Sports awards: One-club man has helped both cricket and football prosper in Potteries
MICK Sanders does not need much time to recall his proudest achievement in Potteries sport.
The 68-year-old retired service engineer has been a team-mate of Stoke City legend Neil Franklin, is thought to be the only man to have refereed a Staffordshire Senior Cup football final and umpired a Staffordshire Senior Cup cricket final, and also helped quadruple participation in a Sunday football league.
However, he believes his finest achievement came in cricket as a one-club man for Hem Heath.
As an opening batsman, he averaged more than 50 one summer, but admits: "I played mostly for the seconds – and if you ever saw Geoff Boycott play, I was twice as slow."
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But off the field he has been a driving force, helping the club settle into a new ground at Trentham Lakes which has proved pivotal to their financial health and success in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire League.
He explained: "I'm chief executive at Hem Heath. I was chairman for 30 years off and on, and I was with them as a player from when I was 25.
"We were only a small club back then.
"When the Hem Heath pit closed and they wanted to build on our ground, I persuaded St Modwen to build and pay for our new ground, which must have cost them £500,000. Thanks to their generosity we got a 99-year lease for £1.
"There were calls for us to move to Trentham – and Stoke City wanted the land for training pitches – but I spoke of the virtues of setting up in that location and it has proven to be very lucrative for us."
If cricket occupies summer weekends for Sanders, winters are busy too for the man from Packmoor.
He was playing for teams including Coyney Arms and Blurton Arms when Sunday football got off the ground in the mid-1960s.
And all those who have heard the shrill blast of his whistle during 43 years as a referee will be shocked by his disciplinary record.
He added: "I had an early interest in becoming a referee, but as a player I kept getting sent off. The chairman of the Staffordshire FA told me I had to make a choice between the two careers. Apparently crooks make the best jailors."
Still, it was as a full-back in the 1970s that Sanders got to turn out for Clover Dairies alongside players like Stoke City and England centre-half Franklin, as well as Tony Allen and Tony Lacey.
The father-of-two was also becoming increasingly integral to the running of what is now the Coors League, which was launched in 1966. He was elected chairman 25 years ago.
"When I took over we had 12 clubs and I knew we couldn't continue like that. We decided to open up the league and now we've got five divisions and 60 clubs," he said.
Sanders, who continues to referee and umpire, has been nominated for The Sentinel/City of Stoke Sports Personality of the Year Awards in the service to sports category by Darren Shenton.
Shenton, from Fenton, said: "Over the years I have run several teams in the Coors League and Mick has always been there to help, regardless of their ability or status.
"He has been at the heart of local sport for so many years. I think he deserves an MBE."