ANTHONY AXFORD BOLTON ASSOCIATION: Youth emergence is key factor for Little Hulton
LITTLE Hulton captain Darren Mullineux make no bones about why his side are bottom of the league at the moment.
“We just don’t have enough good players,” he said.
The Manchester Road club have lost a string of top players to other clubs, most if not all of whom came through the junior ranks.
And it has seen the team finally wilt under the loss of quality.
“Players like Luke and Ashley Perry, Shay Parkinson, Mark Penny and Callum Barlow have drifted off to other clubs over the last couple of years and we have not been able to replace them,” he said.
“We’re left with a big gap between players in their late 30s and teenagers with no one in between so we just don’t have players to fill the places of the five who have left.”
Mullineux is proud of the quality his club has brought through in the past and says they will continue to do what they can to help junior players become the best they can.
“Our under-13s, 11s, 10s and nines are really strong and we have some really good kids coming through,” he said.
“Harry McManus, who’s only 16, is playing in the first team and doing really well.
“He’s a cracking slow, left arm bowler, a fantastic fielder and he’s learning all the time as a batsman. He knows how to occupy the crease and give the strike to the other batsman.
“He’s not disgraced himself at all and been a real positive this year. We know we’re not going to win anything so we’re looking to give young Harry his cricket legs and find something to build on while we try to find something that will improve us next year.
“There are a few others with a lot of potential. We’ve got a 13-year-old in the second team, Sarfiraz Jan – a big lad who’s a good swing bowler. I went netting with him and he hit me on the back of the head and I thought ‘hello!’ “He’s taken 30 wickets this season and gone straight into the Lancashire Under-13s squad.
“There are a few good young kids in the second team and some of the older players like Ian Lee and Phil Gaskell, proper Little Hulton club men, are doing a great job helping with their development.
“If we can keep hold of them they could be playing in the first team in four or five years. But keeping hold of them is the problem.”
Little Hulton, who visit Blackrod tomorrow, were one of the top teams not too long ago and are not losing sight of the need to remain competitive at first-team level while they going through their period of transition.
They are pleased with the contribution so far of professional Ansar Javed in his first season at the club, and Suleman Muhammad and Shaukat Patel are key men.
“The pro’s a good one,” said Mullineux. “But because of our lack of strength he has to stand up in both innings with the bat and the ball and that’s hard, especially when we only score 80 like we did last week – he can’t defend that.
“We don’t support him enough. But he’s always up for it, he’s got a good attitude and want wants to come and train and help with the kids.
“Suleman’s a proper club man as well and Shaukat tries to the end every game, but we just need more players of that kind of quality.”