Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm an upbeat kind of guy. Glass half full rather than half empty, which has helped me to handle being a Derbyshire supporter over the years!
Since the late 1960's I've followed both Derbyshire and Derby County, but I'd have to say that my interest in the latter has dwindled over the years. The ridiculous amount of money in football, the ever-increasing number of prima donnas, the cheating that goes on have all served to fuel my disenchantment with the game.
There was a time when I'd find solace in the fact that Derbyshire had just completed another poor season by thinking "never mind, there's always Derby County to do well". Of course, more often than not, the Rams would then play like blokes who'd never met for most of the season and end up near the bottom of the table. I'd naturally console myself with "never mind, at least Derbyshire will do well"...
That preamble is my way of saying that today, the day after the end of the cricket season, is about as low as I get. There's long, cold, wet, dark, miserable months ahead until we can follow the boys again. I get a break from a daily blog but I enjoy doing this and as long as there's people enjoy reading it or I'm carried away in a wooden box I'll carry on.
Yet today comes news that would gladden the heart. Two of our better players, Greg Smith and Garry Park have penned new deals that will keep them at Derby for two years. Both are integral to our plans and our fortunes in that time and have just completed excellent seasons.
Almost every year brings a story that Smith may be going to Kent, or Surrey, or Warwickshire. Some of it stimulated by the number of Saffers, the greater money on offer or the presence of the England coach than any cold hard facts, yet it must be unsettling for player, coach and certainly fans. That this multi-talented young player will be in our colours for the next two years is a great start to the winter for Derbyshire fans.
The same with Park. There were probably not that many offers out there when he was looking to leave Durham last season, yet after an excellent first full season at Derby, with many sides having to find new players in the light of the Kolpak visa changes for next year, Park would have attracted admiring and interested glances from elsewhere. Well done to John Morris for securing his services until the end of 2011.
There is still uncertainty over some players and I'd expect this to be resolved in the next few days. Chris Rogers should now be back in 2010, but the ECB have not yet confirmed that those who have played here for three years will automatically qualify for a visa in 2010.
We don't know what will happen with Tom Lungley, nor Mark Lawson, but there would be little surprise if either, or both were released after this season. Nor do we know if Wavell Hinds will return. My understanding is that he qualifies for next season only, but it is down to whether both he and John Morris wish to extend the deal. I maintain that our batting, especially if Rogers returns, is less an issue than our bowling. I think we could ideally use one more middle order player of ability, but a top five of Rogers, Madsen, Park, Smith and Redfern looks good, with Borrington and Sadler as back up.
Much will depend on how good a batsman Lee Goddard is. If he is capable of batting at six, then Derbyshire could play an extra bowler, or all rounder. If Goddard batted six and Jon Clare rediscovered his batting mojo, or we signed an all rounder, we could then accommodate a spinner, a good SIGNED spinner, into the team most weeks. We could then line up:
I firmly believe we need at least one new seamer, ideally two, as well as a specialist front line spinner. One of the seamers should have a little extra pace or perhaps bowl left arm for variety.
If we can pick up players in these areas over the winter, I would fancy Derbyshire in the Championship next year, especially with Northamptonshire staying down.
Essex for me were always the strongest side in the division after Kent and Northants need to rebuild with one or two of their Kolpaks probably going this year. Having said that, they will have David Sales back next year, a batsman I have always rated.
We also have the discussion-worthy second overseas player to bring in for the Twenty/20. No one is sure at this stage if that player is subject to the same stringent visa regulations as the Kolpaks and main overseas stars. If he is, then there will be fierce competition and hardly enough players to go around.
I'm feeling better already. Summer is over, but the planning for next year has already begun!