Early morning on a Saturday and a chance to catch up on all things Derbyshire cricket, after the hectic start to the week that was the T20 quarter final.
I read a piece online earlier in the week, which said how Billy Godleman hopes that Kim Barnett will extend his role of Director of Cricket past September. With five county championship games to go, I hope that the club moves quickly to sort this, for everyone's sake.
Irrespective of a disappointing four-day summer, this has been one of the more encouraging in recent history. We played some excellent cricket in both of the one-day competitions and have looked a side slowly moving in the right direction.
Part of this, of course, has been down to improved recruitment, which can be laid squarely at the door of Barnett. There were a number of new players over the winter and each has contributed positively this summer.
Gary Wilson has added belligerence to the county middle order and generally skippered the side well in T20, while Daryn Smit has proved an outstanding wicket-keeper, even if short of runs by our expectations. Luis Reece has made an excellent fist of both forms of the game and both leg-spin recruits, Jeevan Mendis and Imran Tahir, have made positive contributions.
Even the ones brought in on trial or loan, Conor McKerr and Gurjit Sandhu, have done well. Indeed, the only one that was not Barnett's decision, Matt Henry, is the one where there would be debate.
Each will, assuming they are here next summer, want to kick on, but the portents are good. As was the case in his playing days, Barnett can spot a player and his mentoring of Godleman the captain will have been less obvious but equally valuable.
For a county that won silverware in 2012, we have changed direction too often for comfort since. A third administration in five years is too many and to move now to a fourth would be counter-productive, or crazy as it might be better put. Each new 'broom' wants to put their own stamp on things and justify the role and in my opinion, we need tweaking, not wholesale change now.
Barnett has put in place a new way of working, giving the players greater responsibility. Similarly, he has set up a coaching system, with Mal Loye at its head, that now needs time to bear fruit. The advent of Hamidullah Qadri is the first of these, but there is exciting, precocious talent among that age group, not yet ready for the first team, but not too far away and with good people overseeing their development. They will, I suspect, be better-equipped for the first-class game from being picked out early and coached properly, with greater emphasis on the challenges they will face as they move towards the professional game. Mentoring plays a big part in this and Barnett's recruits have been well chosen from that perspective, good professionals as well as good players.
As much as we need improved performances in these closing fixtures to send us into the winter in good heart, we also need an indication that Barnett will stay, giving the club the stability it so badly needs to thrive.
Yesterday came news of another recruit, Middlesex's Harry Podmore, on an 'initial' 28-day loan. The key word is in parentheses for me, as one assumes it is a chance for each party to look at the other and, if it goes to plan, make it official at the end of the summer. The tall seamer has been on loan to Glamorgan and Durham in 2017 and is at a stage of his career where first-class cricket is essential.
23-years old, he gets in close to the stumps and seems of similar pace to Mike Hendrick in his pomp. A first-class record of the mid-twenties for his wickets is good in a young bowler and he has a chance to build on that and impress a potential new employer in the final month of the season.
It is, I suspect, where the focus of our winter recruitment lies. While there are a number of talented young seamers in the club, I suspect that two or three will not make it at this level. While the next generation come through, we need better players to make us competitive in all formats next year.
My gut feeling is that South Africa may well be a hunting ground. While resources are limited, perhaps there is greater merit in bringing in a talented Kolpak for the summer in all formats, than a T20 specialist who may or may not succeed when finances are tight. In an ideal world you would have both, but we need to be realistic.
As it stands at present, our seam attack for 2018 is based around two talented bowlers who have been rarely fit in 2017, an aging war horse who will be 35 next year, an all-rounder with a question mark on his future and a clutch of young bowlers who may, or may not make it.
I don't think that anyone would predict success on those grounds, so something quite obviously needs to be done
Just need a few more concerts at the 3aaa County Ground and a successful Christmas period in the hospitality areas. Maybe a monthly summer concert at Derby and playing more at Chesterfield might make a lot of people happy...
I'll be back soon with news of the squad for the Durham game.