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North West Regional Championship

First Section:

Adjudicator: Goff Richards
Sunday March 10th
Empress Ballroom
Commences: Approx 10.30pm

Competing Bands: Ashton Under Lyne (J. Maines): Blackburn and Darwen (E. Landon): Dobcross Silver (TBA): Dobcross Youth (T. Griffiths): Hawk Green (Marple): Pemberton Old Wigan (R. Gray): Roberts Bakery (C. Cranson): Stalybridge Old (A. White): Tyldesley (M. Peacock): United Co-op (Crewe) (J. Sparkes): United Nowest Co-op Milnrow (D. Hebb): Vernon Building Scoiety Poyton (M. Obermuller).

Twelve good bands and true will take the stage of the Empress Ballroom and all will be hoping to catch the ear of the very good judge, Goff Richards.

Last year's field are joined by two bands that were relegated from the top section, and who will be hoping to return PDQ and two bands from the Second Section, who were promoted and will not want to return PDQ as well.

Ashton Under Lyne were one of the bands that fell through the top section trap door after last year and they will want to get back as soon as possible. They were 9th in the top flight in both 2001 and 2000, (after three years of consecutive National Finals wins in the lower sections) and they are still a good enough band to play at the highest level on the National stage. 7th at the Grand Shield, 6th at Pontins attest to this, but they have recently come 5th at the Wilkinson contest and 8th at Preston so it will be interesting to see how they fare. Could do well though.

Blackburn and Darwen are also a band that has a good solid record of achievement of late here and have the experienced Eric Landon directing them again. He was with them as they came 5th last year, and they went on to come 5th at Pontins and 3rd recently at the Wilkinson contest. A recent record of 6th in '97, 6th in '98, 7th in '99, 9th in 2000 and 5th last year shows they can hack it well enough. Could well show up come the prizes.

Dobcross Silver were 3rd last year under the baton of the very talented Simon Wood, and this year we don't know who will be spearheading their assault. Whoever it may be, they will do well as they cane 4th in 2000, 2nd in 1998 and 7th in 1997. Only a 10th place in 1998 has spoilt a very solid record here, and that shouldn't change this year.

Dobcross Youth are an amazing band, and a veritable gold mine of talent. Ted Griffiths (father of Morgan and Geraint) is a wonderful teacher and band trainer and since 1997, when they came 2nd in the Fourth Section , this band has come 5th in the third section in 1998, 2nd in the third section in 1999, 6th in the second section in 2000 and won the title here in the first section last year. They came 7th at the Nationals and recently came 3rd at Manchester. How on earth they do it is a matter only Ted knows. May be no further success this year, but well worth a listen to.

Hawk Green (Marple) are the other promoted band with Dobcross Youth in the section this year. Back in 1997 they were competing well in the second section and came 6th and 6th again in 1998 when they were promoted to the first section, only to come 11th and go back down again. Two further years of coming 3rd in 2000 and 2001 sees them return the stronger and they should do well enough to retain their place with comfort.

Pemberton Old Wigan came 8th here last year and went on to come 9th at Pontins, 9th at Preston and win recently at Wychavon. They have also released a well-received CD (reviewed by 4BR). The band were promoted from the third section after coming 7th in 1997 and spent the next three years in the second section coming 3rd in 1998, 13th in '99 and 2nd in 2000, when they gained further promotion. Should do well under the baton of Russell Gray.

Roberts Bakery and Colin Cranson have been together for quite a while and have had their up and downs in the championships here over the past few years. 1997 saw them come 3rd in this section and gain promotion to the top flight, where they lasted three years and came 7th in '98, 9th in '99 and 10th in 2000, which saw them relegated. 11th was a disappointment last year, but they will be hoping that the decline has halted and that they could well be heading back on the right direction.

Stalybridge Old are the other band to fall through the trap door from the top section following their 8th place last year. That was a bit unfortunate as they played well, but allied to their 10th spot in 2000, it was enough to send them down. The band came 19th at the Grand Shield last year and withdrew from Pontins, so they will be hoping that 2002 will start better. They have tended to hop between the sections of late and in 1997 they came 11th in the top section and 9th in 1998, which again meant relegation. It only took them the one-year to get out then in 1999, when they came 2nd so they will be hoping history repeats itself.

Tyldesley were 12th last year and this year they have Mark Peacock at the helm in their bid to try and repeat their 3rd place at least of 2000. They recently came 2nd at Preston in the Championship Section and so hopes will be high. In 1997 they came 2nd in the second section, followed by 7th in '98 and 3rd in '99 and promotion here. Could be one to look out for.

United Co-op (Crewe) will be taken on stage by the experienced John Sparkes, and they will be keen to repeat their runners up place of last year. They are one of the most consistent performers here and have a record that reads, 5th in '97, 8th in '98, 8th in '99, 7th in 2000 and 2nd in 2001. They also came 11th at Pontins and 8th at the National Championships as well as winning the Rhyl contest. Another who could be there or thereabouts.

United Norwest Co-op Milnrow came 6th last year after being promoted from the second section the year before. This was a good solid performance that led the band to come 5th at Pontins, and 3rd at Manchester later in the year. They have made good progress here and have a record that reads, 8th in the first section in 1997, 4th and relegated from the first section in '98, winners of the second section in 1999, 5th in 2000 and promotion and 6th last year.

Vernon Building Society Poynton came 10th here last year, after not competing the year before, and were relegated from the Championship section following their 10th place in 1999. That one year in the top flight came off the back of them coming 4th in the first section 1997 and 3rd in '98, which gained them promotion. This last year has seen them win the Manchester contest, come 10th at Pontins, 4th at Wychavon, 9th at the Wilkinson and 10th at Preston, so they certainly enjoy contesting.

So who will it be then to get the adjudicator's nod of approval and hopefully even get a promotion ticket to the top section for 2003? It's a hard one to call for us, but we'll plumb for a straight fight between Stalybridge Old and Ashton under Lyne for the tickets to Torquay.

2001 Result:

1. Mossley
2. United Co-op Crewe
3. Dobcross Silver
4. Haydock Ogden Travel
5. Blackburn and Darwen
6. United Norwest Co-op Milnrow

4BR Prediction:

1. Stalybridge Old
2. Ashton Under Lyne
3. United Co-op Crewe
4. Blackburn and Darwen
5. Tyldesley
6. Dobcross Silver

Dark Horse: United Norwest Co-op Milnrow

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