RADCLIFFE Cricket Club are prepared to work for as long as it takes to get back to the top of the local game.

The Unsworth Street club were once one of the biggest names in local cricket, with a ground to match.

The Racecourse remains a grand venue, as big as any around with an impressive clubhouse and score box, multi-tiered seating and an enormous curved terrace capable of accommodating thousands of people.

They hit hard times on and off the field a few years ago with financial problems at the heart of their decline.

It was an issue they began to tackle head on 12 months ago by deciding not to sign a paid professional and concentrate solely on developing unpaid amateur players.

They have made an encouraging start to their rebuild with promotion for both their senior teams and saving money by not engaging a pro.

But they know there is no quick fix and it might take years to get the club back competing at a high level.

First-team captain Michael Farley believes they are at the beginning of a long slow process, but that everyone at the Racecourse is in it for the long haul.

"We are really trying to turn things around at the club after years of underperforming and not living up to the true potential that the club has," he said.

"Last year was just the first step along this process. Rome wasn’t built in a day but the foundation has been laid."

Radcliffe has a huge catchment area to draw players from and are constantly on a recruitment drive to boost their senior and junior playing numbers.

Senior winter practice will take place every Thursday evening from February 1 at Bolton St Catherine's Academy school in Breightmet between 8pm and 9pm and the club will welcome anyone who wants to try their hand at playing the game, regardless of their experience or standard.

The first team will compete in the Greater Manchester League Division Two next season, playing on Saturdays, with the second team in action on Sundays in Division One after last season's title-winning campaign.

The latter side were known as the third team last season – despite the club only having two teams – but will officially become the seconds next season.

Farley is looking forward to the challenge of leading the first team in a higher division this summer as well as tackling the long-term target of returning Radcliffe to the higher echelons of local cricket.

He says the key to success on that front will be to make steady progress in improving the difficult financial situation which has built up over recent years in order to get on an even keel from which they can build in the long term.

The process got underway last year and had the positive effect of enabling the two teams to blood local talent and give them more playing time than they would have got with paid players in the side.

The players are aware of the long-term rebuild and have bought into the long-term strategy of rebuilding the club.

The plan is to keep them together for years and add to them with new players who want to be a part of helping the club move forward.

"We had a good atmosphere in the team last season and we want that to remain as the team develops over the next few years," said Farley.

"We know it's going to be a long process but we've got a five-year plan to build the club and everyone is working towards that.

"We're always looking for new players and we'd appeal to anyone who can pick up a bat or bowl a ball to come along to winter nets and have a go.

"We're a friendly club and we make everyone welcome so come along and try us."

For further details of Radcliffe's winter nets or to join the club ring 0161 723 2604.