GORDON Simpson may bow out of Great Harwood Cricket Club on Saturday - but he will be keeping in touch and praying they finally lift the Ribblesdale League title.
The 33-year-old has been part of the Cliffe Park set-up since he was 13 but is having a knee operation next week and then is moving to Norfolk with work in June.
It means Saturday's Ramsbottom Cup clash with Blackburn Northern could be his final game for Harwood.
He has happy memories of his 20 years at Cliffe Park but is frustrated that the league title has always eluded them and Harwood have picked up the unwanted "nearly men" tag.
"We just seem to have been jinxed. It has been a traversty we haven't won the title," said the bowler, with Harwood last lifting the championship trophy in 1900.
"I can't remember how many times we have picked up the runners-up medals at the league dinner.
"And it has been to different teams. In the years I have been there, whether it has been Cherry Tree, Padiham, Clitheroe, Ribblesdale Wanderers or Read, they have all just pipped us.
"We have won the Ramsbottom Cup three times - 1990, 1995, 2001 - but, with no disrespect to the cup, I would take the league title every time. The obsession has always been the league."
His most memorable game was in 1999 when Harwood beat Padiham on the final Saturday of the season to take over at the top of the league and then needed to beat Cherry Tree in their final day clash the next day.
"I remember thinking that Saturday night that we had just one game to do it and it was in our hands," said Simpson, who was captain for four years until he stepped down at the beginning of last season.
"It was great beating Padiham, going top, and being captain, knowing we could win the league the next day. But then we needed 180 in our innings, the pro was out for a duck and we collapsed - and the title eluded us again."
He says he has been disappointed for himself and for the likes of Paul Houldsworth, Allan Armer and Paul Newton, who have been striving for the title together for years.
"We have all been there quite a while, all playing together, with the aim of winning the league every season. None of us are getting any younger but I hope, for them, they do it soon as there is no satisfaction in picking up the runners-up medal."
Gordon has been a prolific wicket taker - his best was 8-13 against Padiham in 2002. And he has played with some great professionals.
"Lot of the pros have impressed me. I think one of the best cricketers was Sugwekar, who was pro in 1999. He was a phenomenal batsman and was class. He was a fantastic pro and if he had come back the following season, I am sure we would have won the league.
"And then there was Crooky (Andy Crook) over the past two seasons. I saw he got 160 for Lancashire this week. We had a great two seasons with him.
"And going further back there was Paul Hutchinson who was the best pro in the league. We only lost two games all season with him but still finished second because Clitheroe had Wrigglesworth who was awesome."
But, in his absence, he thinks Russell Whalley, who took over the captaincy from him at the start of last season, might just be able to finally lift the long-awaited championship trophy.
"Russell has said this season that there will be big reliance on the team and not on individuals and I think that will be the case this season.
"On Sunday, the top six all chipped in with 20-plus and that was a vital contribition. I don't think any team will run away with it this season as any team can beat any other on the day. But hopefully, we have plenty of experience that will work in our favour."
And Harwood have certainly started the new campaign off well with three wins in their opening four games. And none were more impressive than Saturday's win over Ribblesdale Wanderers.
Pro Martin Nurse notched his first Harwood ton with 104 - including three sixes and 11 boundaries - while captain Whalley continued his prolific form with the bat this season making an unbeaten 122 in just 80 balls. He got nine sixes and nine fours in their 249-3. Nurse then chipped in with the wickets taking 4-51 to steer Harwood to an easy win.
There were no big scores the day after but everyone played their part in their local derby with Baxenden, whose game against Settle was rained off on Saturday.
Bash pro Indika Gallage, making his debut, has threatened to undo the Harwood charge taking 6-68 but the 194 proved enough - even though Baxenden debutant Francois Herbst made 59.
Oswaldtwistle Immanuel had a weekend to forget. They spent three hours getting the excess water off the ground to make it a reduced game of 27 overs on Saturday. The early slippy pitch proved to be to Barnoldswick's advantage and their 193 was too much despite 53 from sub pro Kumar Dharmasena.
The following day, Cherry Tree were the victors. Immanuel made 150 but, although Immanuel's four bowlers kept at it, Tree secured the win.
Both Baxenden and Oswaldtwistle have a rest this weekend as they have bye's in the first round of the Ramsbottom Cup.