‘My blood runs Bedhampton’ – stalwart chairman heading into his 54th successive season associated to Bedhampton Mariners CC
Stalwart Chris Thomas has experienced it all during his stunning 54 years of service to Bedhampton Mariners Cricket Club.
Transitioning from colts player to first teamer, holding down roles as 1st XI and 2nd XI captain before eventually calling time on his playing career just four years ago aged 63.
Oh, and he’s also currently in his second stint as chairman, is a former club president and a qualified umpire who dons the white jacket for Bedhampton's matches home and away.
Thomas' cricketing story, affection and dedication to the Bidbury Mead-based club he joined way back in 1967 as a 13-year-old is quite remarkable.
The 67-year-old Purbrook resident has had some involvement with Bedhampton Mariners in each of the 53 seasons which have passed since then.
And that is not about to change with Thomas ready to mix his role as chairman and club umpire for Bedhampton in the 2021 Hampshire League campaign starting this weekend.
Though the club were forced to withdraw its 1st XI from County 1 last month due to a lack of players, a Bedhampton 2nd XI and 3rd XI will play in regional divisions.
Thomas said: ‘I’m very proud and my blood runs Bedhampton. It’s something that I feel extremely proud of my association at the club.
‘I’ve had the opportunity to play at a higher level but I always felt I didn’t really want the pressure of going to join a new club and leaving the players I’ve been associated with over a number of years.
‘I’ve probably seen something like three or four generations of players pass through.
‘When I first started it was just friendly cricket, it was all local and around the southern and south east part of Hampshire.
‘I never felt that I wanted to leave.
‘Mainly the enjoyment (why he’s stayed on for so long). The camaraderie of the players who I play with, my children started to play cricket so there was the fact of seeing them grow within the club as well.'
As club chairman, next year is sure to be extra special for Thomas and one he is eagerly anticipating.
Bedhampton Mariners celebrate 150 years since forming in 2022 while Thomas will reach his 55th successive season of club association.
Already plans are in place over how to mark the special anniversary and, as the only serving member still involved from the centenary year, he hopes it proves to be as memorable as 1972.
He recalled: ‘I’m privileged that I played in our centenary year and we had a cricket week.
‘At that time, it was the start of the Hampshire League as it was but the league wasn’t played as a proper season in the first couple of years. I think the fixtures were June and July so you played either side of that time.
'We had a cricket week and our special game for the centenary year was that we played England Women’s cricket team at the end of our year.
‘We’ve got some plans next year for a tournament for our centenary year.
There might be some who recognise Thomas' name from a different sporting background.
That's because he would spend his summers turning out for Bedhampton while his winters were reserved for football.
Thomas played for Horndean Reserves, Hayling Island and Bedhampton before becoming a referee who officiated at Wessex League level.
Although his football commitments went on the backburner a few years ago, he remains determined to continue his Mariners affiliation for a few years yet.
Thomas said: 'I’ve tried to step back bit by bit and tried to get people to take on the reins and allow me to drift subtly behind the scenes a little bit.
'At the moment, what I do with my involvement with the club, it gives me a chance to keep being involved with the younger players, pass on my knowledge where appropriate, but mainly just being in the club itself.
‘I just enjoy being part of a social club.
‘I think you probably find you get into the routine and I was lucky enough that I had year round sporting activity.'