Robbie Clarke wants to help to bring the good times back to Oswestry Cricket Club after being re-elected captain at Morda Road.

Clarke was appointed first team skipper for the second time midway through last season, a testing campaign which ended with Oswestry, having been relegated from the Birmingham League 12 months earlier, relegated for the second year in a row.

But now Clarke is looking to the future and firmly believes that Oswestry, preparing to play in the first division of the Shropshire County Cricket League, can start to move back in the right direction.

"I’m very excited about what next season’s going to look like,” said Clarke. "Obviously, the clear objective is to win the league, and I’m very confident about that, about challenging.

“It’s also important that we are building the right foundations, so it’s not just a one season thing.”

Border Counties Advertizer: Shropshire in action against Herefordshire at Morda Road on Saturday

Morda Road

Clarke admits that last season’s relegation in his first season since returning to his local club was disappointing.

But he’s now looking for Oswestry - a club which has some of the best facilities in the county and regularly hosts Shropshire matches - to deliver much better results.

"You have to create an energy and a buzz around it still to get people that are involved to go again,” said Clarke. "It’s probably been quite a frustrating time for a couple of years.

"What’s been frustrating for Oswestry over the last few years in my opinion is that there’s been a lot of change, a lot of change in the players, and that causes disruption.

"What we are potentially looking at next season is a very similar squad who will have had the experience of having a full season together, albeit it wasn’t the best season.

"I’m very positive about what there potentially is in regards to talent as I think there’s a lot of talented young cricketers at the club.

"I just think it’s been a tough time and it has taken its toll on the results, but I’m remaining very optimistic and I think there’s a good chance to go again.”

A number of quality cricketers have moved on from Oswestry in recent years, including former Shropshire captain Joe Carrasco and Roman Walker, now with Leicestershire.

Last winter saw the departures of Warrick Fynn, a star performer for Oswestry for many years, along with three more Shropshire players in David Laird, Ryan Lockley and Ben Roberts, as well as promising seamer Harry Darley.

Last season was Clarke’s first back at Oswestry following spells with Shifnal and also Port Talbot in the South Wales Premier League.

Both he and consistent opener Josh Darley scored more than 700 league runs, but it was not enough to guide the club to safety at the wrong end of the Shropshire County Cricket League’s premier division.

Top order batter Clarke, who played for Shropshire regularly earlier in his career, expects the nucleus of last season’s team to stay and help Oswestry attempt to quickly bounce straight back up.

"That’s what’s most important to me,” he said. "I think teams are always looking to sign a few players now and then. That’s good. But if that’s what you constantly do every year, I think it can cause a lot of disruption when you’re struggling.

"The core of the group is going to remain similar, which is very important. Are we going to add to the squad? Potentially. We’ll have to see how those conversations go over the next few weeks, but the main thing for me is that our core remains the same.

"Josh Darley is very talented. I was very impressed with him as I had not seen a lot of him before. When you are captain, it’s important you know your players, what makes them tick.

"Someone like Josh, it was really good over the second half of the season to figure out what made him tick, and he was brilliant, very impressive.

"He’s someone I would hope that we keep and he can play again, the same as Josh Coleridge, who might not have scored as many runs, but the way he scored his runs was fantastic. He was destructive.”

Clarke knows what it takes to enjoy success as captain at Oswestry. He led the club to promotion from the Birmingham League’s second division in 2017 and they were close to going up again the following season.

Staying at the club next season was always on his agenda, despite having to contemplate life in a lower division - and he was pleased to be elected skipper once more at the club’s recent AGM.

Clarke added: "Towards the end of the season, I had conversations with a few senior individuals, which was very much like 'we've got ourselves in this situation’.

"We always knew there was a chance of going down if we were in and around that bottom part of the table. As much as we were pushing to get the results towards the end of last season to make sure that didn’t happen, if it did happen we would be making sure we took accountability and were the ones to bring Oswestry back up.”