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The following history is mainly taken from the piece written by Roy Cavanagh in his 1988 book Cotton Town Cricket to celebrate the centenary of the BDCA, with a little updating to cover the last 25 years.
"1949, say the record books, was the year that under 18 cricket was introduced into the Bolton Association. Not true! Close inspection of the archives reveals an interesting point. Firstly, the competition (which dates back as far as 1926) was originally known as the "Third Teams" competition, a term which was still used until relatively recently for the Under 18 section by many club officials. The third team is, in fact, exactly what the Monday evening matches were staged for, and the under 18 tag was merely a suggestion as to how to make up the team, because 1stXI and 5 2ndXI players were not allowed to participate. Presumably then, the team would consist of six of the previous weekend's 2nd string, plus those unable to secure a game and, hopefully a couple of under 18s for good measure!
Secondly the competition was, for a large number of years, made up of no more than four clubs - Little Hulton, Atherton Collieries, Walker Institute and Clifton, with occasional "inrusions" from other clubs in the early sixties. Interestingly, between 1949 and 1967 when the rule was changed, those 3 clubs won all but 3 of the championships. I say three clubs and not four, because, surprisingly, despite entry after entry Clifton never achieved one single championship over these years.
For the purposes of this journal, I will, therefore, suggest that the true Junior Section of the Association commenced with the donation of the Harry Johnson Cup (as a knockout trophy specifically for under 18s) by Little Hulton in 1967. Even then, the rule change was not exclusive of senior players, as an "older player" was permitted to act as non bowling/batting or wicketkeeping captain.
Astonishingly, this rule persisted until as late as 1982, some 6 years after the introduction of the under 14 sections. reports exist of teams having a different over age captain every week, and there is at least one report of an over age mum turning out during a period of great need!
With the introduction of Mr Johnson's trophy, the section immediately started to grow. By 1972 for example there were 12 teams taking part, including all but 2 of the league's then 12 1st division sides, those being Astley & Tyldesley (previous season 1stXI champions) and, perhaps less surprisingly in view of the distance involved Edgworth.
The numbers were made up by the ambitious Swinton Methodists (now Swinton Moorside) from division 2, and by Manchester Association side Leigh. In 1973, with the addition of Astley & Tyldesley, St Pauls Swinton and Winton, the section was split, East and West, with the top sides playing off for the title.
1974 saw the disappearance of Barton Hall, never to run an under 18 side again, but with fouteen clubs now playing under 18 cricket every Monday throughout the season, in two competitions, the sction was well and truly established.
1975 was theyear that the senior division reached a watershed of it's own, with the inclusion of an extra two clubs, Walshaw and Hawker Siddelley. the under 18s also gained two, in the form of Blackrod, forging an important first link in a long lasting relationship with the Association, and Monton from the Manchester Association. However, St Andrews pulled out just before the season started leaving the section with 15 clubs.
1976 was a new challenge for the BDCA as the Bolton League decided in similar vein to ourselves this very year (1988), to limit their junior sections, including an under 14 section, to their own clubs. So, clubs like Clifton who had played with the BCL sides for so long were left high and dry. So it was that the under 14 section was born, with ten member clubs, two of whom - Bolton & Darcy Lever - did not have under 18 sides. Hawker Siddelley meanwhile made up the numbers in the under 18s to a record 16 clubs.
1977, saw the appointment, for the first time, of a junior secretary for the league, to take charge of the under 14 section only!. the appointment was Maurice Hallows, a familiar figure in junior cricket and in the 2nd division where he umpired matches for his club of many years Swinton Methodists.
walshaw CC also donated the Walshaw Cup to be played for by under 14s on a knockout basis. The previous year had seen the BCL allow their former teams to enter their knockout, presumably as a parting gesture, and Walshaw filled the vacuum left by the withdrawal of the offer in 1977.
1977 also saw the first in a number of "doubles" with Bolton winning winning cup and league. It also highlightede a growing problem for the league, as the guest clubs from other league ceased to simply add to numbers, but actually replace our own clubs who began to drop out in alarming numbers.
In 1978, only 13 of the 23 teams in the under 14 and 18 sections were from 1st division clubs. This, despite the formation of a rival league in the Salford Youth Cricket Association, which, aside from tempting teams away, also acquired the services of Mr Hallows. A replacement was found in the form of Stephen Eccles who was attached to Clifton CC, but at this time Roe Green, Barton Hall, Edgworth, Walshaw and St Andrews were running no junior sides in the Association and only 4 of the 9 under 14 sides were from the 1st division.
