Thursday, 15 October 2015

Farewell to Footitt...

And so it came to pass that Mark Footitt, as I suggested on this blog a couple of weeks ago, has headed for the bright lights and Big Smoke, in signing for Surrey for the next four seasons.

I wish him well, as I hope you all do. There will doubtless be dissenting voices who scream a lack of loyalty, but Mark has gone for top level county cricket where the journalists are, in the hope that he can capitalise on the form and fitness of his life with an England call up. It would be the icing on the cake that should, assuming his agent has done his sums properly, ensure Mark is comfortable for the rest of his cricket career.

He is now at his peak and Surrey should, if their fitness and conditioning team are as good as ours, enjoy the four years of his contract with plenty of lively displays. Like Derbyshire supporters, Oval fans (the ground, not their shape) will enjoy the days when he gets it right and bowls with a pace and hostility matched by few in the modern county game. They must also tolerate those when the radar has gone and he occasionally endangers the well-being of the wicket-keeper, with dives and leaps to the limit of their sinews.

He is a lovely lad who has been a credit to his family and his profession in his attitude. Any one of us would swap doing a job we enjoy in one place for the same job, but greater reward elsewhere. Mark deserves a crack at the top level and should an England call come, we can still enjoy the thought of Derbyshire's role in that achievement.

Will he be missed? Of course, but I have seen a number of comments around social media asking who we can sign to take sixty, seventy, eighty wickets in his stead. The simple answer is 'no one'.

I think we will see a new bowler come in, whether from this country or on a Kolpak deal. The money has to be there, as Surrey have paid up the last year of his current deal and we have that money in the wage bill anyway. Yet bowlers who can take wickets in that quantity are as rare as snowdrops on the Kalahari and I would be astonished if someone came in to do that.

More crucially, for me, is that two players step up to take 30 wickets each, or three emerge to take twenty more than this year. Mark was over-bowled at times this season, usually because he was the one fit, experienced bowler and offered the best, at times only chance of a breakthrough.

If Graeme Welch can accelerate a couple of his young proteges to that level, he will have done extremely well. It is not too great a leap of faith to see Tom Taylor doing that, as he took 28 wickets this year at a decent average. He wasn't quite the same bowler when he returned after his car accident and a knee injury reduced his effectiveness too, but he has shown in a fledgling career that he can get good players out. A winter of hard work  - some of it in understanding the importance of over rates - could easily see him make the next step, as the talent is there.

Ben Cotton has more to give too, while Greg Cork and Harry White could easily emerge as our next left-armer. It is not hard to see Will Davis kicking on over the winter either, while Tom Milnes is a player that Welch obviously rates. There is an obvious incentive for all of these players, but they must listen and learn, then deliver.

Having said all that, it is unrealistic for these lads to bowl all summer, just as it is to expect Andy Carter and Tony Palladino to remain fit and firing for six months in three competitions. Another seam bowler of experience, for me, is a must and I am sure Graeme Welch will have several irons in the fire, even as I write.

One suggestion from me - how about Chris Wright, at Warwickshire? He has a year on his current deal there, but so did Mark Footitt and we know how that ended. He followed Graeme Welch to Birmingham from Essex and there is obvious, mutual respect.

More than anything, he is a very good bowler. Again one with injuries over the course of his career, but also with a proven record of taking wickets, as well as contributing useful lower order runs.

Wouldn't say no, that's for sure, yet that is something for the future.

For now it is thanks for all you have done at Derbyshire to Mark Footitt. Watching you race in from the City End will remain a vivid memory, as will stumps flying behind batsmen who were simply not quick enough to handle you.

It has been a pleasure.


notoveryet said...

This seemed pretty inevitable, despite Graeme Welch's silly comments a couple of weeks ago that Footitt might yet stay. If you were inclined to take any of his public comments seriously, you'd be feeling very let down at being led up the garden path by him. It's hard to fault the logic of Footitt's decision, and given how much he's done for us since the middle of 2013, I don't think anyone is going to begrudge him it.

Apart from the dire straits it now leaves us in for next season with almost half of our wickets this season having left the club, it's worth reflecting on what has changed since this time 2 years ago when Footitt rejected a Surrey offer and signed a new contract with Derbyshire. He was part of a team that had competed, if not survived, in the first division, and could have reasonable hopes of challenging for promotion again. He was part of a bowling attack that was probably the most feared in the second division in April, well-supported by experienced colleagues. Compare and contrast! He's now part of a side that has sunk to the foot of the second division, that no-one seriously expects to compete for promotion within the next couple of years, and has had to carry the attack almost single-handedly, with only Palladino and White (briefly) to support him.

Surrey may have offered him a length of contract and level of pay that we weren't prepared to compete with, but his comments make clear that the key issue was first division cricket that we could offer a reasonable prospect of two years ago but cannot now. The chairman tonight seems to reflect this recognition, that if we can't offer the prospect of promotion, we aren't going to be able to hold on to our best players and Footitt may not be the last. He is not, presumably, the only one of the raft of players whose contracts expire in 2016 to be considering an offer of extension, and if I were one of the handful with market value to first division teams, I would be considering my options now, given how far we have sunk in the past two years. In case we forget, three years ago we were promoted ahead of Yorkshire, and finished ahead of Surrey the following year, and two years of the elite performance structure has taken us into (literally) a different league. I suspect the coded message from the chairman and chief executive today might be "time to perform and deliver" and not before time.

Mark said...

Who's next then?, has to be Madsen I'm afraid.

Peakfan said...

Not going to happen Mark..don't see that one at all.

Peakfan said...

Notoveryet - why were Welch's comments silly? There was a 50/50 chance and he had been offered a good deal, doubtless the best we could afford. I have no idea what Surrey have offered, but the London weighting must eventually have dwarfed our own. Footitt must have thought long and hard but opted for the move as we now know.

Nor was it that we 'weren't prepared to compete'. Do you seriously think it a level playing field between the biggest playing budget in the country and ours? We have to run a squad on much less and to pay daft money to one man is unrealistic, especially when he plays only two of three formats.

And if we had done that, do you think the agents of Madsen, Godleman and Palladino might not have watched with interest? As we also need to look after young prospects, there is a point when the club has to say 'sorry, we're out', no matter how good the player.