RIPLEY’S new chairman Richard Zapp wants the club to have a Saturday third XI again after its disbandment last year.

He sees it as crucial to preparing Ripley’s junior players for adult cricket. 

Zapp, a club stalwart who took over at the helm from Jeremy Russell, told the News & Mail: “I want the third XI back playing. 

“I want to see more of the youngsters getting a game – and if we can get the thirds back, that’ll create that chance.”

Zapp, 56, joined the club as a player in 1987 and is a bowler for the seconds, who play in the Shepherd Neame Surrey County League 2nd XI Premier.

Of becoming chairman, he said: “I was on the committee, was asked to come in as an acting chairman, liked the role, liked the responsibility and put my name forward for voting at the annual meeting. 

“It’s a lovely club. The clubhouse is a historical building and Ripley Green is a lovely place to play cricket.”

Asked for his assessment of the second XI’s season, he said: “We just haven’t played good cricket at times. We’ve let ourselves down. 

“A couple of times we’ve been beaten and you can take that on the chin and move on to the next game.

“But in a couple of games, we’ve lost it ourselves by not taking a bit of responsibility – whether that’s with the ball or the bat.

“We’ve only got a small playing squad and we want to change that for next year and get the youngsters in. 

“It was really good for the club when we had the third XI but through lack of availability last year that just went south. 

“We want to get back to that stage of having the third XI. If you’re choosing from a bigger pool of players, you’ve got a better chance of putting out a really strong side.

“Hopefully the seconds can get some more points this season. 

“It’s about confidence. It’s about the guys who probably had a bit of a struggle at the start of the season just getting their confidence back and getting in and getting a few runs or wickets. 

“Getting a win under your belt changes the whole atmosphere in the dressing room. 

“What we don’t want is another relegation because it becomes endemic and we’re a better side than that.” 

That view was echoed by second XI skipper Malcolm Burt, who joined the club last year. 

He said: “Results will tell you it’s been a very challenging season. 

“It’s a whole new league this year and I think we’ve generally been quite surprised by the quality of the opposition. 

“There have been no easy games. It’s a bit of a cliche but that’s how it’s turned out. 

“As a team I think we’re just having to find our level at the moment. 

“We’re some way adrift from getting away from the relegation zone, so it needs a bit of a miracle. 

“But the spirit has been good in the side and I can’t fault the effort. 

“We’ve not always had the edge with the ball, we’ve been reliant on the experience of Richard and Matthew Cliff, and the batting’s been too inconsistent.” 

Burt explained how he came to take on the captaincy.

He said: “Tom Clover, who was last year’s skipper, stood down and has become the club’s cricket manager.

“Nobody particularly wanted to put their hand up to be captain. So I thought, ‘well, I’ve got about 35 years’ experience in the game – so why not put it to use and try to give something back to the club?’ 

“I try to pump people’s tyres up and I can’t fault the effort the guys have put in all season.”

One of the side’s younger players is James Clover, 23, who came through Ripley’s academy. He also coaches.

He said: “We haven’t done amazingly this year but the good thing is we’ve kept close as a unit. 

“It’s demoralising losing games but we’re still putting in a stint each week because we want to stay up. That’s the main goal this year.

“We’re looking at our second XI to be a gateway for the colts coming through. 

“That was the whole point of the third XI but we’ve now got colts coming through the Sunday side. 

“That’s our main goal here – to get them coming through and playing adult cricket and keeping this great club going.” 

Scorers for the second XI are long-standing club affiliates  Jennie Cliff and Mike Giles.

Asked how long she has been scoring for Ripley, Cliff – a trustee who is mother of Matthew Cliff and his team-mate Steven Cliff – said: “Probably more than 60 years. I scored because my dad gave me a pencil as soon as he thought I could add up.”

Of what is the most satisfying aspect of scoring, she said: “Somebody else telling you how lovely your book looks!

“There was a previous chairman who was determined I should learn to score on a tablet. I’m not an IT person and I kept saying to him ‘You’ve got no idea about the satisfaction of producing a page that looks good’.” 

Fellow trustee Giles – the father of former England player Ashley Giles – said: “I became involved with the club in 1948. 

“I followed my dad and started scoring then but I played as soon as I was old enough to.

“Jennie and I have been involved here all of our lives in lots of ways.” 

Matthew Cliff, 40, said of playing with his brother: “It’s really good. I’ve been playing here since I was 11 and Steven taught me how to throw when I was three years old.”

He said his most memorable performance came in a match in 2011 when he bowled 23.3 overs and took nine wickets.