Weekend Interview: '˜Proudest thing that's ever happened to me' - Steve Patterson

THERE are some cricketers that you cannot imagine playing for any other county.

Seam bowler Steve Patterson never thought he would earn a testimonial when he started out with Yorkshire. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

Marcus Trescothick, for example, who is as much a part of the fabric of Somerset as the Quantock Hills.

Paul Collingwood is another, a Durham man to the core and a loyal servant of the north-east.

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Then there is Steve Patterson, who somehow embodies the essence of a Yorkshire cricketer.

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Proud, hard-working, unfussy, no-nonsense, honest, reliable, determined, brave – he possesses all of those traditional attributes and more.

Yet, before his career really took off in 2010, at the relatively late age of 26, there were times when this prototype of a Yorkshire player feared that he might have to leave the Broad Acres to fulfil his potential.

“I remember a time when I spoke to Martyn Moxon (Yorkshire’s director of cricket) and said: ‘Will you give me 28 days’ notice please so that I can speak to somebody else’ (another club),” says Patterson, who played only 15 first-class games in the five seasons from making his debut in 2005.

“I didn’t have anybody in mind, but I was at that stage where I felt like I was getting nowhere really.

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“I was getting older, and I wasn’t really making any headway, and it was kind of like: ‘If I don’t do something soon, my chance will have passed me by’.”

But the departure of Matthew Hoggard to Leicestershire in late 2009, along with the retirement of Deon Kruis and, before that, the retirement of Darren Gough, suddenly left Yorkshire without three senior bowlers.

The club appointed a young captain in Andrew Gale and put their faith in a young team in which Patterson soon became an important figure.

In 2010, Gale’s first season in charge, Yorkshire’s young guns – written off before the April showers – came within a whisker of winning the Championship.

Patterson topped the bowling averages with 45 wickets at 26.68, and, if he has looked back subsequently, it is surely only to reflect on how well things have gone since that breakthrough summer.

Indeed, since the start of that 2010 season, Patterson has captured 299 wickets in 107 first-class games at 26.66.

Having toyed with leaving in search of regular cricket, he is now embarking on a richly-deserved testimonial year as an integral part of one of the greatest sides the club have had.

“For someone who, at one point, thought: ‘Will I ever be good enough to play in the first team?’, to be part of the current Yorkshire side is pretty special really,” he says.

“It will go down in history, I believe, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it day-to-day.

“When you start out, you never dream that you’ll end up getting a testimonial, and I remember when I started out looking up to all the capped players and internationals that we had – the likes of Gough, Silverwood, Hoggard, Blakey, Dawson, McGrath, and so on.

“To be here, 12 years later having my own testimonial, part of me still can’t get my head around it.

“It’s up there with the proudest things that’s ever happened to me.”

Unlike some of the celebrated names that he reels off, Patterson has never played Test cricket.

He does not possess the out-and-out pace of some bowlers, or the strike-bowling threat of others, while few rise to the exalted heights of such as Gough or Hoggard anyway.

But not many can match Patterson’s metronomic control of line and length, which is so accurate that you could almost set your watch by it, or his professionalism and commitment to the cause.

Affectionately dubbed ‘The Dot-Ball King’, he builds suffocating pressure at one end while the likes of Jack Brooks capitalise at the other.

“In the last probably three years, since we’ve signed Brooksy and Liam (Plunkett), my role has changed,” reflects Patterson.

“It’s gone from being like a third or fourth seamer at the start of my career to then opening the bowling when Galey took over, taking the second new ball and bowling at the tail.

“But now I’ve got a different role whereby I provide back-up to the other lads really, and I’m happy to do that.

“It’s whatever fits in best with the team.”

Patterson, 33, is the definition of a team player.

A modest man who neither courts the limelight nor cherishes it, he is happy to do the “donkey work”, as he puts it, while others take the plaudits.

Although retirement is still some way off (he plans to take stock of his situation after the next two seasons), Patterson is already preparing for a life beyond the game.

In addition to his favourite relaxation of spending time with his family, he has developed a keen interest in property development.

“I’ve got some stuff in place for after I finish cricket,” he says.

“I’ve been doing some property development with my brother in the last few years; I built the house I live in now, and we’ve just completed building six houses over in East Yorkshire; me and my parents.

“That’s something that’s kind of a side project for me at the moment because of how busy I am, but perhaps as cricket finishes it will, hopefully, become a full-time career for me.

“Of course, when you have a testimonial, everyone says: ‘How long are you going to keep playing for?’

“It’s a sign, of course, that you’ve been around for a while, and although I still love playing, I can’t see myself playing at Ryan Sidebottom’s age if I’m being honest (Sidebottom turns 39 tomorrow).

“There’s other things I want to achieve, but while we’re still competing as a team, and while we’ve got a chance of winning trophies, then I certainly want to be part of that for as long as possible.”

One thing Patterson would never do is stand in the way of promising youngsters.

He, perhaps better than anyone, knows how frustrating it can be to be in-and-out at the start of one’s career.

“It all depends on how well our youngsters come through,” he says.

“If they come through and, in two years’ time, a Matthew Fisher or a Josh Shaw are regular first-team cricketers, then it might be time for me to step aside.

“I’ve absolutely no qualms in them taking over because that’s how sport works.

“I’d never want to hold somebody back who deserves to be playing.”

All of that, however, is for the future.

For now, there are more wickets to be taken and more trophies to be won for a man who encapsulates everything that is good about Yorkshire cricket.