CAPTAIN Joey Pryle says if Blackrod ever got into the Bolton League Premiership division it would have to be sustainable for the club.

The Vicarage Road outfit believe they are gradually going in the right direction on and off the field and are acutely aware of the risk to the club as a whole of rushing it.

Blackrod have been there or thereabouts in the second-tier – the Association division – promotion race for the last two seasons with a squad largely made up of players who have been at Blackrod for many years, most of whom have come through the junior ranks.

Pryle believes the gulf in class between the two Bolton League divisions is so big a club of Blackrod’s size and strength would have to spend a lot of money on players to compete in the higher division right now.

He says they know from experience the damage that can do to a club in the long term.

“We’ve had mercenaries before and they just divide the club, so we are not going down that route again,” he said.

“How Tonge have developed from where they were is amazing.

"To go from losing every week and the club being in a difficult position to challenging for promotion and not throwing money at it is amazing.

“But I spoke to them when we played and they said they didn't know how they would fare in the top division.

“We were in the same position last season where we thought do we really want to get promoted because we would have had to change what we do in terms of developing for the long term.

“Our youngsters are not ready yet so we have had to think about what would happen to them if they were playing against the quality teams in the higher division every week.

“If we were going to be competitive we would probably have had to spend money to bring in players.

“But that’s not right for us and wouldn’t be good for our young lads who have come up from the juniors and deserve a chance to develop by playing.

“You only have to look at what happened to the two teams who got promoted last season, Atherton and Daisy Hill who both struggled this season.”

While the focus is very much on Blackrod’s own player production line, Pryle says they have made one key signing for next season.

They have brought in Pramod Maduwantha to take over as professional from Blackrod's long-time pro, Thushendra de Zoysa.

De Zoysa, a magnificent servant to the club in his nine consecutive seasons with the club, will remain a key part of the first team next season when his new role will be player-coach.

Blackrod hope the addition of Maduwantha will take some of the responsibility off De Zoysa on the field as well as significantly adding to their quality.

Pryle insists the signing was necessary for the overall good of the team and in no way an attempt to buy success.

“We have been looking at bringing in another player next season to supplement Tush,” he said.

“He has been a great servant to the club for many years but he can’t do it on his own every week forever. He deserves some help and we've been looking to give him it.

“Apart from that we want to keep developing our youngsters and giving them a chance.

“It’s not easy getting youngsters playing cricket and keeping them at a club.

“That’s not just us, it’s a wider problem getting youngsters to commit to 50 overs.

“You’ve got to get the young lads hooked in first, get them interested, and then give them a chance to play.

“If you don’t give them a chance they are going to leave.

“If you’re going down the road of spending money bringing players in you’re not going to be able to give your young lads a chance, and I don’t want to do that.

“One young lad was knocking on the door to open this season.

“I usually open and I stepped aside to give him a chance and he took it with a great knock.

“Why would I stand in the way of a good young lad who deserves a chance? That kind of thing is wrong and doesn’t help your club in the long term.

“We want youngsters to know if they come to Blackrod they are joining a good club where they are going to get a chance to play.

“And we do fairly well on the junior side. We regularly get 80 down to the club for junior training, which is great see.

“We know you’re never going to keep them all, but if you keep three or four for the long term we think that’s doing well.”

Pryle says despite Blackrod's realism in knowing they are not in a position to compete in the Premier Division at present, the club is ambitious to play as high as they can.

He stresses, though, any challenge to go up and stay up in the top flight would depend upon the club being in a strong enough position – player and finance-wise – to make it sustainable.

“We know where we’re at at the moment and we’re trying to do what’s best for the club,” he said.

“We had players missing in the first half of the season which would have given us a better chance of winning games, but that gave us a chance to give young lads a chance, and that’s more important to me.

“Where we are as a club at the moment we are more interested in how we can develop youngsters and make the club stronger overall so when we do go up we can make a sustainable effort and not just throw money at it.

“One of the big things we have done recently is we have opened the club up to the community and welcomed everyone to come and spend time here.

"People in the area are embracing that by using Blackrod as a place to be.

“More people are using the club as a place to be and we are growing in the community. One of the biggest successes we had was when we had around 500 watching a World Cup game this summer.

"It was absolutely amazing to see so many people at the club, and we want to build that by making the club a big part of the community where people want to come regularly.

“We are always looking at ways to improve our facilities and develop the club to put us in a stronger position.

"The next step in our plans is to have new changing rooms built which would improve the club both on the cricket side and also give us two function rooms.”