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John Wood's columns

Woody reveals County Championship interest in Curt’

John Wood has given his pre-season thoughts with the Cleck’ Captain’s own words as follows; “As the season is soon upon us and the weather is starting to look better the First Team now need to start stepping up the intensity if we are to be ready to challenge at the start of the season.

Although there are no easy games anymore in the BCL the start of the season looks particularly testing with New FarnleyWoodlands and Pudsey St Lawrence coming to Moorend.  We need to be 100% ready for this challenge if we are to get off to a good start. Several new faces will need to settle in fast and all will need to contribute if we are to be successful this season. There is no room in our side to carry any player so everyone needs to knuckle down and work hard to achieve the results we want.

The ground is looking fantastic and Keith Johnstone and John Hawkesworth have done a magnificent job over the winter months. The square is starting to dry and has already had the roller over it several time in the last few weeks.

Winter nets have gone very well and the lads look hungry and ready to go, with a good turn out over the last eight weeks or so. Curtis Free in particular looks fit and determined to have a good season and has been on trial with Kent over the past few weeks. Nick LindleyAndy GorrodMally and Ian Nicholsonhave all looked good with the bat and our bowlers are certainly hitting the correct areas.

I feel pretty confident about the ability in our side this year and if we gel quickly and work together throughout the season, with the addition of a class overseas left arm spinner we may surprise a few people, especially after losing several influential players last term.

I look forward to seeing you down at the ground on 22nd April and throughout the season.”

When asked about his trial with Kent CCC, Curtis said; “I thought the trial went very well but it’s been a couple of weeks since I was there – it’s now just a waiting game.”

Cleck’s Skipper reveals crucial changes

For the last decade plus, Cleck’ has been fortunate to have the services of arguably the best ever Captain in the Club’s history in John Wood and it appeared likely that the former Lancashire and Durham professional would step down from his long-term role, which would have been a major blow to those atMoorend.

Fortunately, due to circumstances John remains at the helm for at least one more season until a replacement is eventually found and hard though that future appointment may be in the interim periodWoody has had to make a number of difficult decisions. In conjunction with the Cricket Committee the Club’s Skipper decided to dispense with the services of Chris Holliday and not due to any qualms overChris’s ability as he is a top-notch batsman but fears over his commitment to the Club whilst Jimmy Leehas left Cleck’ to become the Captain of Bankfoot CC.

Highly rated Sam Gatenby has joined Scholes CC to further his promising career with Joe Woodpromised a First Team place at Cleck’ next term and he will join new signings Nick Lindley from Pudsey Congs and Awais Ejaz from East Bierley with additional news explained by John.

“I am delighted to announce the signing of a new overseas player for next season Qaiser Ashrafcurrently playing for Lahore Whites and Lahore Eagleswho has agreed to join us for next season and comes highly recommended,” revealed John. “He is a  slow left arm bowler and middle order batsman that should give us more of a cutting edge and control with the ball and greater depth in the batting next season. I do believe that good spinners are the key to success in the league and especially atCleckheaton where the pitches turn but are less helpful to the seamers.”

A young looking John Wood whose son Joe begins a First Team career in 2017 alongside his Dad

Following the services of wicket/keeper Mally Nicholson for the last decade or so the Club’s chirpy, talented and in the know servant has got his just rewards. “I am also happy to announce that Mally will be our new Vice Captain for the 2017 season,” added Woody.” Mally has now been at the Club for ten seasons and is obviously an extremely valued member of the side. His enthusiasm and desire to win are infectious and I know he will be very supportive to me and the rest of the lads throughout the coming season.”

One of John’s difficult tasks was as follows and he said; “Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstancesMohammed Zaman (Zimmy) has left the club. Zimmy was and still is a class act with bat, ball and stood at slip. He produced three superb centuries for us last season, two of which were on terrible pitches that turned matches our way and he will be very much missed by all of us. Zimmy is a real gent and we all wish him and his family the very best for the future. Although there are several changes to the side for next season I believe if we work hard and hit the ground running we will compete for honours and have a great season.”

John revealed his starting line up for 2017; Andy Gorrod, Nick Lindley, John Wood, Ian Nicholson, Qaiser Ashraf, Mally Nicholson, Joe Wood, Curtis Free, Sam Wilson, Awais Ejaz and Andrew Deegan and added finally; “The winter nets have now been sorted for the senior players and start on Tuesday 7thFebruary at 7pm at Tong school. I hope to see you all there, that is when the hard work starts, especially for the bowlers.

