Blackpool Cricket Club welcome back a special guest for tomorrow’s Northern Premier League opener but the Stanley Park club will again showcase young homegrown talent this season.
Northamptonshire seamer Richard Gleeson returns for the trip to Netherfield, while South African all-rounder Ockert Erasmus appears as substitute professional while Blackpool await the arrival of new club pro Anurag Verma from New Zealand.
But Blackpool’s emphasis is again on youth and captain Paul Danson believes the devastating end to last season, when Leyland pipped them to the title, will be a valuable experience for his developing players.
Danson told The Gazette: “We didn’t have many bad days at the office last season and we saved our worst for the end, but our young team is a year older and what happened will be a good experience for them to take into this season.
“We will have seven or eight homegrown players aged 19 or 20 in the first-team squad, and the second and third teams will be the same.
“We try to nurture our own talent and we bring them through the right way, but they have to earn the right to play in the first team.”
That’s why Verma is the only new face in this season’s squad, though a paperwork snag will delay the Kiwi’s debut until Barrow visit Stanley Park a week tomorrow.
A fast-medium bowler, 26-year-old all-rounder Verma played for New Zealand Under-19s and Danson said: “To be honest we had our sights on someone else, but Daryl Mitchell (last year’s pro) came up with Anurag’s name and he ticked all the boxes.
“We have a very young fast bowling department and his arrival will be good for them. He will be a good middle-order batsman too. “
Sub-pro Erasmus is a wicketkeeper batsman who played for St Annes at the back end of last season.
Like his fellow Fylde coast captains, Danson welcomes this season introduction of promotion and relegation between the Northern League and Palace Shield.
“It makes the league more competitive. In the past some teams had nothing to play for by the halfway point. Now with the threat of relegation everyone will have something to fight for right through.”