Special signings are rare. They reinvigorate a club. They act as polish to the existing ranks.
The news that The Lostock Lasher, John Nuttall is considering a return to table tennis after temporarily retiring in March 2014 is significant indeed. There are not many with his thirst, his drive, his sublime, unorthodox technique.
Past reports have lauded him – taken note of his ability to constantly win (“No Stops Yet for Nuttall Steam Train”). In 2012/13 he did the impossible – he won all 57 of his league matches and joined a select group, the ‘100% Club’.
So where will the 24-year-old play? What contracts and promises have been texted, verbalised and emailed to this still young man with the settled mind of a 35-year-old sage?
Discussions have been had with Meadow Hill, Harper Brass and Heaton to date. When a conqueror hits the market, there is no shortage of takers, no feigning disinterest or stroking one’s chin.
Who will land him? There are sticking points to a deal with each club. Meadow Hill, captained by league general secretary, Roy Caswell finished the 2014/15 season in 11th place in Division Three – one of the relegation spots. Should their logical fate play out then a Division Four birth will not be attractive to a player that has gone unbeaten in the league’s bottom division and has actually achieved 96% in Division Three.
Harper Brass offer a natural route forward having been promoted to Division Two, but team loyalties – still beating in some quarters of the UK – will prevent such a transfer…for now. Their squad is full and ripe and very few teams desire a dressing room of five players when only three walk the table. A perfect fit it would have been, but its time may come again in 2016/17 with an anticipated restructuring of the Harper stable.
Heaton then – that little cricket club on the hill which offers great bar facilities, limited parking and alternative sports. The irony here is that Nuttall’s last tormentor, Dave Jones Snr plays for them. The 16th January 2014 remains etched in both players’ heads. Could the old enemy merge, join forces? It is more than likely. Dave Jones Jnr, of the same club, is a long-time admirer of Nuttall and understands Heaton’s deficiencies following relegation from Two to Three.
Concerning the man himself though – Nuttall's words say a lot: ‘The main thing I want to do is play with people I like and know.’
A simple wish, but the wish of a force, a table tennis whirlwind.