Have a great Christmas and New Year.

Now the dust has settled on another season, it feels odd that we have not won the Title again. After two fantastic seasons finishing at the top of the pile I honestly believed that 2015 would be the icing on the cake, and with the team we had we should have done much better than third.

I suppose we could look at excuses like the weather not doing us any favours throughout the season, but if truth be known, we didn’t play as well as we could have or should have done over the season. There were too many losses to sides that we should have easily beaten and in the end the best team of 2015 won the title.

This season saw the retirement of my brother Ian Wood which is a massive loss to me and the Club and will be a very hard act to follow. His dedication to the club and his ability as a cricketer will be sorely missed. Along with Ian we have also lost Tim Jackson to Woodlands and Iain Wardlaw toHoylandswaine both players gave their best for the club and we are certainly sad to see them go.

It is fair to say that Cleckheaton CC has given them an opportunity to become better players during their time with us and as a result of this, other clubs have been keen to tempt them away rather than developing their own players.  I would like to wish both Tim and Iain all the best with their new clubs, although not whilst they play against Cleck’!

So, as players go we need to replace them with quality so we can maintain or strengthen our position within the new Premier League.

Our first new signings were Sam Wilson from Pool CC and Chris Holliday from Townville. I remember Chris from the under 17’s many years ago when I first arrived at the Club, confident, even cocky at times he was a talent then and he has certainly developed in to a dangerous player now. What impressed me about Chris is his desire to win and play at the highest level he can, I am sure he will be a massive success from day one.

Mohammad Zaman ( Zimmy) is also returning to the club after six or seven years away. Zimmy is a quality cricketer with bat and ball and will only strengthen our batting line up, as we look to add consistency to our middle order. With the ball he is a canny operator who bowls a tight line and will help us to control games better when the situation gets tight.

Our new overseas player is Mohammad Bilwawl, Bill as I am sure he will become known in the dressing room is a left arm quick opening bowler from Lahore with amazing 1st class statistics having taken 75 wickets from only 20 matches in Pakistan. He is highly rated and this will be his first time playing in England, so I hope we all make him feel extremely welcome on his arrival.

I am sure we would all have liked to see Tanzeel Altaf return for his third season with us; however it looks very unlikely that he will play in the required 1st class matches to allow him to return to play in our league. I personally would like to have seen him back as he has been a fantastic player for us over the past two season, but with the departure of both Ian’s it was vital that we procured another fast bowler to partner Curtis Free, who has developed enormously over the past  12 months. I would like to wish Tanzeel all the best for the future and hope he can force his way back in to the Lahore team in the near future.

I am already very excited about next season which will be my last as captain. I feel we possibly have a stronger team than last year and we will certainly be pushing to win back the title.

John Wood

After another brilliant year in 2014 I am really looking forward to the coming season even though I think this one will be the most competitive yet. Many teams have strengthened over the winter months and I anticipate several teams vying for the First Division Championship in 2015.

Towards the end of last season as we struggled to get eleven fit players on the pitch, it became obvious that a few of us are getting on and that it may be time to freshen the side up a touch particularly in the bowling department.

Our exits from the Black Sheep Trophy and losing in the Priestley Cup Final were hard to take and in my opinion injuries played a vital part in those defeats, particularly the Black Sheep when we literally had lost all of our seamers for the game. So, I set about finding a young talented quick bowler to join us for the 2015 season, you may think this would be an easy task, however you would be very wrong. After talking with several current JCT 600 Bradford Cricket League bowlers and agreeing that one would join us I thought the job was done but how wrong I was. It seems that certain people are not as good as their word and others just like their ego’s massaged a little and in some cases a lot.

Looking outside of the league for players is something we have not entered in to before as I have seen many players come to the BCL from other leagues around Yorkshire and witnessed them really struggle, that’s not to say they aren’t good players and some have worked out really well but most either fade away or take a couple of seasons to adapt to the type of cricket we play and on the grounds we play on.

Needless to say we felt we needed to cast out net a little wider to find the right man for the job and I certainly think we have found him. Curtis Free is his name and he will be opening the bowling for us next season and hopefully for many to come. Curtis will open the bowling with Iain Wardlaw and therefore take some of the burden off myself and my brother Ian Wood to bowl as many overs on creaking legs and knees.

