It was good to read that Chris Rogers feels we could still get promoted from Division Two this year, but I'd have to say that I think that scenario is now extremely unlikely.
For one thing, Northamptonshire are 15 points ahead of us (how I don't know, as they're not a great side) while Essex or Glamorgan could be depending on the result of their close game today. Glamorgan will be favourites at 300 ahead on a spinning track and again it is extraordinary that they're potentially going to leapfrog us with an ordinary side. If I look around Division Two, there are few elevens (Kent aside) I'd swap for ours yet we're now being punished for wins we missed out on through a combination of bad weather and an inability to finish sides off.
If you go through the season, we may well have beaten Essex at Chelmsford, would have been hammered at Cardiff and would probably still have been playing Gloucestershire at Chesterfield. Glamorgan may well then have beaten us at Derby, while the game against Leicestershire was well balanced before the last day was lost.
While the game at Northampton would have been hard to predict, we'd have beaten Middlesex comfortably but for the weather and Owais Shah and should have beaten Kent on a helpful last day track after dominating the game. Surrey shaded the game at Croydon but since then we've been in command against Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and Kent yet not won one of them, ending up losing to Northamptonshire.
There's been a mixture of poor umpiring decisions and crucial drops, but the costly factor is that we've missed out on too many win points. Had we turned three of those games we dominated into wins that would have been an extra 30 points (34 if we include the Northants defeat where we came away with only bonus points. On such things do seasons turn, though other counties will have had similar experiences.
Thanks to my friend David for bringing Stuart Law's positive comments about the club on radio yesterday to my attention. He was heaping praise on the club and the "outstanding" crop of young players they have coming through, but warned that the "bigger" counties may soon come sniffing round the door. It is a perennial problem for the less affluent counties and Leicestershire have been as badly hit as anyone in this. With the increased difficulties of signing Kolpaks now, there will be even greater pressure on sides to cultivate - or "nick from other counties" as its known to some - England qualified players.
If you look at the number of talented young players we have at Derby, many of them in their teens, more under the age of 25, it augurs well for our future. Yet that success is dependent on their showing loyalty and the club being able to pay the going rate. We seem to have a good playing environment, which is one thing and as long as we don't have a return to the behind the scenes shenanigans of recent years we'll have a better chance of retaining them than before.
Yet players will often think that there's greener grass on the other side. They'll look at people like Ian Blackwell, Peter Bowler and Dominic Cork and what they achieved elsewhere and perhaps think "I could have that".
I'd point out to them what Matt Cassar, Rob Weston, Adrian Rollins didn't do. For any or all of them, perhaps the greatest achievement in their playing careers could be a contribution to a successful Derbyshire side. Think Rocky. Think David and Goliath. Think most Boys Own comics you ever read where the little guy gives the big fella one in the eye. That would be something to be proud of.
In the words of the Beatles song, we're getting better all the time. Another couple of years and we could be on the verge of something special at Derby and I hope the current crop of exciting talent realise and support that.