PHIL BRANDRETH was the Cheshire Jets’ longest-serving player and also a lifelong fan. With the franchise now in the hands of the British Basketball League and facing an uncertain future, he tells The Chronicle why people should get behind the campaign to save the club
“WE are living in uncertain times. In the back of everyone’s minds are fears about what’s going to happen. Are we going to attract enough sponsorship to survive the season in the BBL? Can we continue to be one of the most successful teams in BBL history?
“As of late August, I wasn’t considering returning to the Jets this season. I was on holiday with my girlfriend in Majorca and I got a call from James Hamilton asking me not to sign with any other teams and to call him when I got back.
“That was the start of personally my most successful Jets season to date. My opportunities as a player have increased and I have been getting good minutes so far. But from a non-playing point of view, the thought of there being no more professional basketball in Chester upsets me.
“I have been involved with the Jets as a fan and a player for nearly 13 years.
“I remember my first home game at the Northgate Arena. It was packed and they had to bring in temporary seating for a game against the Manchester Giants.
“The fans, players and everyone involved seemed so committed to the cause. Hundreds of kids queued up at half time to take part in a free throw contest, fans of all ages were kitted out in Jets merchandise. The cheers the players got were so loud you would leave the game with your ears ringing!
“Over 13 years I saw this time and again. I remember winning the league on our home court in 2005 against the London Towers, beating Milton Keynes in the BBL Cup semi-final in 2009. And these are just my experiences.
“How about the hundreds of people involved who have been with the Jets through thick and thin and what memories they have?
“This team is more than just a team. It is a family club where everyone knows everyone, where players aren’t too big that they ignore fans but instead spend time with them. During the recent crisis, they have even visited their homes for dinner!
“Hundreds of junior players involved with the club come to our games knowing that one day they could be playing there if they stay committed and work hard because they see guys like me, Niel Gillard and Adam Jones there on the court.
“All I can hope is that investors see this club as a great opportunity to fund a sports team that supports development of youngsters and provides a fun family attraction in Chester city centre.”
Cheshire play Manchester Giants at the Northgate Arena on Sunday. Tip-off is 5.30pm.