WILL it be many happy returns for Brixham back in the top flight this season, or will they suffer the fate of so many newly promoted clubs and drop straight back down?
Brixham last played Premier cricket in 1993 under the leadership of Steve Barron, who had a youthful Andy Pugh in his side,
Pugh, then of Devon and soon to play for the England Lions team in the European Championships, was a real run machine in the early 90s.
Pugh scored 1,269 league runs in 1991 to get Brixham promoted, 1,129 to keep them up in 1992 and 628 in 1993, when they were relegated. It was a 22-game season in those days, not 18 as it is now.
Wind the clock forward nearly a quarter of a century and Pugh at 46 is the captain and elder statesman of the side.
Only Paul Heath is still around from those Premier days of long ago – and his appearances are sporadic these days,
Pugh intends to retire at the end of the current season – and this time he means it! He has had breaks from the game before but not been able to stay away.
It may be Pugh’s swansong this season, but he sees no reason to classify Brixham as relegation candidates.
“I can’t see how anyone can reasonably do that before we have played any games,” said Pugh.
“One of the reasons I came back was because the club had a four-year plan to reach the Premier Division. Four years later, here we are.
“We know it will be a tough level of cricket, but we want to be there.
“You know the five or six games you need to target to win and we will do that.
“Most of all we are going to go out and enjoy it. Only myself and Mark Orchard have played Premier cricket before and for the rest it is an exciting prospect.”
Brixham’s elevation to the top flight owed much to the contributions of Queenslander Stuart Edgar – 853 runs, 25 wickets – and the all-round dominance of Matt McGillivray, who took 44 wickets and scored 806 runs.
Edgar is playing for Ambergate CC in Derbyshire this summer. South African McGillivray’s whereabouts are unknown.
That’s a lot of runs and wickets to replace and some of the burden will fall on South African Corné Dry.
Dry, who plays for Knights and Free State in the multi-tiered South African domestic programme, bowls fast and gets on with it when he bats.
Also in is seamer Stephen George from Paignton, whom Pugh predicts will get a lot of wickets bowling at the opposite end from Dry.
Gone from last year are Josh Hunt (back to Torquay) and Mike Meech (Stoke Gabriel). Gone too is left-arm spinner Gary Spencer who, aged 48, has opted to return to first club Barton to see out his career,\