REG Nelson had a three-word answer for his immediate reaction in winning the Sir Leonard Hutton Trophy, the Bradford Premier League’s top honour.

“It is astonishing,” said the 72-year-old, who has written tens of thousands of words about the league over many years, including regular columns in the programmes of Saltaire and Woodlands, as well as match previews on the league’s website.

After receiving the award at the league’s annual dinner and prize presentation at Headingley earlier this month, he confessed: “I thought that I might have had an outside chance in a few years’ time, but the Sir Leonard Hutton Trophy is the No.1 trophy to have.

“It is so prestigious, and when you look at the cricketers and officials who have won it, I didn’t think I would have a price.”

His love for the Bradford League runs deep and he is without doubt the fount of knowledge when it comes to league affairs.

Nelson, humbled at becoming the 64th person to receive the award, admitted: “I love writing for the Bradford Premier League website because it is the best league, and I am proud to have been associated with it for many years and have made many, many friends.

“But when I think of the amount of work that some people do in the Bradford League, I find it astonishing that they should choose me, and I am so eternally grateful because I have had a bad six months, and it has cheered me up a lot.”

Since news of the award broke, Nelson admitted that he has been overwhelmed by the many kind and congratulatory messages received on Facebook and Twitter.

He said: “It has been really touching. I had absolutely no idea that I would be in the running for the Sir Leonard Hutton Trophy. It was a total surprise, and it was only when I listened to the citation that I suddenly realised it was about me.” 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Former England captain Graham Gooch was the guest speaker at the Bradford Premier League's annual dinner.Former England captain Graham Gooch was the guest speaker at the Bradford Premier League's annual dinner. (Image: Ray Spencer.)

Not only has Nelson suffered the loss of his mother, just months short of her 100th birthday, but he has also been battling bowel cancer.

“I am treating this as a huge positive,” he said. “The chemotherapy has been tough, but my whole aim has been to get through this and be able to watch good local cricket again.”

He revealed: “I will keep striving for the Bradford Premier League as long as I have a muscle in my body because it is a great league to be associated with and I couldn’t be prouder.

“I enjoy researching clubs’ histories and I also enjoy previews of matches because I like to get personalities involved. Some might take it slightly the wrong way, but most don’t.

“If you can get personalities involved then people are twice as keen to read what you are writing about. That’s what I like, and the comebacks from certain players that I have written about.

“But the ultimate is the club histories, and I update them every year.

“I am proud that I have done all 48, including (new boys) Streethouse, where I have written an article for the website welcoming them and interviewing their captain.”

Nelson, who has been associated with the league for more than 50 years, has also made his mark as a player, club official and member of the league executive, as well as being a writer.

His story began at Bradford Park Avenue and Laisterdyke, where, as a cricket-mad youngster, he was introduced to the game.

It was at Queensbury in 1971 that he gained his first taste of senior cricket, using the art of gentle persuasion to conjure his wickets.

In 1982, he joined Saltaire and in 1990 his prowess won him the league’s second-team bowling trophy.

After brief spells outside the league with Bolton Villas and Calverley, he returned to Saltaire in 2000 and joined their committee.

For 15 years he was the club’s league representative and spent a number of years on the league’s executive committee.

At Saltaire, he demonstrated his love of writing for the club’s impressive match- day programme, including articles on the Saltaire club, their opponents and league matters.

It set standards for others to follow, and his former club president Jeff Driver, recipient of the Sir Leonard Hutton Trophy in 2007, said: “I cannot think of a more deserving winner. He is a very honourable, sincere, loyal individual who shows great integrity.

“His writing for the club programme was always informed and entertaining. So proud was he of the programme that he would stand by the steps in Roberts Park and try to sell them to whoever tried to sneak in to watch the cricket - not easy in a public park.”

When events at Saltaire saw the club moving in a direction which our winner didn’t approve of, he showed how principled he is by resigning and moving on to a new challenge with Woodlands.

He was quickly appointed as league representative and began contributing a column for the Woodlands programme. Initially he was supposed to contribute an occasional article but has now piled up more than 150.

Sadly, the strain of caring for his mother meant he had to relinquish the role of league representative six years ago, but in his limited spare time he threw greater effort into his writing.

So does Nelson ever suffer from writers’ block…the fear of the blank page?

Obviously not, as he said: “It hasn’t been a trial. It has been enjoyment, and that is what keeps me going, enjoyment.”

He added: “With Woodlands winning the Yorkshire Premier League Play-Offs, that is proof enough that the Bradford League is the best.

“I have fairly decent knowledge of players and personalities and the form guide. I am a bit fanatical about the Bradford League and who performs with the bat and ball, and the form guide is about promotion and relegation, so I don’t find a blank page difficult.

“It is more of a challenge trying to write something that is entertaining and refreshing.”

As for his hopes for the 2024 season, he said: “I am hoping that clubs strengthen over the winter and can find players and that it is competitive at the top.

“Although I have an association with Woodlands, it would be nice if the top of the Premier League was a bit more competitive and I think that might well be the case, because New Farnley and Townville won’t be idle this winter.”