THERE are some very itchy feet in the new Premier League second tier.
The clubs who took the plunge to join the new set-up have had to watch and wait while the Premier Division big boys blasted off last weekend, but now it’s time for the 10 trailblazers to take centre stage with the first ever games in the new division.
And, with the option of promotion to the top flight available to the champions, there is everything to play for among the ambitious clubs who now make up the second level of the new regional pyramid.
Boldon set their stall out by re-signing West Indian Test player Nelon Pascal, the fast bowler having previously played for the club in 2008.
Pascal opens the bowling for the Windward Islands, and has represented the West Indies in two Tests and a one day international. He will possibly miss the first couple of weeks as he completes playing commitments in the Caribbean.
There are two other newcomers at Sunderland Road, with all-rounder Shaun Hauxwell and exciting young prospect Lawrence Wood both joining from Philadelphia. With just one departure and Chris Ellison at the helm again, Boldon should do well.
They start at home to Seaham Harbour, who moved quickly to secure the services of Indian Swaru Purkayastha after seeing what he did in his stint at Castle Eden last year.
The all-rounder should be a match-winner on occasion for skipper Stuart Lacey, who also has another new face in the dressing room following the signing of Dale Shaw from Sunderland.
Andy Turns will skipper Whitburn, who have also kept hold of last year’s squad, and added to it with the arrivals of 17-year-old Australian Steve Jones, a right arm quickie from Perth, and batsman Michael Turns (Sunderland) and off-spinner Michael Bittlestone (Boldon).
Whitburn are at home to Felling, whose Australian signing, Matt Milton, broke his hand a couple of weeks ago, an injury which requires an operation.
Popular Pakistani Mohtashim Ali arrived in the country yesterday and he will spearhead Sacriston’s challenge after excelling in the club’s final Northumberland and Tyneside Senior League campaign last summer, when he averaged 70 with the bat.
With Ali back, skipper Ian Hunter has an unchanged squad to call upon for the opening visit to Willington, who have snapped up 19-year-old Australian leg-spinning all-rounder James Kennedy to line up alongside their acquisition of Zaheer Shahbaz from Middlesbrough.
Washington could be the dark horses. Ashley Thorpe brings tremendous experience to the former Coast League club, and he is able to call on the services of Minor Counties player Paul Hindmarch and Darren Hickey, while Dan Woolston has followed Thorpe from Sunderland.
Their opener is away to Eppleton, who do not have a professional. Their overseas player is a first grade Aussie from Victoria – 18-year-old medium-pacer and middle order batsman Ned McCormack – who joins new signing Gary Purcell in the team.
With Graham Hoban skippering after taking a year out from cricket, the Church Road men could be in a position to mount a challenge for honours.
Look out, too, for Brandon. There is no doubt they are serious about challenging at the top end of the table and captain Scott Nattrass has a whole host of new players at his disposal.
Leading the arrivals is ex-Durham County man Karl Turner, who returns to the club after a spell with Nottinghamshire. Top players John Carmedy and Eddie Watson have come in from the successful Esh Winning team, and youngster Matthew Whaley has joined from Durham City.
The icing on the cake is the recent announcement that bowler Ruel Brathwaite will play when not required by Durham.
Brandon entertain South Hetton, who struggling to identify the right man to be their overseas signing, although the search goes on. They do have one unknown quantity in Ryan Dowse, who played previously in the Bradford League and is currently at university.
Let battle commence!