TOM Parton wants to keep Ramsbottom on the glory trail as he undertakes the roles of captain and wicketkeeper at Acre Bottom this season.

The 22-year-old may lack in years but has plenty of experience, having joined the club aged nine and been involved with the first team for six years already.

And he knows he has a task on his hands to repeat the Lancashire League title triumph of last September, especially following the departure of professional and former skipper Daryn Smit to Derbyshire.

“Obviously it’s a great honour to take over at such a big club,” said Parton.

“There is a lot of history involved with the Lancashire League, so to captain one of its clubs is right up there.

“I have been involved in the first team since I was 16, so while I am young to be a captain at 22 I do have a fair amount of experience.”

Smit finished top of the professional batting averages last season and also claimed 71 wickets with his leg spin.

Parton says his all-round influence will be sorely missed, but insists the South African left with best wishes and thanks from everyone at the club.

“Daryn was an exceptional role model,” said the man filling Smit’s spikes. “He respected the Lancashire League and his contributions on and off the field were immense.

“It’s a huge blow, for the club and for the league, to lose his quality.

“But there will be players, particularly the amateurs, who have played with him and against him who will be looking and watching what he can do for Derbyshire this season.

“We learned a lot from Daryn, particularly about the mental side of the game and how that can affect performances.

“We hope to build on that this season and continue to progress in that respect.

“So while it is a blow to lose Daryn, a professional is not forever and he goes with our best wishes.”

The new paid man is another South African, Grant Thomson, and Parton is looking forward to welcoming him to Ramsbottom.

But he insists it’s up to the amateur players to perform as well if Rammy are going to challenge at the top end of the table and in the cup competitions.

He said: “Grant comes with a good pedigree and we’re looking forward to welcoming him to the club.

“He’s a senior pro, at 28, and he will offer a professional outlook for the side.

“But it’s also important for the amateurs to step up, both the young lads and senior players.

“We’ve got some really good amateurs in the squad and plenty of experience.

“Jon Fielding and Simon Read are obviously senior players who have many seasons under their belts and will no doubt offer me plenty of on-field support when I turn to them.”

Rammy’s first match last weekend was rained off so, weather permitting, they will kick off their campaign at Lowerhouse on Sunday.

“We’ve also got some good young players coming through the ranks.

“Josh Dentith is a left-arm spinner and he had a strong end to last season.

“With no Daryn Smit this season, it’s a great opportunity to learn from a senior spinner in Jon Fielding, and who better to learn off than him?”

Three new teams coming into the competition means it is hard to predict how the season will shape up, but Parton says the change is good for the league.

“I expect it to be as competitive as last year, if not more so with the new clubs coming in,” he said.

“All three will offer new challenges and come with a good pedigree.

“Clitheroe are a serious outfit, and Darwen and Great Harwood are strong clubs as well.

“So that means there’s three strong clubs coming into what is already a strong league.

“Burnley, Lowerhouse, Todmorden – there are some very good sides in there.

“But that’s good for the league, ensuring it of a standard that people want to come and watch and players want to play in.”