HE MAY be a familiar face, but Finchampstead will be hoping Dan Marles leaves as an unhappy man on Saturday evening.
Popular former captain Marles is returning to Finchampstead Park for the first time this weekend since leaving the club to join Home Counties Premier 1 rivals High Wycombe over the winter.
Marles spent 10 years with Finches, coming up through the youth system before taking over as first team captain aged just 20 in 2015, guiding them immediately to promotion from Home Counties Premier 2.
The success unexpectedly continued the following year with Marles becoming the first captain to lead Finchampstead to the top flight title since way back in 2001.
But following a third placed finish in 2017, Marles decided to move on and he is relishing a return to his old ground this weekend.
“Rocking up after how many years I’ve been there and going into the away changing room will be a strange one,” he told The Wokingham Paper.
“I know a lot of good people at the club and it’s quite exciting going back there. I’m looking forward to it and it should be a really good day.
“I might get a bit of stick when I’m there but I’m looking forward to the game.”
Marles, who arrives with a High Wycombe side who currently sit top of the table, was one of just a number of players to leave Finchampstead this year.
Overseas star Jandre Coetzee returned to South Africa while other first teamers Billy Rogers, Max Uttley, JJ Dewes, Matt Carter and Adam Dewes also headed for the exit door.
That leaves a new-look Finches side under newly appointed skipper Dan Lincoln, with many players promoted up from the club’s second string.
And the results have been mixed with just one win so far and Saturday’s 23-run defeat at Henley leaving Lincoln’s men seventh in the table, 40 points adrift of this weekend’s visitors.
While Marles admits the mass exodus did come as a bit of a surprise, he can understand why some players opted to seek a new challenge.
“It’s been a bit of a change at the club,” said the former captain.
“Different people have gone for different reasons. It’s just been one of those years.
“At Finch we had three or four golden years where everyone was available, everyone was grabbing for the same thing and different people have moved on for maybe different aspirations.
“It’s a completely changed side.
“I am surprised that that many left, but you can see the reasons for it and sometimes at a cricket club that can happen.”
He added: “When I took the Finch captaincy over three or four years ago, the long-term plan was to win the league at some point.
“But to do it really quickly, it does make you think, what now?
“Players look for a new challenge, think what can I do now and I think that has happened.”
Rather than bringing in a raft of new additions, the policy at Finchampstead again this summer has been to promote from within.
The majority of the side playing for the first team on a regular basis this season were involved for the second string last year and Marles believes that approach will hold his old club in good stead.
“I think Finch are in a transition period now,” he said.
“It might be a different phase to try and rebuild to go again in three or four years time to maybe try and challenge for the title again.
“You can only look in admiration at what Finch do as a club with their youth members.
“It’s probably one of the best around in terms of getting youth members through right from the bottom and bringing them up to the top.
“When I was at Finch, that’s what we had for two or three years, a crop of players that came through the youth system and they’ll do it again.
“That’s what I believe, that’s what they’ve always gone with and I think they’ll be successful doing that. Good luck to them.”
Marles arrives this weekend in fine form, contributing with bat and ball in recent weeks as well as scoring an unbeaten 50 on his Minor Counties debut for Buckinghamshire at the weekend.
But Finches have an danger man of their own.
While the side has a different feel about it this year, one player who is still at the heartbeat of their success is new skipper Lincoln.
The Berkshire batsman has been in scintillating form this season, plundering 503 runs already from his 13 innings for club and county, including 74 not out in the defeat against Henley.
And Marles is under no illusions as to how destructive his friend and former team-mate can be.
“He’s a fantastic player,” said Marles.
“Being captain is something that might’ve helped his game. Obviously he can bat where he wants now and that’s really helped him.
“He’s obviously their key man, but we’re also wary they do have a few other players around him.
“We’ll try and get him out early and then get into their batting order.
“They’re building their side around him and you can beat anyone on your day in this league.”