The process of digging and researching for a column each week can unexpectedly enrich the subject you have in mind. Sometimes I need good sources, inside knowledge, ‘the beef’ from more experienced players. The narrative will always be mine but they inadvertently hone it with their reactions, responses and behaviour.
In the course of attempting to compile a list of each division’s danger men (and women) for 2013/14, I have run up against succinct replies, general reticence and flim-flam. In short, people don’t always give you what you want. Occasionally the great nuggets surface in amongst the chaff though; players who understand that table tennis needs raw and honest coverage – something to fire its sails.
Let us start with Division Four. It will be a weaker division in September (Nuttall, Francis & Grimwood all departing). This should clear the way for St Paul’s Rory McIntyre and Ladybridge’s Philip Stewart. Expect a 90% win record from both. Joining them near the top of the averages – provided he changes into trainers and shorts – will be James Storey, Harper Green’s resident worker (deceptive speed from the big man). Farnworth’s Andrew Gregory – wounded and hurt following relegation from Three – should quickly adapt his superior game to the demands of this division. Finally, my wild card: Bolton L&G’s Faizan Bhura (bidding wars may ensue).
Division Three will be a beautiful and rarefied setting next season for a handful of very strong players. I am certain the cream will rise: Lostock’s John Nuttall – undefeated in Four and will be too hot to handle for most of Three’s constituents; Heaton’s Dave Jones Jnr – his own harshest critic (Summer League battles have toughened him); Walkden’s Richard Whittleworth – passionate and fierce (a giant); Hilton’s Mathew Fishwick (solid coaching behind him) and wild card, John Barker (relegated but technically sound).
Division Two is my level next time out following successive promotions with BRASS. I am no fool though and expect weekly beatings from most players, especially Meadow Ben’s Mike Audsley and Heaton’s southpaw, Paul McCormick. The new boy, Wilson Parker will set this league alight (his entourage alone unsettling some). My wild card has to be Hilton’s Bethany Farnworth (again, a relegation faller).
The top two divisions (One & Prem), I am told, will have Ladybridge’s burgeoning Steve Hathaway mixing it with Little Lever’s Duncan Hadfield, and Flixton’s Louis Rosenthal threatening the dominance of Ramsbottom’s Michael Moir.