LOCAL CRICKET: Neil Russell says he will be back at Instonians this summer

Neil Russell lifts the Premier League trophy in 2014
Neil Russell lifts the Premier League trophy in 2014

Neil Russell has put paid to speculation about a possible return to North Down by confirming he will be playing his cricket for Instonians this summer.

Russell, who moved to England last August after he was appointed general manager of the Manchester Storm ice hockey team, told the News Letter that his immediate cricketing future lies at Shaw’s Bridge.

Russell was struck on the head while batting against CIYMS in last summer's Challenge Cup final

Russell was struck on the head while batting against CIYMS in last summer's Challenge Cup final

The hard-hitting batsman has held talks with his successor as Inst captain, Nikolai Smith, and they agreed that Russell will feature when his off-season commitments with Manchester Storm allow.

“Last weekend was the end of the hockey season and it was the first opportunity I have had over the winter to think about cricket. I’m going to try my best to get back from England as often as I can and play as many games as I can at Shaw’s Bridge,” said Russell.

“I’m going to stay at Instonians this season. For me the question mark has been will I play at all, or miss the season, but spring is in the air and automatically your brain switches to the cricket season. I have spoken to Norman (Shannon) and Nikolai. I have said to Nikolai that I would respect his decision if he didn’t want someone coming in or out, it’s what I have preached against year after year, but my circumstances are slightly different in that I’m in England. If there was any umbrage towards it I would have no problem in opting out but Norman, Nikolai and Andy Rose are all keen that if and when available, I will play for the club.”

But while Russell has stressed his immediate future lies with Inst, a return to home-town club North Down is inevitable before he retires from cricket.

“Everyone at Inst is aware that I will finish out my cricket career at North Down, there’s no question about that,” he added. “Inst have been very good to me, I’m an Instonian and Andy and Norman have been very good to me. I want to repay some of that loyalty towards me but I’m a Comber boy and I will finish my career there.”