An Interview With Warren Hegg

Posted on: 29 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The Lancashire and England wicket-keeper talks about his career and what he has been up to since retiring from cricket.

Warren Hegg has been wicket-keeper for England and captained Lancashire County Cricket Club, where he earned his place in the record books. He made his county debut in 1986 and retired from the game in 2005, and now works as a marketing executive for the club.

Unusually, Warren served his entire cricketing career at Lancashire, and was part of the side that won nine one-day trophies between 1989 and 1999. From his point of view it was a natural decision to stay put.

"I'm Manchester born and bred, and all my family followed the county. I love the club, it's in my blood, so there was never any reason for me to leave."

"I've moved on to the commercial side now which is another challenge. I want to see the club moving in the right direction, like when I was a player."

"That's why I've stayed there for such a long time."

As part of his two decades at Old Trafford, he captained the team from 2002 until 2004.

"If someone had said to me 15 years ago that I'd end up captaining this great historic club I'd have had a bit of a giggle and a chuckle at it."

He welcomed the opportunity and relished the job, though it was tough at times.

"It came about all of a sudden and I went with it on the crest of a wave. I was offered the position to which I couldn't say no. Not many people get offered the captaincy of this club so even though it was a mammoth job, I was very proud to do it and enjoyed every minute."

Of course with the role came a lot of pressure. For his final season Warren decided to resign as captain and simply be a player.

"I was ready to finish. Three years is probably the maximum time you can captain, especially when we didn't really win anything. It's a club where there's a lot of passion and excitement, there's 12,000 members who expect to win and when it doesn't come that's added pressure."

"I didn't want to take it into my last year. I wanted to finish the game as a normal squad player and enjoy my last year, so myself and the manager decided that would be it."

Warren also won two England caps, though his international debut came relatively late, in his thirties. Alhough he didn't play as much as he would have liked for his country, he's not bitter about it.

"I played for England 12 years after making my debut as a professional cricketer. It was a late call up, but that didn't make it any less special receiving my cap, jumper and test number."

"It would have been disappointing if I'd finished my career and never had international honours, with everybody saying 'you were good enough to play for England'. At the end of the day I can say I did reach the highest level, playing against Australia, India and New Zealand, and I did enjoy it."

Those 50,000 extra pairs of eyes on him at England matches made the experience very different to Lancashire games. Though he enjoyed representing his country he was equally happy to return home.

"It was a special, momentous occasion when I did make my debut for England, I really enjoyed my time there, but coming back was my bread and butter. The job paid the mortgage and gave some security so it was always nice to get back to see my mates and the guys I played with."

Warren had a 'good innings' as a cricketer, and was due to finish at the end of the 2005 season. However he had to miss the final four games because of a hand injury. With 919 first-class dismissals for Lancashire, he finished only six short of George Duckworth's record for the county.

"It stopped me getting the all time record of wicket keepers in the history of the club, but I'm not bitter one bit about getting my career cut short, albeit by only four games, because I had such a good career. I'm always going to be second on the list. I don't think that's ever going to be broken, because the game's changing."

"I was very lucky to have played for so long in the side. It was time to go and it was my decision. I went at the top of my game, I never got dropped or left out of the side. It was just a case of being time for pastures new."

Though some sportmen go on to run bars overseas or become accountants, Warren is still working for Lancashire County Cricket Club club.

"I had a terrific playing career with Lancashire and with England, but you can't play forever so you've got to set plans in motion to work after you finish. To move on and still manage to be part of the club is quite exciting for me."

He now works at Old Trafford as their Business Partnership Manager.

"Basically I account for the sponsorship that comes in through the gates, advertising and general partnerships with the club."

An interest in marketing in sport and some previous business experience meant Warren knew what he wanted to do.

"Sports marketing was high on my priority list, and I received education in it through the Professional Cricketers' Association. I had some sales experience from other means during my career, and was lucky enough to be offered a job on the hospitality side when I left the playing career."

His previous business roles included work for a sports clothing company.

