So after all the speculation Somerset County Cricket Club has unveiled Matthew Maynard as the new Director of Cricket. Maynard, who has vast experience having enjoyed a long and successful playing career in the English First Class game, beat off interest from a number of high profile candidates to land the job.
The Welshman also has proven, demonstrable success as a coach too.
It was looking like a two-horse race was developing with Maynard vying with Ashley Giles for the position. Giles appeared to be the favourite, especially taking into consideration his close friendship with club skipper Marcus Trescothick. But after Somerset Chairman Andy Nash tweeted late on Monday night that an appointment would be made the following afternoon, some interesting tweets made their way into ‘Twitterland’, with Will Carpenter of the Somerset County Gazette just one of those naming Maynard as the man he heard was going to be offered the position. His source proved to be correct and the news was made official just before midday on Tuesday. Maynard was indeed the man.
I believe Somerset have got four things right with this appointment. First of all it was the right thing to replace David Nosworthy after two seasons in charge. The South African was brought in to turn a team able to play themselves into positions to win trophies only to fall at the final hurdle, into one that went the distance and brought the silverware home. But he has failed to achieve this. Some say that Nosworthy deserved more time and that two years is no time at all to have any influence on a club but things were simply not going to plan and the team appeared to be going backwards. This past season the club has not seriously competed in any of the three competitions entered and were so nearly relegated from the top tier of the Championship in his first season. If it’s broken then fix it. And it was broken.
It is also right to make an appointment so soon after the previous season has ended as this gives the new man in charge a full winter to really work with and assess the squad available for the season ahead. To delay things, as the club did with the appointment of David Nosworthy in 2013, could prove detrimental to team planning and the club could potentially lose out in the recruitment of any top players available during the winter months. Nosworthy, literally, had three weeks from landing in England to the season start so it looks like Somerset have learnt from this lesson.
And I am as passionate about Somerset appointing Maynard as I am them deciding not to recruit Giles, the third and fourth things they have got right. This is nothing personal against Giles who, I am sure, can still be an excellent Head Coach in the English County game and even at international level, but he was not the right man for Somerset. Our supporters have long memories and it is only 16 months or so ago that Giles was practically telling Somerset which wicket-keeper to select, obviously with one keen eye on his own England ambitions. Likewise he also attempted to influence the signings of Jos Buttler and Nick Compton for his beloved Warwickshire when they were discussing their futures with the Somerset hierarchy. Giles would have been afforded less time to make his mark as others, Maynard included. One or two early defeats and the pressure would have been most definitely on Giles.
And I heard murmurs that he had no intention to relocate from his home in the West Midlands to the West Country. This is conjecture but, if true, then Somerset did the right thing looking elsewhere as it would be quite ridiculous having the DOC living in Birmingham.
I also feel such a close relationship with Tres to have been potentially detrimental too. One thing the new man needs to review urgently is the club captaincy as Marcus is most probably in his last 1-2 seasons at Taunton and there is no genuine leader waiting in the wings to take over in my humble opinion. James Hildreth is vice-captain and popular with fans but his inconsistent form in 2014 offers a worry and he may not always be an automatic choice if such inconsistent form continues and Somerset sign a top order batsman while Tom Abell continues his excellent start to life as a Somerset first team player. He needs to get some major runs under his belt if he is to achieve his international ambitions.
Maynard will need to identify the next leader in the pack or recruit one who can take the reins when Tres finally packs it all in. Simple as that.
But let’s not lose focus that Maynard is an excellent choice for the Director of Cricket job and has a grand pedigree. The 48 year-old spent the whole of his 20 year playing career with Glamorgan where he made 395 First Class appearances scoring nearly 25,000 runs at an average of 42.53. He also led the Welsh side to the County Championship title in 1997.
Maynard played in 4 Test Matches between 1988 and 1994 and 14 One Day Internationals between 1994 and 2000.
In 2004 Maynard was appointed as England assistant coach and he held this post until 2007.
Maynard has also enjoyed considerable success coaching in South Africa and in 2012, his first year in charge of Nashua Titans, he led them to both the domestic four day and T20 titles and was named Coach of the Year by Cricket South Africa.
He said of him new role: “I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as the Director of Cricket at Somerset CCC. It’s a huge honour. It will be a new challenge for me and one that I am looking forward to very much. I’m very excited about being involved with such a talented group of players and I can’t wait to get started.”
Maynard will need to learn from Nosworthy’s mistakes and gain the fans support and trust. I don’t believe Nos truly understood how passionate Somerset fans are when he took over. Early doors he talked of being a man of the people, one that would always be available for the members and would be out and about on the boundary edge talking to the crowd. In reality I never saw him peruse the boundary once preferring to watch games on his private balcony and he seemed genuinely aggrieved when the members took him to task about poor results. His activities on Twitter were questionable to say the least.
Maynard is not of Somerset stock and has had no previous connections with the cider county but coming from Glamorgan will stand him in good stead as he will have experience of a passionate fan base from a county often referred to by the test counties and so-called experts as ‘unfashionable’. The Welsh county is widely viewed as the Welsh national team by their countrymen and Glamorgan fans are widespread, from Cardiff to Colwyn Bay. Such fanatical support.
Somerset has an equally large catchment with large pockets of support from south of Bristol, east to Wiltshire, south to Dorchester and all the way down through Cornwall and not limited to the county borders. Being labelled unfashionable does not make the support less passionate, in fact more so I would say.
Somerset has a partisan fan base but we adore those that wear our colours with pride, whether their birthplace be South Somerset, South Africa or South Wales. To quote a line from an epic film starring Russell Crowe: “Win the crowd and you will win Rome!” If Maynard gets the supporters on board he will be a worthy general.
Maynard will inherit a talented squad with the vast majority of the players tied down to contracts for the next 12 to 36 months thanks to the excellent business acumen of his new employers. There is a perfect blend of experience and youth. He may, however, feel the need to recruit and there is already talk he will bring Jim Allenby from his home county down to Taunton, possibly as captain. That is rumour at this stage.
There are players of huge potential who have international ambitions but will find realising those ambitions very difficult working for their present employers. Take David Willey at Northamptonshire, for example, maybe a move to Taunton would benefit this fast left-armer and big hitting batter?
And getting the right overseas star on board will be key too. Alviro Petersen was good in fits & spurts but not consistent enough to make too positive an impact. Aside from that Steve Cotton noted that Maynard left Glamorgan in 2010 after Alviro was appointed captain against his wishes. That maybe a vital clue that Maynard and Somerset will look elsewhere for their overseas player for 2015 with maybe a genuine wicket taker top of the agenda?
Keeping the squad well-honed, motivated and refreshed will be vital and greater squad rotation will be key if Somerset are to maintain the good form needed to mount challenges to win cups and titles.
The club’s supporters appear to be happy with the appointment with many talking to Twitter today with a variety of tweet’s listed below:
And the Somerset board are happy to have landed their man with Chief Executive Guy Lavender saying: “We are delighted that Matt has been appointed as our Director of Cricket and he will have direct responsibility for coaching the 1st XI. His track record speaks for itself and he has a wealth of leadership experience, coaching knowledge and passion for the game. I have every confidence that he will build on our strong foundations and the winter period provides a great opportunity for him to prepare the squad for a successful 2015. I know he will receive a very warm welcome from all the coaching and playing staff, as well as our Members and supporters.”
So it the management are happy and the supporters happy too. If the players react as positively to Matthew Maynard and he inspires his charges to put in performances that help Somerset to win some silverware then he will join the small collection of men that came south from the Valleys to become legends in the cider county, like Tom Cartright and Steffan Jones. Let’s hope so.