On my return from holidays, I had an electronic postbag to catch up with which was probably a blessing to the local postman, who wouldn't have fancied carrying them all to my door. I am nearly there, but if I haven't yet responded to your email, I apologise and promise to do so before the end of the weekend.
Next week I will be down in God's Own County for the last game of the season. It was pre-booked back in March, truth be told, in the hope that it might be a promotion party like 2012. Sadly it is some way removed from that. Not a battle for the wooden spoon, thank goodness, but we're not remotely close to the shake-up for promotion places.
There are reasons for that, of course. Two big-budget counties are going up, while we have not been aided by under-performing, big name overseas stars and an increasingly crippling injury list. Most things that could be pulled, twisted or broken have been, heads have been clattered and the queue for James Pipe's services must at times have resembled those we saw in Barcelona at the Sagrada Familia. If only the weather had been as good...
'You should look at the other site' said two or three mails. Not something I tend to do, to be honest, as one generally requires a prescription for anti-depressants to do so, but I had a brief look, for the first time in several months.
Same old, same old. 'Rock Bottom and Still Falling' said one piece, written by a regular contributor on here under another name, yet missing the point that we're actually not rock bottom, thereby not making the strongest of cases for reading on. I accept that people are entitled to express opinions, but suggestions of a mass clear out are laughable, as is an assertion that senior players have let us down. Really? Have Messrs Footitt, Madsen, Godleman and Durston had bad seasons? They will have hoped for better all-format form, but Wayne and Wes have had injuries that set them back. Tony Palladino has bowled on one leg for the past few months, Mark and Billy have had fine summers.
The problem has been that some of the youngsters need more time than the detractors are prepared to give them. If I look back at my early-twenties self, I knew ten per cent of very little about my job. If you can claim you were better at yours then, than you were in your thirties and onwards, I'd be worried for you.
I have said before and will again, perhaps ad nauseam. There is no fast track to success in the first-class game. Another assertion that 'young players elsewhere all do well' is cobblers. Some of them do, some don't. They all have good patches and bad, or a good season followed by one that is more of a challenge. Ours, as I wrote the other evening, need to find another ten per cent at least next year, but can anyone say for sure that some of them might not find that?
Then there's a suggestion we should release Tom Knight. Really? He is still just 22, and at the suggestion of the coaching staff has worked hard all summer to change his action. In addition, he has scored almost a thousand runs in the second team in all cricket, averaging over sixty in the one-day game. This on top of being one of the best fielders in the club, hardly makes him scrapheap material for me. If Tom's new action becomes 'grooved' over the winter, we will have a very talented young all-rounder on our hands. In the absence of quality spinners around the country, the coaching staff's confidence in Knight coming through can be seen in the release of David Wainwright.
That we need more experience is undeniable. Young players can be exhilarating when they come off, frustrating when they don't. On far too many occasions this summer, a healthy three-down has become a struggling six-down and the need for older heads is patently obvious to everyone. That includes the coaching staff, I'm sure, whose desire to fast track the careers of young talent has to be tempered by the need to get results, which young players cannot guarantee.
Yet neither can senior players. I keep reading how Leicestershire will overtake us with the players they are signing, but there are no guarantees of that either. Heck, if Amla and Dilshan don't come off, can you be sure that Horton and Dexter will?
In my opinion, we need to find at least one more reliable batsman, one with the right attitude and a desire to do well. I suspect he may turn out to be a Kolpak and with two Kiwis and two South Africans in the side we will be a different side, for sure. Yet it has to be on a limited budget - and we still need a quality batsman as T20 specialist...George Bailey would do me nicely...
Keep the faith. This isn't 'rock bottom' or anywhere near it. The under-17s had a terrific season, the Academy won their league and the second team won the one-day competition. Their emergence will take time and we need to bring them into a side with greater experience, more streetwise, than the current one. The best will come through, some will fall by the wayside, but with prudent recruitment and hard work by those young players, we can re-emerge next summer and beyond.
There was an object lesson today. Gloucestershire beat Surrey, despite their star man, Michael Klinger, making a duck. Jack Taylor looks to be a player with a big future and has had a good summer and my congratulations go to a team that many thought were merely making up the numbers.
Both finalists from division two...hmmm...not that bad a standard after all, eh?