Lostock Cricket club are returning to their roots after winning a long and tough battle for survival. The Bolton News head of sport Neil Bonnar talks to the club about how the efforts of dedicated players, supporters and officials have kept the club alive during the most difficult period in the club's history and secured a bright future back in the Bolton Association at a superb new ground.
LOSTOCK Cricket Club will win an eight-year battle for survival when they go back to the Bolton Association next season.
The club will return to their roots after being invited back into the league.
It will mark the culmination of a determined effort by officials and players to keep the club alive through the most turbulent period in its history.
Lostock had spent 55 years in the Association senior league during two separate spells before they were suspended in 2005 due to pitch problems.
The decision left them facing an uncertain future. But they refused to let the club die and set about preserving its existence while planning a route back.
They joined the Manchester Association in 2006 where they have remained for the last eight years, playing the first two on the same ground at Lostock and the last six at Haydock Cricket Club.
They will continue to play their home games at Haydock in their first season back in the Association before returning to their new ground at a purpose-built sporting complex on Chew Moor Lane in Lostock the following season.
Lostock retained their cricketing presence in the town during the last eight years by continuing to run four junior teams in the Bolton Association, playing their home games at Bolton School.
But that was not easy with the club going through such a difficult period, and neither was keeping a senior team going with no Bolton base.
Thanks to the never-say-die attitude of a committed and determined band of officials and players, Lostock overcame many obstacles and have been rewarded by returning to where they believe they belong.
“Our first objective was just to survive, especially after we lost our ground at Lostock,” said the club’s vice-chairman and junior co-ordinator Michael Cregan.
“Initially we were told it would be 12 months but we’ll have been away the best part of nine years.
“There was the determination that we were not going to go under and that somehow we would come out the other side.
“We had a determination that we were not going to be beaten. The rugby section unfortunately folded but there was a feeling that we would keep going to get back in the Bolton Association.
“We are very grateful to the Manchester Association for giving us the opportunity to continue playing.
“Without their help eight years ago we might not be here now.
“It’s nice to be back.”
Lostock’s Bolton Association opponents will find impressive facilities when they visit Haydock next season, and the published plans for the new sports complex at Lostock – which has been secured as part of a housing development scheme in liaison with Persimmon Homes and Bolton Council – suggest the same can be said from 2015 onwards.
“It’s a fantastic facility at Haydock,” said Cregan. “The ground is only about 20 years old and Lancashire 2nds have played there.
“We are grateful for getting to play there.
“Paul Tatton (who has Bolton League and Association connections) is groundsman there and at the time Haydock only had one weekend team and we were able to fit in our home fixtures around theirs.
“It has a really good clubhouse, the wicket is excellent and the outfield is like lightning... and the teas are amazing.”
On the senior team’s fortunes on the field over the past eight years, Cregan said: “We went into the Manchester Association with a very young side first year. Six or seven players were under 20 and we got a lot of batterings. The bulk of the lads have stuck with us and we have matured as a club.
“It has been a challenge keeping competitive senior 11s but we pride ourselves on the fact that 90 per cent of our players have come through the junior system.
“Not including the pro, 17 or 18 of the other 21 senior players have played junior cricket with us.
“I am sure we will find it easier to attract new players when we return to Lostock at Chew Moor Lane.
“With the new ground we plan to contribute to the community and interact with the schools, giving them the opportunity to use the facilities.
“We will also have rugby and football played there as well as cricket. We have ambitious plans for the future.
“We also have a lot of pride that we have kept the kids’ teams going.
“We have managed to field four junior teams throughout the time we have had no home in Lostock, something other clubs have struggled to do. We would love to field an under-9s team but can’t until we get the new ground.
“This has been a whole club effort.
“We have had a lot of help from parents, the committee and officials, the likes of Phil Knowles, Dave Fox, Chris Taylor on the playing side and Rob Lucas, Charlie Greenhalgh and Phil Stephenson who have driven the new ground along.”
Lostock hope to make an impact on the field, too, on their return to Bolton Association action. Although winning their first-ever Association league title is not one of the short-term aims, it is a long-term goal.
With next season’s new 18-team league splitting into two divisions the following year, Lostock’s immediate target is to win a place in the top flight.
“Realistically, our aim is to be in the middle six of the 18 this year; to be among the block competing to see who is in the top division the following season.
“We want to be in the top division.
“We’ve got steadily better, and a big thing is how we play. If you ask most teams in the Manchester Association I think they’d say we’re a good club who play the right way and they enjoy coming to our ground.
“We are thrilled to bits to be going back to our roots. We’re happy to have survived and plan to deliver a great new ground with a team that will credit the Association.“