Mark Simpson: Somerset Motivation?

I heard it once said that Somerset supporters have a great sense of balance in that we have a chip on each shoulder! Being a provincial club – stuck away in the far south west of England – that underachieved for so many years has made it easy for us members of the cider army to think the cricket world is against us. High profile commentators of the game have often apparently looked down their noses at us with their writing and opinion. And how many brilliant players that graced our county can you think about that failed to gain international recognition because, it was said, they “didn’t play for one of the fashionable county sides”?  I can think of Rob Turner in recent years who is, in my opinion, the best ever English qualified wicket-keeper never to play for the national side. 

Times and opinions may have changed a tad but below Somerset fan Mark Simpson offers an interesting point that Somerset’s management and players could actually use such adversity to motivate themselves for 2014 as we push for our first trophy win since 2007.

by Mark Simpson

Sometimes great clubs, teams and even some of the best managers will draw on a sense of injustice or harsh treatment from others to create an ‘us against the world’ mentality within their ranks and use this as the motivation to drive success. Maybe Durham’s loss of 2 vital championship points before the first ball of the season had even been bowled proved to be the inspiration for their 2013 success? It’s possible that Somerset’s current crop of coaches and players need some of our help in highlighting a few worthy examples.

There are a few of the more obvious ones that should not really need pointing out, but I will anyway:

  • There’s the constant reminder of our failure to win a county championship since it became a legitimate competition in 1890, only two other first class counties share this distinction. This allows opposing fans to regularly regurgitate the many jokes about empty trophy cabinets which starts to grind after a while.
  • What about the recent loss of local hero and Taunton born Jos Buttler to Lancashire? Does this make us a nursery club for the big boys, the cricketing equivalent of Tottenham Hotspur?
  • Then there is off course, the all-to regular use of the ‘bridesmaid’, ‘choker’ or ‘bottler’ tag that has stuck with us since our recent run of near misses began. Opposing fans probably smile when we get to the business end of each competition, doubting we can be serious and legitimate contenders.

I was a bit worried that these well-known examples might still not stir enough emotion within the troops to drive them upwards and onwards to that next level of performance so I trawled the history books for any other useful example and found this; * In 1912, as cricket struggled to stay financially viable, some of the more established counties wanted to restrict the county championship to 11 teams, by dropping those with the least crowd appeal. At the time Wisden agreed and cited Somerset as having ‘the best excuse for giving up the fight as hopeless, the supply of talent being so inadequate’!!!

1912So do we need any more evidence that the cricketing world is against us? If things had gone differently and the flannelled fools had prevailed, then we may now be a minor county, replaced by Oxford or Cambridge or even Eton (which isn’t even a County!) And, of course, all that happened in the glory years of the 70’s & 80’s and the glorious Cricket we have played to full houses at Taunton and numerous players we groomed into international stars in recent years would never have happened!

And I am sure our supporters could offer many other similar examples?

Let us rewrite those record books and wipe a few annoying smirks of a few faces in 2014!!

*The source for this information is ‘A Social History of English Cricket’ by Derek Birley