JAMES SMITH has announced that he will be stepping down as Pudsey St Lawrence captain at the end of this season – and is aiming to sign off with another trophy this Sunday.
The two-times Bradford League championship winning skipper lifted league silverware in 2015 and 2016 – following in the footsteps of his father Keith who also led the club to the title.
Other highlights for Smith include captaining St Lawrence to glory in the Priestley Cup in 2014 and 2011 and he will lead the club into finals action again on Sunday at Masham when they take on York in the Black Sheep Yorkshire Champions Trophy (2pm).
Smith, who will be succeeded by Chris Marsden – and will carry on as a player – said: “Just in terms of the strain it takes on me from where I live now and family life, Chris is a guy who is keen to do it and it is right he gets that opportunity and chance to do it.
“I have done two stints as captain and with all the hard work and heartache with (Pudsey) Congs’ success over the first number of years when we always seemed to be under them, I am proud of the achievements when I have time to reflect.
“Not neccessarily what I have achieved, but what we have as a team and a club. It has been a magnificent effort on the budget we have had with the juniors who have come through.”
On Sunday’s final, he said: “It gives us a chance to salvage something from a pretty average season where we’ve let ourselves down and fallen short.
“To have beaten Wakefield Thornes and get to this final gives us something to focus on at the end of a season where there would be nothing to play for, if we weren’t in it.”
St Lawrence finish their league season on Saturday at home to new champions Hanging Heaton, with the ‘live’ issue of the day being at the bottom where Pudsey Congs, Bierley, Batley and Cleckheaton are in a four-way fight to avoid the drop on a day when all will be hoping that the weather doesn’t spoil matters.
Just three points separate Congs, who are bottom, from third-from-bottom Batley, with Cleck also not out of the danger.
All the relegation candidates have home advantage tomorrow. Congs host New Farnley, Bierley welcome B&B, while Batley entertain Woodlands. Cleck entertain Lightcliffe.
Putting rivalry firmly to one side, Smith is hoping that Congs can haul themselves to safety, so that the Pudsey derby remains a league fixture in 2018.
Smith added: “Before our derby game down there, I had five minutes with Babar (Butt –Congs’ captain) before the game and just said: ‘Look, you probably don’t expect this from me, but I really want you to stay up’.
“The Pudsey derby is a key fixture at Bank Holiday at the end of May and one we look forward to. If they weren’t in the Premier Division, it would be a massive disappointment.
“I hope that they manage to pull it out of the fire, to be fair.”
Smith is similarly magnanimous when it comes to his respect towards new champions Heaton and he is particularly pleased for Tewits captain and former team-mate Gary Fellows in being able to lift the trophy.
He said: “Gary was one of the lads who I shared a dressing room with and he is such a nice lad. I am chuffed for him to win the league and finally get his hands on that piece of silverware.”