"I worked for Surridge Sports in the winter I finished, on the brand side, raising awareness of a new product, so it stood me in good stead."

Warren also gained some hospitality industry experience through his wife and her parents.

"They were involved with a banqeting centre in Whitefield, north Manchester, so I got a little bit of experience through working there, looking at how business and accounts work, and that's set me in pretty good stead to understand what I do now."

Another business venture apparently away from sport still provided what some sporting fans see as an essential service - Warren co-owned a pub.

"It was my first taste of business. I bought into it with two or three others while I was playing, where we used to live. I would probably not get involved in a pub again, but it gave me some good fun and experience."

The 'War of the Roses' mentality meant the pub was less fun when Lancashire had been beaten by Yorkshire.

"I'd dread going into the pub to see how it was going if we'd been beaten by Yorkshire, but it was nice to bait the old enemy if we'd won. Over the years it was a fairly level playing field, we won as much as we lost there."

Both sides enjoy gaining one-upmanship, but such ribbing is only ever for fun.

"Yorkshire are our closest rivals but we're good friends. On an England tour we're always close mates with the Yorkshire guys, but it's nice to get one up on them."

"On the field it's very competitive with a will to win at all costs, because you've got bragging rights then until you play them next. When the guys are warming up there's always a bit of banter flying around because your mate's on the other side. It's all done in good jest. After the game in the players lounge everything's left on the field, we have a beer together and just enjoy the craic."

Wicket-keepers are known for sledging the batsman, making well timed off-putting remarks. I wondered if such a gift of the gab helps Warren in his current career netting sponsors?

"Very much so, I think that's one of my strong points. Over the years I've met a lot of people that have come on board to invest in the club. It's about striking up relationships with local companies as well as larger companies - looking round the ground we've got everything from every walk of life. That's my new challenge in the position I have now, to get these investors on board and hit targets that we're set."

Warren's not saying exactly what he used to utter to distract batsmen.

"The verbal part of the game is very important. The wicket-keeper must stay in the boundary of the ethics of the game, not putting players out when the ball's on the way down, but inbetween balls you can put a seed of doubt in a player's mind, shall we say, with the odd jibe and cutting remark."

"It's in a wicket-keeper's remit, from when he's born I think - sarcasm is probably one of our strongest points," he laughs. "We'll leave it at that."

Being a focal point in the team was clearly rewarding for him.

"It's good fun. The wicket-keeper's the guy on the team that lifts things when it's quiet, a little bit dead and nothing much is happening. Like the central midfield position in football, everyone looks at him to make a smart remark or funny comment or take the mickey out of the umpire, just to get that spark of life back into the field and make something happen."

Warren achieved several records during his cricketing career. In 1987 he became the youngest player in 30 years to score a century for Lancashire at the age of 19, and he held 11 catches in a first-class match in 1989. He appreciates such statistics more with hindsight.

"When I was a player I wasn't very up to speed with statistics and records. I just enjoyed the game - worrying about getting the result and putting in a good performance, then moving on to the next game."

"I suppose they mean a little bit more to me now I've finished. I think records are something you look back on once you've retired and say well actually, I might have been a half decent player producing that. It's nice to be able to think back and say I did that but it's not something that I think, wow wasn't I great."

Looking back on his career at Old Trafford, Warren has many happy memories.

"We've had some great games here. In the 1990s we were a very dominant side and we had many a game against Yorkshire where people were locked out and couldn't get in. We were on the right side of the semi finals, so we beat our closest rivals in the biggest games of the season here with packed houses."

He also appreciates the opportunities he has had to play in other great stadiums around the world.

"I was lucky enough to play in eight finals at Lords, the home of cricket, so they were great times. I remember being on the field when I called it a day thinking, this is the last time I'm going to be in the middle of this fantastic stadium, with all those fantastic memories."

"It's quite a sobering thought that I've played in such beautiful stadiums over the world - guys who play league cricket on Saturday would love to emulate that, and I do count myself pretty lucky."

By Cherry Butler

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