TOTTINGTON St Johns are hoping the impressive refurbishment of their Crompton Meadows ground can “do all sorts” to push the club forward, according to committee member and second-team captain Michael Watts.

A new outfield and drainage system was laid in time for the start of the new GMCL season, although the second team are the only senior side to play there so far due to scheduling and the weather.

The first team were due to play Edenfield in Division Two B the Saturday before last, only for rain to thwart them.

It follows 18 months of a nomadic existence which has seen the first team play home games at Radcliffe and the seconds borrow various grounds across Bury.

After renovation work on the clubhouse and the nets, Watts says of the outfield: “They were talking about levelling the ground when I arrived from Stand in 2008.

“It’s very much been a long-term dream, but the clubhouse was renovated first and then the nets. We saved the biggest job until last!”

Watts is now hoping the improvements can attract more young players, such as second-team bowler Qahim Shah, who took five wickets on debut last month.

“We’ve never struggled to attract older lads or mates of players coming down to help us out,” he explained.

“But having a ground looking as good as it does now can be a real pulling power in terms of player recruitment.”

Watts, also a former first-team captain, has just started his second spell in charge of the seconds, who play in Division Five West.

The firsts have enjoyed back-to-back promotions, but they are playing against overseas amateurs and professionals for the first time.

They started the season with away defeats to Friarmere and Bolton Deane and Derby either side of the Edenfield washout, the latest defeat by 146 runs on Saturday as they chased 272 and were bowled out for 125.

“We want both teams to be stable and play competitive cricket,” said Watts.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for the firsts. Last year we were a very competitive first team and went up. But that was against amateurs.

“Now we’re playing against lads from Australia, India, Pakistan, who live and breathe the game and are here to develop in the North West’s, if not the country’s, strongest league.”

As for signing their own pro or overseas amateur, Watts admitted: “We have talked about it, and maybe in the next one to two seasons we’ll look at it.

“Two of our younger players are off to Australia in September to play winter cricket.

“Danielle Collins, she’s 18, and Ryan Marsh is 21. Maybe they’ll come back and say, ‘This lad wants to come over and play for us’. We’ll see how it pans out and take it from there.”

In terms of how the new pitch has played, Watts added: “It’s played really well.

“The last surface wasn’t the smoothest, even off the square, and it was nice not to be worried about putting your foot down a divot or anything like that.”