When a new player arrives it usually means someone has to move on, but fortunately in this case circumstances have conspired to allow us to retain the services of Richard Whitehurst, which I am extremely pleased about. Wiggy’s work commitments now need to take precedence and this means he is happy to step aside and still be available most weekends when required. Richard has been a huge part of our side over the past three seasons and has contributed massively to us winning the Title twice. It will be great to still have him around the Club and in the changing room offering advice and I’m sure he will be happy to have a pint with you if you are down watching.

Obviously if all eleven players are fit and playing well Wiggy’s devastating stroke play will be a real miss for us, however we do have the players to fill the gap and step up to the mark. The addition of Curtisstrengthens our already impressive bowling attack and we are possibly a better balanced side, perhaps with Jimmy Lee playing a bigger part with the bat than he has in previous seasons.

This season’s aim is to go one better than last season, obviously the First Division Championship is our priority and we must not lose sight of that fact, however adding a Cup to it would be fantastic.

I look forward to seeing you all next season at Moorend and hope we can continue to entertain you as we have done over the past few seasons. I promise we will continue to play the right way and always play to win.

The players I've put my trust in by John Wood

The current Cleckheaton CC First Team I believe is the best team that I have played with during my time at Moorend. That's not to say there has not been some exceptional players who have represented the Club during and before my time here, such as Andrew Gale and Chris Pickles to name but two but as a group of eleven players I would say we are the strongest. It goes without saying that I believe in all of my players, not just their ability as Cricketers but also as people. I have watched Ian and Mally Nicholsondevelop and mature over the years and my brother Ian has become one of the best bowlers in the League as he has got older. Iain Wardlaw has achieved things he could not have dreamed about 10 years ago and Tim Jackson has shown us all what a good player he is and delivered in buckets what I knew he was capable of when I signed him from Saltaire.

Andrew Deegan has repaid the faith we showed in him and he is now a crucial member of our side, he puts in quality performances week in and week out and Jimmy Lee continues to win matches with bat, ball and in the field and his desire to win is infectious. I would like to think we gave Richard Whitehurst a new lease of life when he agreed to join us and he has now become an extremely important player for us both on and off the field, in the dressing room and in Albufeira on our end of season trip! Andy Gorrod'saddition to the side this year has really pleased me, he has settled really well and looks a good player. I think he will have a great future at our Club as he and the rest of the team develops.

There are a few players I also believed in who are no longer at the Club. Firstly, Tom Pringle who I was very sorry to see leave us as he was also an infectious character and although he was the butt of most of the team's jokes he was very much liked and respected by the rest of us and a real winner. I was also sad to see Marcus Walmsley leave the Club and once again I really rated his ability and liked the fact thatCleckheaton winning was more important to him than his personal performances. Mark Cummins gave our batting line up stability at a time when we desperately needed it although his style of batting was at times slow, he won games for us with bat and ball and he was a great bloke to have involved at the Club. I can honestly say all of the players mentioned have repaid my faith in them many times over and I hope they will continue to do so.

The future

The ultimate goal is for Cleckheaton CC to be the best side in the JCT 600 Bradford League for many years to come. This will be achieved by recruiting the right players, not only in ability but they have to be the right type of personalities who will continue to build the Club's reputation and add to the already superb camaraderie that we have as a team and a Club.

We certainly need to continue to improve each year as we have done over the last ten years if we are to continue to challenge for honours. One thing is for certain, the other so-called big Clubs will be looking to knock us off our perch so to stay where we are the team needs to continually evolve.

Keeping the current side together as long as possible is something I am extremely keen to do. This keeps continuity and provides stability especially as the odd new player comes in to the side. Most of the current side have many seasons left in them before they even think about retiring. However, there are a few of us who are getting closer to that dreaded day. The way we play Cricket here is extremely important and the current set of players understand that and also what the Club is about, so hopefully these fundamental ideas will remain for many seasons to come.

The choice of a new Captain will be extremely important when that day eventually comes. Not only will he need to be a good Cricketer but my eventual replacement must have the Club at heart and respect what we have built here over the last decade or so. The choice will be vital to our Club moving forward and therefore a choice that will be deliberated on greatly to make sure we get the right man.

