Warwickshire have spent this season celebrating the anniversary of their 1994 treble-winning side, and rightly so, being the only County in history to achieve all three trophies (Bensons and Hedges Cup, County Championship, Sunday League) in one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of County Cricket.
On Thursday 22nd August, the club hosted their centrepiece of the celebrations, the ‘Year Of The Bear’ dinner, to recognise all the success of that 1994 season, as well as it being 125 years since the first ‘first-class’ game. It was an incredible occasion, where the club got players from over seven decades together to celebrate what being a ‘Bear’ really meant, from the most recent debutant George Garrett, aged 19, to one of the oldest players Jim Stewart who is 85 and still is proud to have been a Bear.
The night, hosted by Pat Murphy, who has been a vital contributor to the celebrations by publishing the book ‘The Greatest Season’, hosted various Q&A’s and spoke of all the memories of the season and brought all the players together from it. Hearing first-hand about the 1994 season was incredible, the stories that the squad have equally hilarious as mesmerising and the feeling in the room was one of an enormous sense of pride.
Warwickshire’s 1994 side were honoured as part of the Birmingham ‘Walk Of Stars’ on Broad Street, the second sports team to receive a star (the 1982 Aston Villa F.C. team are the other), alongside a host of celebrities from Birmingham to have immortality there.
The night ended with a capping ceremony, in which every player that has represented the club was handed a commemorative cap with their name and number on. This was incredibly popular, having something to cherish that shows that they have been part of all the history and the making of the midland club.
Neil Snowball, Warwickshire’s Chief Executive, spoke of his immense proudness to be part of the event and the club. “I am genuinely chuffed to bits to see this event to come together,” he said. “We talked about this centrepiece dinner and it has been wonderful. Really touching to see all the generations, such as Dan Mousley [aged 18] and Jim Stewart, who is 85, to come together.
“I do feel proud to be associated with this great club. I am proud to be chief exec as well, and we’ve spoken about innovation and the modern game but we’ve got to keep in touch with the past and what’s made this club wonderful.”
Anyone associated with Warwickshire is aware of one phrase that binds the club together: ‘Once a Bear, Always a Bear’. It was something that was felt amongst every person in the room.
The vice-captain of the victorious side, Tim Munton, is one that player that certainly feels the phrase 25 years on. “I am so proud to have played. It’s a very special club, and it’s an easy line to say, but the history of the club is something that you get a slight sense of as a player, but when you finish, that’s when you really appreciate it and feel the sense of being part of this magnificent club.
“The current players feel it as well, they’ve got the Warwickshire ethos, they really have. There is some brilliant talent coming through that know how special it is to wear the Bear on the chest.
“It’s nights like tonight at you genuinely feel it. Looking back at generations and the seven decades in the room, you can tell everyone is proud and privileged to play for the Bears.”
The night was important to many of the squad from 1994 who haven’t seen their team mates in over a decade, including Trevor Penny. He was one of the best fielders to grace the county game and has now coached all over the world. He spent years with India and Sri Lanka, and now travels the world to various T20 competitions. It was the team environment, not just the plethora of talent in the side, that allowed them to achieve so much, and he feels that the team itself have inspired him in his coaching that he takes on now.
“I coach all around the world and I try and replicate that and it’s a struggle as you need the right environment and players. We were very lucky to have that.
“I don’t know where the time has gone, seems like the other day but also feels like a lifetime ago. Everyone seems the same. I love the cricket world as you don’t see people for 10 years but they come back together and it’s the same once again.”
Within times of modern day cricket, sometimes the rich history of the game can be overlooked, and there is an importance to reminiscing and celebrating the building blocks of great clubs. “I am so pleased they have celebrated, cricket might be the one sport this isn’t done as much as I don’t think this will happen again, so it’s very special to be here,” Penny added.
Snowball agreed. “It’s important to connect with that history and it means something to the players as well. They loved the capping ceremony, and the young players feel it too, they resonate to the rich history of the club and aspire to do something like that.
The night was absolutely wonderful to be part of, and the way the players from all generations came together like they all had known each other for decades was remarkable. There is no doubt, however, that the most important thing was to celebrate the history of the club, and it was done in an excellent manner, where every single person in the room felt proud to represent Warwickshire, regardless of their role.