The onset of te 80's saw an upsurge of interest and a number of experiments were conducted in order to find the right formula for the league. Some were not successful, notably the ill fated under 16 section which lasted only one season, and fel of the fact that much of the season was played during the period in which the 1980 O Level examinations wer going on.
However, from despair came triumph in the introduction in 1982 of a friendly under 12 section. The section was an instant success, and the rules drawn up by the clubs ensured that all boys had a good chamce of getting involved in the game and that "stars" were not allowed to dominate the game to too large an extent.
In 1983 a league championship was introduced for them using the now redundant Stanley Makin trophy which had been donated for the under 16s in 1980. Sponsors were sought for the knockout trophy and were found in the shape of K&B Sports of Leigh, and so the K&B Shield was born.
The lasting impression of the 1983 season was the packed Roe Green ground, as Adlington u12's already league champions, were narrowly beaten in the K&B final by a wildly enthusiastiv Deane & Derby side. Even the unpires, normally sentenced to several hours of senior cricket on a weekend afternoon could not help getting carried away by the atmosphere, and the look on their faces, a mixture of amazement, astonishment and awe-struck wonderment at the scenes, was a memorable sight in itself.
1983 had also seen the junior section entering the Lancashire Youth Cricket Council knockout for the first time at at both under 18 and under 15 level. The u15 side was difficult to select due to the fact that no u15 section existed, but despite both sides going out at the first hurdle, the Lancashire Cricket Handbook for 1984 stated that we had "at least something to build on".
So it was that in 1984 the under 14 section was changed to under 15. he change did not bring immediate success as, for a 2nd year, the side was drawn against the Lancashire Colts which draws from clubs like Accrington, East Lancashire and Todmorden, but the 78 run defeat was far from a disgrace. Furthermore the u18 side, led by Andrew Kilner, had reached the semi final, but holidays took their toll, including the skipper, and the side slipped to defeat against the Bolton League who went on to win the competition.
1985 saw the domestic competition reach stability, as the under 12 competition became under 13, hence falling in line with LYCC age limits. The sections now contained 35 teams, of which 23 belonged to the 1st division clubs. By this time, Standish and Blackrod had replaced Farnworth Social Circle and the unfortunate Walker Institute and, although Standish's flourishing sides were to spend a last season in the SW Lancashire League, the 2 clubs admission to the 1st division was a bonus for the junior section.
However, there was still no sign of sides emerging from Barton Hall, Walshaw and St Andrews, though Edgworth had finally made the commitment in 1981 and that, although success in terms of trophies has eluded them, a number of useful players have emerged. By far the biggest landmark of the 1985 season was the success of the Association's under 15 side in the LYCC knockout. Colin Smith's team defeated the South Lancashire League, and the strong South Manchester JCL to reach the final at Old Trafford where the Lancashire Colts League bogey was finally laid to rest. Rain soaked Old Trafford saw the BDCA side score just 112-8 in their 34 overs, but skipper Smith and A&T's Fitzmartin gave away only 12 runs from the opening 7 overs and Smith captured opener Perry's wicket as a bonus. Smith went on to take 3/9 in his 6 overs, as the Colts side slumped to 90 all out. Even 12th man Michael taziker weighed in with 3 catches in the outfield.
The years since (to 1988) have been dominated by the introduction of the "Five Year Plan" for junior cricket, which basically aimed for all fourteen 1st Division clubs (supplemented by 2 from the 2nd), to each run 3 junior sides. This means the parting of the ways for our guest clubs, some of whom have supported us since the very early days. Our own clubs, have, almost unanimously, given their support to the scheme, but some have struggled to meet the deadlines. Centenary year is the first year in which we will be without our guest clubs. It is also the parting of the ways for junior secretary Stephen Eccles who moves to pastures new. It is a challenging time for junior section, and the final years of the 5 year plan could be make or break time. It should be borne in mind what has been achieved and what is still to be achieved. Our future as a credible league is indeed in their hands"
So, did the 5 Year Plan prove successful? The answer has to be a resounding yes. By 1995 the BDCA had added an under 11 competition, and eight years later in 2003 we added an under 9 competition to complete a full set of junior age groups. All clubs enter at least 3 sides, with the vast majority 4 sides, and by 2014 an increasing number were running 5 teams. Success indeed for the Association, and for the foresight in setting up the plan 30 years ago. 2014 will mark something of a watershed with a record 19 clubs (including guests Bolton Indians) playing in 5 age groups split into East and West sections and fielding around 90 teams between them! Success indeed