keen for a bit of competition and enjoyment, Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club is a destination worth considering.
A club with a rich and diverse history, it is a place which offers an impressive range of grassroots opportunities, obviously including cricket.
Sheffield is a place famous for producing high-quality cricketing talent; the Collegiate club grabbing plenty of headlines down the years for being the home to Yorkshire superstar Joe Root and former Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan.
Caribbean, however, fly more under the radar. A local councillor even recently referred to them as a “hidden gem”. And, like the tenants of Abbeydale Park, they are also doing a lot of things right. And not just with bat and ball.
“We have cricket, football and now hockey,” explained chair Des Smith.
“I went down to training recently and there were 70 kids playing hockey. It was just lovely to see.
“We’ve got nine junior football teams added to three senior teams, we have three senior cricket teams and three in the juniors, and we’ve also played netball in the past. We will very soon be offering walking netball as well.”
Their trio of senior cricket teams are first, second and evening league sides.
The first team are in Division Three – the fifth tier – of the Yorkshire Premier League South structure.
Unfortunately, they were relegated last year and begin their bid to bounce back on this Saturday when they travel to Sprotborough seconds.
“We have yo-yoed a bit of late,” continued Smith. “But that’s because we’re losing good experienced players, and it’s a challenge we’ve always had. The positive to take from this is that it does give young players the opportunity to play more at senior level.
“We do lose a few players, though we have managed to keep hold of some as well.
“I think we’ll have a good go at promotion this season, but a challenge is that other clubs have overseas players. All our players are local homegrown lads.”
Don’t be fooled by the Caribbean name, this is a sports club welcoming of players from any culture.
“It’s called Sheffield Caribbean Sports Club because it was started by and for the boys and girls coming over from the West Indies in the 1960s and 1970s,” explained Smith.
“For example, myself and Milton Samuels – our secretary, we’re Windrush children.
“When we came to England, we struggled to get opportunities elsewhere. The club started initially as a youth club. Mike Atkins (the club’s president), Owen Gittens and Val Campbell to name a few were founding members.
“Even though we’re called Caribbean, it’s never all been just players of our heritage. It’s much more diverse than that.
“Most of our present cricketers are from the South Asian community, about 75 percent I’d say.
“We’ve always been a family club, and we welcome anybody. A lot of our football players are from different heritages and cultural backgrounds as well, and they just love playing for us.
“We are so proud of it, and people love playing for us and against us in whatever sport. We play the right way, we give them a good game and have a laugh. That’s what it’s all about.”
Their most famous product is former England fast bowler Devon Malcolm: “Devon is involved in promoting not just our club but other similar clubs with Caribbean heritage,” said Smith, proudly.
“Cricket is the traditional sport of the Caribbean, and the one thing about this club is that even when players leave for pastures new, they always seem to come back and play for or support us.”
Last year, the ACE (African and Caribbean Engagement) programme was launched at Sheffield Caribbean in conjunction with Yorkshire CCC.
ACE is a charity launched by former England women’s cricketer Ebony Rainford-Brent.
And Sheffield Caribbean is implementing it in the city and working with four schools, engaging with around 200 young children each week and providing fun cricket coaching sessions for them to learn new cricket skills and to enjoy the game.
“We’ve been working with young kids for years, but the ACE programme has given us an extra push and added motivation,” said Smith. “We’re very pleased that’s come on board with us.
“There’s so much talent in this area. My grandson is one example. He’s 10 years old and is a born cricketer. He just loves it. He plays football as well, but I’m also encouraging him to develop his cricketing skills.
ACE is amongst many off-field things going on down at The Common, in the Ecclesfield area of the city.
“We also have family fun days, we’re starting summer camps in conjunction with the Yorkshire Foundation, and we offer holiday activities for food, which is part of the Marcus Rashford national campaign,” continued Smith.
“We have lots of things going on, but what we really need to enable us to do so much more is a full-time worker – a project manager.
“We want to build a new pavilion, for example. That’s the priority on our agenda. We’re all volunteers, but something like that would kick us on even more.”
But, on the field, Smith just has a couple of small wishes.
“I’d just like to see the sun shine, for all our teams to play, enjoy it, win as many games as possible and for the firsts to be promoted.”