IN COMPARISON to some golden days in the noughties, the current decade has been rather more lean for Pudsey Congs.
The traditional Bradford League heavyweights have not lifted the top-flight title since 2010, which followed on from five championships at the start of the Millennium – with their best finish since last winning league silverware being fifth, in 2015, 2013 and 2011.
They also had to watch on helplessly last term as town rivals Pudsey St Lawrence reigned supreme in the league and were afforded plenty of bouquets along the way.
The delayed newly-named ECB Bradford Premier League starts tomorrow, with Congs seeking to start as they mean to go at Bradford and Bingley, while champions St Lawrence welcome New Farnley.
While being loath to declare that Congs will be pushing all the way for the title as they bid to wrestle it back from across town, management committee member and spokesperson Ralph Middlebrook remains confident that the side will make a better fist of things and be in contention at the business end of the season.
Off-spinner Josh Wheatley, a player who has performed well against Congs in the past, has joined from Lightcliffe, while all-rounder and former Wisden Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year Dylan Budge – who has represented Scotland and been on the staff at Durham – is another new arrival.
Left-armer Mohammed Harries have been promoted from the second XI, while former Altofts player and Silcoates School pupil Jonathon Donnelly – recommended by ex-Congs stalwart Glenn Roberts – is also on board.
With the newcomers supplementing the likes of opening bowler Josh Holling, who has trialled with Northants, Andrew Bairstow, Callum Geldart and captain Gareth Phillips, Congs have the look of a strong outfit – with the possibility of an Asian paceman also to further add to their ranks.
Middlebrook said: “We have a good strong team and players who can step up and fill a gap and we should be in contention for the league.
“There is no reason that we should not be in for all three competitions (league, Priestley Cup and Twenty20) and people will know when they play Pudsey Congs that they will have a game on their hands.”
In terms of those who he expects to be in the mix for silverware, he added: “There will be more than one team to beat. St Lawrence had a fantastic year last year and full marks to them for winning it.
“Even if we lost a few matches this year, we’d rather not lose to them in the nicest possible way. But they and other teams will be a handful.
“The Premier League is an exciting concept and possibly playing at Headingley and then possibly the UAE at the end of the season is also exciting and I welcome all the hard work people have put into the league.”