Thursday, 24 March 2016

Welch contract extension caps a memorable few weeks

There was a period of a few weeks in the early new year when all was quiet at Derbyshire County Cricket. When naught was stirring, quite possibly not even a mouse.

It may have seemed that way, but the best work goes on behind the scenes unnoticed.

In the past fortnight we have seen Jimmy Neesham signed for T20, Wayne Madsen, Tom Taylor and Shiv Thakor sign new deals, the club announce a profit and Billy Godleman unveiled as the new four-day captain. All this and an unbeaten pre-season tour in a 'blink and you miss it' few days.

Now we have perhaps the best news yet. Graeme Welch has signed a new contract, which keeps him at the club until the end of 2018.

A lot of this work will have been ongoing for weeks or months, but the presence of Welch for the next three summers, at least, is one that will be welcomed by supporters and certainly by the players themselves.

Cricketers are no different to employees in other workplaces. They like stability in their lives and want to know how the next part of it is likely to unfold. It is beyond dispute that the current crop of young players at the club make up one of the strongest batches we have ever had, with various spinners, seamers and a wicket-keeper coming through who seem to have vast potential. We only need a batsman or two to emerge in the next couple of years to hold a complete set of aces.

Of course, there is a world of difference between potential and realised talent, something that the youngsters themselves will be very aware of.  For several highly talented young men, the focus now is on improving on last year's statistics, both in the number of games played and in the level of performance. While meteoric rise is a rarity in any sport, steady progress should be attainable and several of the current crop have the talent to become county stalwarts for the next decade.

That their progress will be monitored and overseen by a man who has had a major influence on them in the past two years will have been a factor in young players signing on again. Not the only reason, but when you have trust in what someone can do for you, then the knowledge that they will be there for advice and support is very important.

As far as I am concerned, Graeme Welch has been very shrewd this winter. He has recruited sensibly, bringing in players with points to prove, while ensuring that the best of his young charges are signed up to ward off predators (aka Nottinghamshire...) He has also ignored the release of several senior players around the circuit who in previous regimes may have been picked up for one last payday.

He has shown his loyalty to them and to the club. He is one of the best coaches in the game and is recognised as such. Invitations to coach with the England don't get given to run of the mill people, only to the creme de la creme.

Two of our youngsters have been away with England squads this winter and a third, Mark Footitt, toured South Africa which would probably never have happened without his work with the coach.

Expect more recognition in the next season or two.

Things are coming together very nicely as the season approaches.

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