Today's preseason preview comes from former 1st XI captain, groundsman, and cricket chairman Neil Bolton. Neil is a long-serving club member in the autumn of this playing career, who has scored a League century as recently as 2015 (vs Read), which served a timely reminder of his annus mirabilis of 2003, where he was crowned Ribblesdale League player of the year (over 850 runs and a few wickets on top!).
Neil (without giving away your age) you have been playing for over 25 years now...How has the club changed in that period?
Immeasurably! When I made my club debut in 1988, although the club had enjoyed recent success, winning the double and consecutive Ramsbottom cups, it's fair to say that off the field, we were way behind where the club is now. The transformation of the junior section 13 or 14 years ago was the catalyst for moving the club forward and the hard work of a new generation of volunteers in recent years has pushed us to a different level. It's a very exciting time for everyone at the club - the current and planned investment in the facilities couldn't even have been dreamed of back in the 80's
Who are the best players you've played with and against over that period?
Difficult as there are so many good players over nearly 30 years! The best pro's I played with were Ian Wrigglesworth (all-rounder), Shahid Nawaz (batsman) and Jon Fielding (spin) - all 3 broke records of one kind or another. All 3 were fantastic blokes as well who really knew what being a good club pro was all about - not only performing on the pitch but getting to know all the members and supporting the social side of the club after a game.
Best pro's against would be Paul Hutchinson of Gt Harwood (quick and could bat!), Shahid when he played for Ribblesdale, and for the challenge as an amateur, the sheer pace of Chris Killen and Peter Smith was worrying at times!
Best Clitheroe amateurs would be Andy Robinson and Chris Seed as batsmen and the current first team old guard, Marcus Sharp and Josh Marquet as bowlers. Father and son Dewhurst's, Mick and Jack, definitely the best all-rounders. Opposition amateurs- Terry Little of Read sticks in the mind - we couldn't get him out, ever!
What have been your highlights?
So many over the years but I will pick 2 Ramsbottom cup victories, one I played in, the other I watched - 2006 when we chased down 270-odd after losing Shahid to a 2nd ball duck. And last year's final, the way Jack and Dibby stood up to be counted after we lost 3 wickets for nothing was what makes that day a highlight. Their partnership slowly brought us back into the game and then gave the bowlers something to work with - they showed proper bottle in the face of a rampant Harwood attack.
So in 2016 the achievements of Paul Gaskell's side emulated your 2006 treble winning side (although PG would want me to note they went unbeaten)...So who would win in a head to head?
Haha! A question that has been asked before! On last seasons "Bunsen burner" Clitheroe wickets (no disrespect to Hughie intended!), the 2016 side would be favourites as Jana was a top quality spinner - Shahid on his day could win any game, and he was the best player of spin i have seen but the rest of us would have struggled against Jana- I know I certainly would! The wickets in 2006 were better cricket wickets, no question - more grass, more pace and more bounce with little turn. That would have assisted the 2006 side more I think (Josh was 10 years younger and 5 yards quicker!)- had we played back then and again now, the old side might just have sneaked a 1-1 draw. The 2016 side probably had the greater strength in depth overall but they would be great games, of that there is no doubt.
Back to the pre-season preview aspect - what are you looking forward to about the club entering the Lancashire League?
Better grounds and better wickets! It's all about the wicket for me, play on a good strip and you will see good cricket! Also I hear the teas for players and pies for spectators can be pretty good around the league! (See Matt Donlan's twitter feed for recommendations).
CCC 2017 PREDICTIONS
Leading run scorer - Jack 800+ minimum (Don't let me down Dewy)
Leading wicket taker - Sharpy to roll back the years!
Youngster to watch - Sam Mulligan - reminds me of Andy Robinson - puts a very high price on his wicket and hates getting out!
Any other predictions?
Hopefully the new signings will bed into the side quickly - i have just one piece of advice for them - match Peter Dibb drink for drink on the first team night out, not Sticky or Gask! (Much easier on the liver and the wallet!). Speaking of Peter, i am hoping he will bat like he did in the Rammy cup final throughout the season and push Jack all the way. I also hope he will cease the full-body moisturising regime he has adopted following a post-match shower, it's not something one wants to see in a cricket dressing room!
LANCASHIRE LEAGUE 2017 PREDICTIONS
League winner - any one from five - Rammy, Burnley, Lowerhouse, Haslingden & us.
T20 - as above without us...not sure T20 is our strength
Player to watch - not sure but very much looking forward to seeing Trigger (Jon Fielding) back performing at Chatburn Rd
LCB knockout - Formby maybe? Dependent on the availability of all their Lancs stars
And finally...Where would you like to see the club in the future?
Updated 16:57 - 27 Mar 2017 by Web Manager
As the wing commander said in an earlier interview - solvent!
In a perfect world, at some future point, 10 ex Clitheroe juniors playing alongside a world class pro on at least minor county standard wickets, in front of a new clubhouse.
Not too much to hope for!!!