Sports Awards: Greg Willott leads from the front to guide Leek Cricket Club to title success
GUIDING Leek to the North Staffs and South Cheshire League Premier Division title was another feather in Greg Willott's cap.
The 32-year-old all-rounder has proved to be an outstanding performer at club level since the late 1990s – where he has also served Wood Lane and Norton – as well as Staffordshire.
Willott, who took over the captaincy at Leek from Brian Mellor last season, secured the Moorlanders' first top-flight championship crown since 2001.
And he certainly led from the front, with a string of high-quality performances tilting the balance in his side's favour.
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Willott, who works for Stoke-on-Trent Council, claimed 68 victims with his left-arm seam, including seven five-wicket hauls, as well as making 306 runs lower down the order.
His contribution with the bat was highlighted in May when Leek were wobbling on 85-7 in pursuit of Porthill Park's 146.
Defeat looked to be on the cards, but Willott kept his composure to make an unbeaten 62 to complete an unlikely three-wicket victory.
Their title win was confirmed on the final day of the season when they won at Little Stoke.
The Endon-based player has taken more than 200 wickets in his three seasons at Highfield, helping them to the Division One title in his first year.
Willott then played a pivotal role to guide Leek to the runners-up position in the Premier in 2011, before masterminding last year's championship triumph.
"We thought we'd be challenging to be in the top four," he said.
"Everyone hoped to be there or thereabouts, although winning it was going to be tough when you consider the strength of sides such as Longton, Knypersley, Wood Lane and Porthill Park.
"But credit to the lads because everyone played their part throughout the season.
"It was a big thing for Leek to win the title. There were plenty of proud people within the club."
It is not only on the club scene where Willott has impressed.
He has served Staffordshire with distinction since making his debut in 1999 and was awarded his county cap in 2008.
His 21 Eastern Division wickets last season took him up to 146 for the county to cement his place as Staffs' main seamer.
Willott has been nominated in the Senior Individual category of The Sentinel/City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality of the Year Awards by Staffordshire cricket press officer Allan Smith.
"Greg won games when Leek were in real trouble," said Smith.
"They have a good, young side, but he was the one who took the lead with bat and ball. He was a vital component of the team.
"For Staffordshire, he is 'Mr Reliable'. Game after game he wants to play and he keeps producing the results on a consistent basis.
"It's when games are tight when you want your big players to stand up, and Greg has certainly done that over many years at club and minor county level."