Date: 21st Aug 2017
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CHAMPIONS LEIGH START THE NEW YEAR IN GOOD SHAPE

Date: 2nd January 2017

CHAMPIONS LEIGH START THE NEW YEAR IN GOOD SHAPE

A Paul Edwards copyright exclusive for L&DCC Official Website.

Tom Foster sees his young side challenging once again.

The Liverpool Competition title is difficult to win and even tougher to retain. In the past five years the John Tristram Trophy has been lifted by five different teams and only Firwood Bootle have  secured the pennant in successive seasons since Ormskirk managed the feat in 1977.
 
So the challenge facing Tom Foster and his side could not be clearer and their preparations to meet it have already begun. After clinching the championship in fine style last September, Leigh’s players had a couple of training sessions prior to Christmas and nets will resume in January.
 
The good news for Beech Walk supporters is that all but one of the cricketers who played vital roles in 2016 have been re-signed for next summer. Ross Zelem (898 runs) Luis Reece (655 runs and 38 wickets) and the Premier League player of the year, Matt McKiernan (570 runs and 78 wickets) will all be in the line-up when the league campaign gets going next April.
 
Only left-arm seamer, Richard Dempster, (20 wickets) has left and the reasons behind his departure are fully understood by Foster.
 
“Richard’s gone to Farnworth Social Circle, which is quite close to where he lives, and I think he’s got a few friends there,” said Foster. “Richard is a front-line bowler but he wasn’t bowling 15 overs a week. I think he’ll be the main man at FSC and we wish him all the best.”           
 
“But we’re now looking for an opening bowler. We’ve got a couple of good young lads in the second team and that may be an option for us or we may bring someone in.”
 
“Everyone’s here, so we’ll have pretty much a full squad training over the close season. Matt and Ross had been playing pretty much for 18 months non-stop, so they both needed a bit of a break and Matt has had an operation on his left shoulder.”
 
Foster accepts that Karl Brown’s availability will be limited by his Lancashire commitments and that Reece will probably be rather less free to play club cricket following his move to Derbyshire.
 
Nevertheless, the Leigh skipper is in quietly confident mood and hopes that his predominantly young squad are in the mood to mount a cup challenge worthy of a club who has appeared in four Ray Digman finals this century, winning one of them. 
 
“Retaining a title is difficult in a lot of sports but we are happy with the squad we’ve got,” he said. “I’d expect the teams around us to come back strong and we have New Brighton, Bootle and Formby as our first three games. So the challenge for us is to maintain our standards.
 
“We’re certainly a little disappointed we didn’t go on a couple of good cup runs last season. Teams like Ormskirk, Bootle and Northern play two games a weekend for pretty much the whole season and I’d love us to be challenging in the knockouts as well.
 
“Maybe it was a blessing last year in that we got knocked out of the cups but historically we have done well in them and we are a good young team with no one over 25.
 
“That said, we are under no illusions that Luis will play for us as frequently last year. We might get five to ten games out of him but I just hope that he gets a good chance at Derbyshire because he certainly deserves it. It’s great to have people like him and Karl around but we want them to be doing well for their counties. It’s just a bonus when they play for us.”          
          
 
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