Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fighting talk from Major Tom

Gloucestershire chief-executive Tom Richardson has declared ambitious plans to develop the shire into a international standard cricket club.

Richardson promised to work hard with incoming coach John Bracewell in order to revive the Glos' fortunes, leaving 'no stone unturned' - a bold statement from a man who has taken great flak from supporters for mismanagement that has seen a dramatic fall from grace since the glory days at the turn of the century.

"Our aim is to be winning trophy's by 2013," was the message, in which Richardson stated he wanted to develop an academy 'second-to-none' and produce a 'tough, hard-to-beat' team. His hope is Bracewell's second-coming will transform the under performing county and that retention of the shire's best players was crucial to the rebuilding.

Richardson insisted being successful at cricket remained the prime objective, as they look to develop Nevil Road: "Our aim is to have a ground we can all be proud of." A planning application will be submitted for the erection of a new media centre, conference and banqueting facilities and new covered seating.

Was the chief-executive reading this blog and the call from yours truly for ground development to generate further income away from cricket? But I retain reservations of whether Nevil Road is the best place to do it. Poor access, limited car parking and restricted room for expansion question whether investment into the county ground will yield sufficient increases in business. Is it worth building a state-of-the-art facility in the middle of residential north Bristol?

Hopefully Richardson's intended consultation before any work is undertook will go ahead. A feasibility study into a move away from Nevil Road would be a useful exercise as a facility "to stage international cricket in the future and boast the kind of facilities which attract top players," is sought.

However, with £825,000 committed to the new outfield drainage system and dressing-room development, Richardson's heart appears to be set in BS7.

Interview by the Bristol Evening Post:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Taylor extends contract

"We're standing on the threshold of a new era." The words of Chris Taylor, who has committed his future to Gloucestershire by signing a two-year contract extension.

The 32-year-old has penned a new deal, which will keep him at Nevil Road until 2011.

Taylor, the club's leading run-scorer last season, said he was pleased to have his future settled: "I'm committed to playing for Gloucestershire and it's nice to have my future sorted out in plenty of time before the new season starts in April.

"These are exciting times for the club and it feels like a new start. I'm looking forward to playing under Alex Gidman and I've worked with John Bracewell in the past and feel he's probably what we need right now," added the Bristol-born batsman, clearly taking the 'user-you-know' attitude to Bracewell's second term as Gloucestershire coach, as he described the New Zealander as the man who can get the best out of every player on the staff.

Taylor said he was eager to return the shire to the glory days: "We've under-achieved over the past couple of years; no-one was happy with finishing bottom of the County Championship in 2008. I want to be a part of making the club successful again."

Appointed as fielding coach for the Glos 12 months ago, Taylor - who will enjoy a benefit year throughout 2009 - hopes to retain the role under Bracewell: "It's another string to my bow and it's something I really enjoy. It's a specialist job and it will be down to John Bracewell and what he wants."

Gloucestershire have secured the services of arguably their best cricketer for the next three years. Chris Taylor will be the basis to build the squad around - his outstanding fielding and regular runs flying the flag - it a question of whether the management can bring in the required players to bolster the staff and compliment the current crop.

Interview by GCCC:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Gidman appointed captain

Alex Gidman has been appointed as the new captain of Gloucestershire.

The all-rounder, Glos vice-captain for the previous two seasons, has been awarded the captaincy for the 2009 season. "To be given the job makes me incredibly proud, I have learnt a huge amount in the last few years and feel the time is right for me to take on the role," said the 27-year-old that was rumoured to be on his way out of Nevil Road before agreeing a new deal - one suspects if an arrangement was in place for Gidman to ascend the captaincy this season.

Gidman has regularly assumed the position in Jon Lewis' absence, with varying success, and his terrible form last season will doubt supporters of his ability to lead from the front - despite his talent that drew interest from other counties.

The job will be a significant test of character for a young man who displayed his less desirable side in last year's awful season. He had the club over a barrel as they tried to secure his signature - his evident dropping was covered up as an injury and non-appearance in second X1 matches, despite disastrous form, were signs that the man on the six-figure salary felt he was getting a little too big for little old Gloucestershire.

"Myself and John (Bracewell), will be doing our utmost to bring the best out of the players. I am not sure how many people know how much I love this club and cannot wait to get started," were the words of the new captain, who's behaviour last season was far from that of a man who loves the club. But he echos my sentiments of desperately needing to try and get the best out of the shire's limited resources - vital for a small club to be successful.

Chief Executive Tom Richardson commented: "Alex Gidman has had plenty of experience of captaining the team in 2006 and 2007; we feel the time is right for him to take on the role full time." The time was clearly right to prevent arguably the club's best talent, from leaving the shire.

Perhaps I am being cynical. Between the other candidates - most notably Craig Spearman and Chris Taylor - Gidman perhaps has the best assets to lead the side and hopefully renew the successes last seen under Bracewell. One would suggest there is not enough water under the bridge from Taylor's last stint and Spearman is probably best left to bludgeon a stack of runs, which Glos badly lacked in the latter-half of last season.

