This week for the reinvigorated Cheshire Phoenix team, without doubt, will go down in history, not just for them, but for possibly British basketball.
The deadline day set out by the BBL was not needed eventually, and now, after successfully reaching the magic £50,000 mark, including sponsorships from Andrew Donaldson and Terry Hearfield, of locally based BiG Storage (from where the Save The Jets campaign HQ was based) and Aspect Construction, together with others and the Sunday evening donation of nearly £2,000 raised by Cheshire supporters, the winter mist and uncertainty seems to have cleared, and the Phoenix has risen.
Back to the action though, Cheshire having already won the head-to-head over Mersey with two homes victories, and Friday night sees the opportunity to complete the 3-0 set. Or the single showdown for purist ‘Nix fans.
Phil Brandreth, who was offered the opportunity to sign with both sides before the season started, has stepped up and taken up more of role on court since Kenny Moore left the Cheshire franchise, as was, two weeks ago. News also arrived that former Tigers’ small forward, Jerome Gumbs, would be kitted up for the “new” Phoenix side away at Knowsley Leisure and Culture Park, to replace the gap left by Moore.
Speaking at the end of one era, and the start of another, he is very wary of what Tigers may bring: “Friday’s game we cannot take lightly; Mersey are close to their first win and keep bringing new professionals in. If we go in thinking we will win, then it will be a dog fight for forty minutes. Josh McGinn is running the team well along with Gael Hulsen and Martin Calvo. They also have Chris Bigley, and a new American we have not seen yet. Both games for us this weekend are huge and need to be treated with the same importance.
“Everyone is slotting into their roles,” said the Phoenix forward, who will now be emblazoned in blue and white, the new team colours, “We have a strong 7-man rotation now with myself, Niel [Gillard] and Chris [Pearce] all playing big minutes in the past few games and helping the other four guys out on court.”
Brandreth is confident that Cheshire support will be out in force now on Friday night, with the news of the born again side: “With it being local and a derby, a lot of fans will make the trip over to Mersey. They will be hyped for the game, along with the players, and will help us and keep us going down the stretch. This is the biggest week in the club’s history – Friday will definitely be the start of something new and exciting.”
Supporters have taken to social media to praise all those whose tireless efforts have helped save basketball from disappearing professionally from Cheshire.
Lisa Scruton, who previously supported Manchester Giants before their collapse over a decade ago, was ecstatic at the news on Wednesday night, saying: “I think it’s brilliant! When I started coming down to Chester in the late 90’s it was a family club, and so many people have been involved from the very beginning. It’s like its little own community anyway, so I think the Community Interest Club model will work well for Phoenix. In fact, I think this model is perhaps the only way basketball will survive in this country; this model and the people involved, could help it be the flagship club of the BBL.”
Who knows what the future will hold for Phoenix, Tigers (still on the prowl for their first win), and even the BBL; but one thing is for sure, UKAmericanSportsFans.com will be tracking the progress and bringing you live updates from the North West derby tomorrow evening – check out Twitter (@JournoRob or @uk_sportsfans – #thebbl) over the course of Friday afternoon and evening.