FORMER England international cricketer Warren Hegg has urged old teammates to keep in touch with each other as part of a mental health campaign aiming to combat isolation and loneliness this winter.

The Bury-born Lancashire legend, who kept wicket for the Red Rose for almost two decades, has remained at Emirates Old Trafford, albeit in a very different role as the club’s business development manager.

As part of Hegg’s remit, he actively promotes the club’s heritage, which involves the organisation and administration of much of the former players’ association’s activities.

Hegg, 52, and his team’s efforts over the past few years, has seen Lancashire’s programme become a shining example of what a first-class county’s former players’ association can achieve with a combination of good organisation and funding.

Speaking to the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA), Hegg said that keeping the club’s former players in touch is crucial now more than ever, as a result of the effects of a third national lockdown in under a year.

“I think it’s really important that no player is left feeling isolated in the current lockdown,” Hegg said. “Being a former professional cricketer, I love staying in touch with the players who I used to play with, as well as the opposition who I used to play against.

“We might not see each other for six months or talk for 12 months, but you just start up again from where you left off. Major battles that you had on the field turn into major battles off it in terms of exchanging banter!

“It’s great to be able to catch up with those guys, even if they’re from a different county, it’s just like old times. So I think it’s a brilliant initiative that the PCA have put together in Talk to Teammates, and it’s something we need to promote as much as we possibly can.”

The team at Lancashire has been active in offering the club’s former players ways to stay in touch with both each other, as well as the club itself.

“Around two years ago we totally restructured the former players’ association up here at Lancashire," said Hegg. "We spent 18 months going through the database, cleansing the records and making sure that every player who had represented Lancashire was on the database.

“We found that a lot of players had left the club and never been in touch again, which was a shame as for a lot of people it’s a very big and very proud part of their lives.

“We hold three specific events per year for our former players and their guests. They come to the club during a match, catch up with their old mates and newer generations. There’s also newsletters, regular communications, Hall of Fame inductions and we also have good ties with the PCA, who organised a Past Players’ Day at Cheltenham every summer. There’s also a WhatsApp group for the players who are a little bit more tech savvy!

“It’s something we have really tried to get off the ground, because it’s important, it’s part of our heritage and history, and we wanted to say thank you to players who have given time to the club over the years.

“And from a personal perspective, I feel like I’m the right person to drive that forward having played for so long, and I just feel it’s the right thing to do. It’s a real sense of achievement when you see that those players want to keep staying connected with each other and the club.”

Hegg combines his duties at Lancashire with appearing for the touring PCA England Masters side when he can during the summer, helping to raise valuable funds for local cricket clubs around the country.

The man with over 750 professional appearances to his name sees the Masters programme as a brilliant opportunity to stay in touch with a squad containing the likes of Alex Tudor, Phillip DeFreitas and Matthew Hoggard, all of whom Hegg played with and against during his marathon 19-year professional career.

He said: “The PCA England Masters games are just great. I try to play in as many as I can and it’s great to stay in touch with the guys through those games. We’re just a little bit fatter and older!

“Social media has been a massive way for us players to keep in touch, especially on Twitter which I’ve found is a great way of connecting with those friends and former teammates.

“Life is very busy and very stressful at the moment, and obviously people don’t have the ability to get together, but I think it’s so important that people should try as hard as they can to remain in touch.”