As we moved closer to Christmas there is always lots of talk about players moving from one club to another and the ridiculous fees they are able to demand for those moves. I am happy to be able to report that several clubs efforts to lure some of our players have failed spectacularly and the team remains loyal to the club. We have helped players at our club develop to a point where other clubs feel they need our players to succeed and this means we are going in the right direction with the correct set of lads to achieve our goals.

There will obviously be the odd player who moves on for one reason or another but more often than not we are able to keep our talent here at Cleckheaton. The team stays here because they enjoy playing cricket with one another and the whole club has a fantastic atmosphere and feel good factor with the club going from strength to strength in all three sections, cricket, rugby and bowls.

The BCL dinner was a good night out and there were 15 player and committee members attend from our club, Tim Jackson was rewarded for his excellent season with the bat and in the field and there were some worthy winners including Helen Burton, my sister in law, for saving the life of a spectator at a match last season.

As always it was nice to meet up with players and friends from other teams, catch up on the latest news and then move on for a night out with the rest of our team. It is a testament to the lads that everybody goes out together and enjoys each other’s company and this goes some way to developing bonds and relationships that come to the fore when the chips are down during the cricket season. The reaction Tim got from the audience was fantastic to hear when he was awarded the players player of the year and everybody enjoyed the evening if not the leathery sole of a shoe that was passed off as beef for our dinner.

The long wait is over.

It has been a culmination of nine years very hard but immensely enjoyable work but finally the team has achieved what no Cleckheaton CC team has done before and win the Bradford League Title.

I am unbelievably proud of our achievement and cannot thank the players, committee, supporters and the sports club enough for their support over the years as we have strived to win the league. The players have been fantastic this year, everybody has contributed to our success this season and the spirit throughout the year has been unbelievable and no doubt this has been a major factor in us winning. Although it was a tense finish to the campaign I am sure our supporters would have expected it to be so as we seem incapable of doing things the easy way, however it possibly made it more exciting for players and fans alike to finish in the manner we did. I am delighted we have secured the services of nine of our Championship winning side for next year which should enable Cleckheaton to challenge for, if not defend our Title.

Joe Robinson will be taking a year out of cricket and therefore will be missing next season which is personally a real blow as he has been an integral member of our side for several seasons now. Joe’s attitude and desire to win has at times lifted me and the rest of the team to achieve better results and his wit and presence in the dressing room will be very much missed if not his hair straighteners!. I wish Joe all the best and hope he will return at some point in the not too distant future.

Ammar Mahmood had to leave the club before the end of the season as his club in Pakistan were getting ready for the Champion’s League T20 competition in India; Ammar has been an extremely popular member of our side especially in this, his third season with us. Ammar’s performances this season have been excellent with bat and ball and he has more than contributed to us winning games and eventually winning the league. I wish Ammar a successful campaign back home and good luck for the future.

Thanks again to my mum Anne and daughter Alex for providing teas and raising funds to give back to the club which are desperately needed at the end of the season, you have both done an excellent job and it is very much appreciated by all.

Without mentioning everybody in the side as they all have contributed massively to this season, I must mention Tim Jackson, as he has scored 1000 runs for the first time and this has been the biggest contributing factor to our success, Tim along with Andrew Deegan who has developed in to a fine attacking left arm spinner have been the cornerstones that our success has been built on this season. I must also say a big thank you to my brother Ian, who has again had a fantastic season but more importantly has offered advice and been a calming influence on me and the rest of the team throughout the year.

For the rest of the team I have only gratitude for what you have given to the club and to me over the season, your hard work, dedication and desire has paid off and you deserve all the plaudits you get for it. Next season is not that long away, so get ready as we try to do it all again, but perhaps a little sooner next time.

What we have achieved is reward for the teams hard work but also it must be said that the committee have worked tirelessly to give us the opportunity to do so. Everybody on our committee should also be proud of our success as you are very much part of it and I and the rest of the lads thank you very much for what you have done. I will finish by mentioning the man who has brought all this together, Dave Worrall, our chairman. Dave’s understanding of the game and clear direction he wants the club to develop has helped me immensely over the years, he is respected by all, especially the lads and I cannot thank him enough for giving me the opportunity to firstly come to the club as captain, and then to assemble a side capable of winning the title.

John Wood

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