Slate clean, the stage is set for Alex Gidman to produce the runs that earned him an England A call-up - that is first and foremost. He has to score big runs in order to regain the support of the county faithful. Then he needs to show leadership qualities not seen in the shire since the days of Mark Alleyne, in order to drag what many see as a mediocre set of cricketers to perform to the best of their abilities and allow the club to challenge in all forms of the game. I daresay he can't do any worse.

Interview by GCCC:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ali signs new deal

Kadeer Ali has committed his future to Gloucestershire by signing a new three-year deal.

The 25-year-old joined the shire in 2005 and has enjoyed success with the county. He cited the club in his reasons for penning a new contract: "I am delighted that I am going to be here for the next three years. The Club has been really good to me during the time I have been here."

Ali made three first-class centuries for the Glos last season, including his career-best 161 against Northamptonshire at Bristol.

The Bracewell-factor - undoubtly the reason for member-numbers being up on 12 months ago - was key for Ali too: "I am really looking forward to the 2009 season; especially working with John Bracewell, who I hope, with his experience, will help my game."

GCCC assistant coach, Stuart Barnes, described Ali has a 'hard worker' who now forms part of the experienced group of players looking to take the club forward: "I'm really pleased Kadeer has agreed terms with us for the next three years. He is determined to keep improving his game and give himself every opportunity of getting better and better."

Kadeer has found himself opening the batting for the shire, last year alongside a host of other players, and hopefully the competition for places will continue, with Will Porterfield also looking to stake a claim for inclusion, after some useful performances in the top order in 2008.

Interview by GCCC:

North signs for Hampshire

Marcus North - Gloucestershire's oversees player for the 2007 and 2008 seasons - has signed a deal with Hampshire for the 2009 season.

The deal, in which North will share the oversees-player duties with leg-spinner Imran Tahir, puts paid to any expectations that the shire would be resigning the Western-Australian lefthander.

North scored over 900 runs for the glos last season, the second-highest run-scorer and his patience at the crease proved invaluable in a very difficult season for the club.

However, with the batting line-up Gloucestershire posses, one feels those players need to be backed and a batting oversees player is not the smartest investment.

It is the bowling department where the squad lacks firepower and too many part-timers are employed, making 20 wickets in four-days a real struggle. I believe a quality bowler needs to be recruited to bolster what at times was a feeble attack last season.

Hopefully John Bracewell can deliver the goods in order to make the shire competitive in all forms of the game and with rumours surrounding possible moves for fellow New Zealander Tim Southee and Australian Ben Hilfenhaus circulating, signs are that Bracewell will be able to attract the standard of player required to Nevil Road.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The shire sign deal with Gray-Nicholls

Gloucestershire County Cricket Club have agreed a four-year deal with kit supplier Gray-Nicholls.

The new deal will see Glos merchandise more widely available from a variety of Gray-Nicholls outlets, giving more exposure for the club and hopefully boosting sales only previously available from the small on-site club shop and a poorly-managed and under-advertised website.

James Williams, Gray-Nicholls south-west representative, explained the deal: "so many of the Gloucestershire team use our equipment, it only made sense for us to supply the kit for the county also." He described the arrangement as progress for the club commercially: "the aim is to increase the profile of the GCCC brand by having it sold in more shops in the UK than ever before."

This is a positive step forward for the shire who need to develop the commercial side of the cricket club in order to become more profitable. The club falls way behind many other counties in terms of generating non-attendance income and hopefully this deal will be one of many that will enhance GCCC Ltd.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Glos declare 2008 loss

The shire today released financial details from last season, declaring a deficit of £47,000 for the period ending September 2008.

Honoury Treasurer, Roger Cooke, said increased squad costs were the cause of the deficit - which will come as a major shock to Gloucestershire supporters who witnessed their team's worst season for many years as they failed to win a single match in the county championship and finished bottom of the West/Midlands Twenty20 group.

The management fiasco last March, whereby former club stalwart Mark Alleyne was removed from his head coach post just a month from the start of the season, was also blamed for the club being £76,000 over budget on costs which were £326,000 up on the previous year.

The coaching shake-up, seen by many as a major factor behind such a disappointing season, added £84,000 of costs that were not budgeted for.

In the financial statement, the club also declared they were continuing to invest in the club's future - citing the pavilion upgrade and new drainage system (aided by a £600,000 ECB grant). However, the club still fails to declare any future financial commitment to the cricket team.

While it is understandable that alterations with the playing staff cannot be made until head-coach John Bracewell arrives, it remains to be seen that there is a significantly poor progression rate from the academy and in a time where financial belts need to be tightened, the club should be looking to it's academy to bolster the playing staff.

Financial support does not need to be made to short-term fixes. Mediocre oversees players, kolpaks or month loans do not even paper over the cracks. I liked Marcus North last year. He was a quality batsman who scored consistent runs. But he wasn't the long-term signing like a Justin Langer that the club can build around, and if one is to look at the bigger picture he was a waste of time. His place - and wages - would have been better allocated to youth.

The Gloucestershire board have got to commit to the advancement of the GCCC academy in order to bring players through and to provide continuity for the future of the shire. This can only be achieved with investment in facilities and coaching staff. A loss of £47,000 is not large, however, overspending of squad budgets will continue unless the club rears its own stock of young cricketers and ceases to rely on short-term fixes.
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