BURNLEY captain Dan Pickup is glad to finally see the return of Lancashire League action but admits his side will have to hit the ground running.

With the regular season delayed and then scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic, teams will now contest the President’s Cup – and the Turf Moor side have a tough task.

All 23 teams have been split in to four groups with champions Burnley in with the only other teams that have England-based professionals; Ramsbottom, Middleton, Littleborough and Norden.

While it is far from what Pickup expected the defence of the title to be like, he said the players are buzzing to be back.

“It’s a world away from what happened last season to what is happening now,” he said. “You have to put everything in to perspective and these have been difficult times.

“From a cricket point of view, the main thing is that we are returning to action because, for a long time, I thought we would not see any cricket this season.

“So we are all buzzing to get going again.”

Burnley begin with a home clash with Ramsbottom who pushed them all the way in the title race last season – one of the most exciting campaigns and the first where the league was split in to two divisions.

“We are in a very tough group, the only group where each team has a professional,” added Pickup who has the experience Ockert Erasmus as the Turf Moor paid man this season. “It was definitely the fairest way to do it but we all know a professional can win a game on their own so we have to hit the ground running.”

An added twist to the opening encounter is the fact that Daryn Smit, who played a vital role in Burnley’s title win as a sub professional, lines up for Ramsbottom as their paid man.

Smit has been in fine form already having helped Ramsbottom win the Surridge Sports Valley Challenge Trophy – a competition organised by the clubs themselves which also included Bacup, Haslingden and Rawtenstall.

In contrast, Burnley have had one warm-up game against Clitheroe but Pickup insists his side will be ready for a competition where only group winners progress to the knockout stages.

“You could say Ramsbottom have a slight advantage because they have been on the grass for a couple of weeks now and played in the Valley competition,” he said.

“But we have been training together for a while and had a good win in a warm-up game against Clitheroe. This is cup cricket and you can’t afford to lose any games.”

He added: “It will be great to see Daryn again because he played a big part in our win last season.”

Pickup says a return to action is not only good for the players but also the clubs who have missed out on a vital revenue stream.

“It has been tough for us and every other club,” he said. “We all rely on the income generated over the bar on a match day to keep us going. It has been a double whammy for us as the club is used by football supporters on a match day going to watch Burnley. But with all those games being played behind closed doors, we have not had that income to rely on.”

Burnley will see plenty of Ramsbottom this season as the two clubs, along with Lowerhouse will contest the NHS T20 Cup – playing home and away with the top two playing in a final.


Group One: Burnley v Ramsbottom, Middleton v Littleborough (not playing: Norden)

Group Two: Church v Rishton, East Lancashire v Accrington, Great Harwood v Enfield

Group Three: Clitheroe v Rawtenstall, Colne v Bacup, Nelson v Haslingden

Group Four: Darwen v Walsden, Lowerhouse v Crompton, Todmorden v Rochdale