I've had two or three emails in the past week or so, asking for my thoughts on the current situation and whether I still felt that Graeme Welch was the right man for Derbyshire County Cricket Club.
Mark, below the last post, is the first to ask this question in the public domain, so I am happy to give a response.
I can understand the comments. Ten competitive games into the season, we await our first win and the form of a number of players is a matter of concern. There has been what could be perceived as a lack of clarity in team selections and a continuation of the sort of batting slides with which Derbyshire fans have become all too familiar. Some of the one-day bowling has hinted at a dearth of requisite skills, while the same format has highlighted a lack of urgency in the crucial power play overs that is worrying and lamentable in equal measure.
Welch is approaching the five-month anniversary of his three-year appointment and that needs to be remembered. I've had a number of jobs over the years and have always maintained that it takes six months before you feel you have a genuine understanding of the role and its responsibilities. You contribute earlier than that, of course, but to start to develop takes considerably longer and requires the building up of knowledge on the systems and processes, as well as the people that you work with. Importantly, it also depends on the people who work under you.
Having built up an excellent reputation as a number two, or bowling coach at other counties, Welch was always going to have to step up a little. The new coaching structure, while perhaps something similar to what he had been a part of in the past, required him to be the man in charge for the first time. It would be very surprising if this did not bring challenges, as it does for most people.
He has nothing to prove as a coach, nor indeed do his staff, all of who have reputations as being very good at their job. Yet the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating and ours hasn't been the tastiest of dishes thus far.
I think that Welch was and is the man for the job, but he needs time. He has gone on record as intending to give opportunities to players this summer and will already know that he has something of a curate's egg of a playing staff. Two things need to be remembered, however.
One is that it is a squad that he inherited, not one that he built. Critics will say that certain players performed well under Karl Krikken, but the reality is that there has been a marked decline in the performances of some players since 2012. At the end of that summer, a number were given contracts to retain their services in the euphoria of the title success, that perhaps didn't fully understand their longer term value, especially when they were untried at a higher level.
For some, that proved a level too far and they have not recaptured the form of that summer and may not do so. If one thing has been learned, it is that there is a fine line between a contract that retains the services of a good player and one that inadvertently encourages complacency. A player given a longish contract who turns out to have shortcomings is taking up space and blocking the progress of youth. By the same token, if you don't give them the longer deal, the risk of predatory neighbours coming scavenging is heightened. Between the devil and the deep blue sea, eh?
How do you know? If a player scores heavily in a summer, or takes fifty wickets, how do you tell if it is a breakthrough or just a one-off, the stars coming into alignment for a while? I don't know the answer to that one, but suspect that a top coach stands or falls on making the right call.
The role isn't easy at Derbyshire. A more affluent county can go and sign an experienced county professional or two with the expectation of an improvement in playing fortunes. Two players at £80-100K a summer might do that, but we don't have that money to throw around. Nor does it always work, as John Morris found with Rikki Clarke, a good player who enjoyed little success at Derby.
People have mailed me to say that the time to judge Graeme Welch is next summer, but there aren't too many of the current staff whose deals expire at the end of this one. That is going to limit the money he has to change things around, should he decide to do so and I suspect that the required works will need at least until year three before he has had an opportunity to be more radical.
There's always the possibility of coming to an agreement with some who are deemed surplus to requirements, but we may see a younger side emerge with too many higher paid people in the seconds for comfort. Then again, we might also see a rediscovery of collective mojo, which would be nice but is not, in some cases, looking especially likely.
On the upside, I would hope that our extended coaching network might bear fruit from a wider contact base and Welch will undoubtedly look carefully at the overseas role and who is available to fill it. Perhaps there is a need for a more demonstrative, ebullient overseas player in the style of Martin Guptill, though the possibility of perhaps a Kolpak deal for Shiv Chanderpaul, were finances available and the player retired from international cricket, holds considerable appeal in a young and developing side. It would be hard to find a better role model, even if the weight of runs from his greatest days has reduced.
We'll need to see. When Graeme Welch was appointed, there wasn't a single dissenting voice. Early results have been a major disappointment, but he needs and deserves the time to do the job properly. The tragedy affecting both the Poynton family and the club, as well as the anxiety issues that have cost us Peter Burgoyne and Richard Johnson, will have had an effect on everyone, even if they have fought well to keep it under control.
As supporters, we need to give Graeme Welch and his staff the opportunity to build the club.
Time, gentlemen, please.