The race is on. Two teams from three will, in all likelihood, take the divine leap from Division Four to Division Three. The others may as well down tools. There is no trap door from this division, no Conference equivalent, no Division Five. They are stuck – set to play out another season in the bottom rung, guests of Jackie Smith who is surprisingly anchored to the foot of the table as captain of Meadow Hill ‘B’.
Division Two: Harper Brass ‘B’ 3 Hilton ‘E’ 6 ‘Who is Nayem Alam?’ Farnworth Social Circle’s John Rothwell asked me on 12th December. At this crucial time of the season promotion candidates keep an eye on their rivals and likewise so do those fearing relegation.
At 10pm tonight inside the Esprit Arena (Dusseldorf), reigning heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (64-3-0) is expected to fight UK challenger Tyson Fury (24-0). This article examines both boxers...
Division Two: Harper Brass ‘B’ 1 Meadow Ben ‘A’ 8 If Meadow Ben’s Dave Holden does not turn you over in a legitimate manner, there is the distinct possibility that he might strangle you with his gargantuan hands and forge the scorecard.
Given the route into Ramsbottom – via the A676 with its reservoirs and moors – you know you are exiting Bolton and entering another land. Said to have become a homogenous settlement in the late 18th century, Ramsbottom or the ‘Valley of the Ram’ got a firm Industrial Revolution leg-up from Sir Robert Peel and the River Irwell.
If you look closely in amongst the thicket of words in the Bolton and District Table Tennis League handbook you will see, under Rule 21, the following: “Teams in the lowest division only consisting entirely of juniors may opt for home fixtures only.”
Division Two: Heaton ‘C’ 7 Harper Brass ‘B’ 2 Not reported in the wider press over the summer was the transfer of John Henry Scowcroft from Heaton ‘B’ to ‘Heaton ‘C’. Although seen in many quarters as a final acknowledgement that his 79-year-old body could no longer handle the rigours of life in Division One, the real story was somewhat different.
The passing of the Major League Baseball star, Yogi Berra (aged 90) late last month is a reminder that daftness will always have a place at the heart of sport. The feared clutch hitter famed for his Yogi-isms was said to have a homely face and a talent “routinely underestimated”. Some of his quotes are like gold dust: “If you see a fork in the road, take it”
Premier Division: Nomads ‘A’ 2 Ramsbottom ‘A’ 7 Nomads’ Billy Russell and Keith Dale weren’t to know that teammate Frederic Turban would turn over the league’s numero uno scalp, Michael Moir. They were already in the doldrums – 7-1 down on the night; Russell and his colossal thighs departing early due to coaching commitments and Dale probably stricken by the grief of ‘playing up’, albeit in respectable four-set matches.
Since electronic records began (Bolton League) in 2011/12, Michael Moir (currently 85th in England) has got 100% in three of those four full seasons – his only loss to Louis Rosenthal in March 2014. That does make your recent victory against him special.
Division Two: Harper Brass ‘C’ 6 Ladybridge ‘B’ 3 The real hero tonight was not the winning team, Harper Brass C. Nor was it the players inside it – captain Faizan Bhura, Kirit Chauhan and treble terminator John Nuttall. It was instead Ladybridge’s stand-in player from Division Three, Ellis Longworth.
A perfect 60 teams in the Bolton Table Tennis League was never going to last. Scurryings down the road to Bury, retirements and the odd AWOL during a summer of madness were always going to unhinge things slightly.
‘Truth is going out of fashion,’ Nomad’s Tim Vaughan tells me. I had phoned him to ask if he had any ideas as to why his table tennis matches last longer than anyone else’s, why he has an extraordinary amount of five-setters under his belt and before I knew it he was talking about pianos, community painting and self-education.
Special signings are rare. They reinvigorate a club. They act as polish to the existing ranks. The news that The Lostock Lasher, John Nuttall is considering a return to table tennis after temporarily retiring in March 2014 is significant indeed. There are not many with his thirst, his drive, his sublime, unorthodox technique.
Coburg ‘B’ 12 Coburg ‘A’ 8 A blunt analysis of this final would posit that Mark Speakman of Coburg ‘B’ was the principal architect in demolishing higher lettered rivals, Coburg ‘A’. His personal points tally for the evening was 6 ½ set alongside team mate Bob Bent who hauled in a point less (opponents Kevin Chapman and Jim Hewitt accumulating 5 ½ and 2 ½ respectively).
On possibly two of their twenty-two evenings there was hope: the opening Division Two fixture on 4th September 2014 when captain, Dave Jones Jnr wrestled the night’s first match away from Krishna Hooton (12-10, 11-9, 10-12, 11-3) and then again on 12th December 2014 when they salvaged a hat-trick of wins against a weakened Hilton H.
On Sunday, 31st May - shortly after 3pm - a red-faced, battle-worn and drenched Paul Cicchelli finally got to sit down knowing that he’d just taken the weekend’s big trophy by turning over Formby’s Jack Dempsey in the ‘Senior Singles’ final (11-13, 11-7, 11-3, 11-6).
The names of the Nobel Prize nominees are not revealed until 50 years after the event. This adds a certain fascination to the awards given out. Who did the eventual winner beat? Was he or she up against the cream?
Max Brooks knows very little about Rocky Balboa yet skips five times a week – outside, near the back gate. Such rhythmic poise augments his low centre of gravity and remarkable balance. He claims to stand 5’ 6” tall although one suspects that underneath the slicked-back, mountainous hair he is actually 5’ 5.
He has the hard jaw of youth – an almost inert face that gives very little away. After speaking to him, you do not get the sense that he has won anything, but rather lost. There is a bit of the dour Scot in him – a solemn, behind-the-eyes weighing up of events.
Hard to watch the normal matches, the gentle drift of ping-pong balls, when an evening opens up with such a classic. Usually there is a logical order to things, a slow increase in the Hilton Centre’s voltage by dint of talent: Level Veterans’ (40+) Singles final first, Level Doubles somewhere in the middle, and finally the Level Singles – supposedly the big boys without the creaks.
Never a big crowd, but then the people of Bolton remain largely unaware of this April feast. One half expects the players to size up the place in their suits beforehand, check out the ‘turf’ and see if their honed abilities are suited to the generous surroundings.
I can get hold of 5 brand new full size training tables.....
Roy Caswell via Bolton Table Tennis League ::
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