Last week’s column about the lack of good young cricketers coming through the local leagues sparked a flurry of tweets, e-mails and text messages.
I stand by every word, but I’m using this column to put the case for the other side and highlight some clubs with flourishing youth set-ups.
Chorley Cricket Club deserve a lot of credit. When I was there, the seniors teams were packed with players in their late 30s, 40s and 50s. There were good youngsters like Josh Tolley, but there’s a big difference between picking a youngster and batting him at three, and hiding him at number 10.
Thankfully those days are over. Second team captain Alex Howarth is relatively young himself, but he’s using his team as a conveyor belt to produce players for the first team.
When Chorley played their National Knockout match at Longridge in May, they had three U17s in Max Harper, highly-rated wicketkeeper Harry Barclay and Joseph Barker.
Edwin Moulton is also only 17 and he’s opened the bowling for Chorley. Harry Barclay’s dad Wayne tweeted me to say the club regularly has 10 juniors in the senior teams.
Even the veterans are embracing the youth policy. Dave Catterall, a spritely 57, turns out for the thirds when required, on one proviso. “If a youngster is available I always insist they have priority,” he told me.
I’ve spoken about the brilliant youth set-up at Longridge before, but Blackpool has been flying the flag in the Northern League for years, largely down to the efforts of Sam Owen, who nearly died year ago when he got hit by a hockey ball and suffered a bleed on the brain.
I remember playing Blackpool 1sts in 2008 and they had 17-year-old batsmen Luis Reece (now at Lancashire) and Alex Smith in their top five and 20-year-old Richard Gleeson (now at Northants) opening the bowling.
Howarth tweeted me to say: “NPL Under 21s this season will be 75-90% Blackpool players.” That’s a fantastic tribute to the club but I maintain that the cupboard is bare at a lot of other clubs when it comes to young cricketers.
The other club which deserves great credit is Euxton, in the Ribblesdale League. Chris Pearson, Matt Johnson and Jake Meredith are all under 18 and play in the 1st XI. Ravi Dhar (little brother of Grav) is 15 and a regular in the firsts. James Bone is only 14 but has also played in the top team – and Euxton’s U13s recently beat Lowerhouse in the Lancashire League Cup final to reach the County Knockout Competition.