By Mike Popplewell
DIVISION ONE looks very much like the Bradford League tier most likely to demand our attention, with no fewer than five clubs out of the 12 located in our area and Bankfoot just two miles up Cleckheaton Road from Chain Bar.
There were six, plus Morley, last season but the promotion of Batley and Morley, together with the relegation of Scholes, leaves Hartshead Moor, Ossett, Gomersal and East Bierley from last year and the addition of Birstall as runners-up to Carlton in Division Two.
Bankfoot finished nine points behind runners-up Morley last season and there was an eight-point gap between them and fourth-placed Ossett, but only 22 points then separated Ossett, Baildon, Gomersal and Hartshead Moor in a tight grouping where one extra win or defeat could have turned it all around.
The relegation of Undercliffe and Lightcliffe from the Premier Division makes them one of the unknown quantities in this division but, as in most seasons, the winter ‘merry-go-round’ of transfers could make all the difference to a club’s prospects for the new season - and not always positively!
So, what has been happening on the transfer scene?
The only overseas player engaged so far is Australian Jevon Kett, who has been engaged by Hartshead Moor after playing in the Cheshire League last year with Branhall.
Kett has close to a dozen seasons in Victorian Grade cricket, mainly in the Melbourne area, and the fact that he has been so readily engaged by so many clubs does beg a question. Is he in high demand because of his abilities - or has he struggled to earn a second engagement?
Having left behind a disastrous summer down under with fatal bushfires, will he set the Bradford League’s First Division alight or slink off home next September having sunk into relative obscurity?
In fairness, Moor have done well over the years with their overseas signings, and with Ghulam Hussain from Adwalton, Dave Macullam from New Farnley, and Alex Kennedy from Elland, they do have a fresh look about them. With no one being transferred out to date, this coming season should see them fielding a stronger outfit.
Ossett, in fourth place last season, were the pick of the district’s sides in this division and, with the combative and vastly experienced Iain Philliskirk on board, there is unlikely to be a shortage of fight in the squad.
On the recruitment front they have looked outside Bradford League circles to bring in Joe Seddon from Ackworth and Callum Issot from Denby Grange, while the signing of Hanging Heaton’s James Keen should prove a very useful acquisition for the club.
At Gomersal, the Oxford Roaders welcome back Andy Gorrod from Cleckheaton. Gorrod made a sensational start at Gomersal in his last years at College but he never quite maintained the early promise when he stepped up to the Premier Division with Cleck and he became a little disillusioned with the game.
If he bounces back this coming season then Gomersal could be in for some good times - especially if the signing of Daniel Syme, from Jer Lane, proves successful.
Birstall enjoyed great success at times in the Central Yorkshire League but their Bradford League record had not been a great success until last season. Just how well they do in the higher division this time remains to be seen - as yet, there have been no new signings and they have lost Richie Limbechaya to relegated Scholes.
East Bierley’s fall from grace has been quite dramatic. Once one of the League’s leading lights, the South View side only just avoided relegation last season and, with no one moving in or out as yet, it looks like being more of the same this time.