Cricket: A coach journey around the shires: Hopes of the men who can dr ive England's players to a brighter future Interviews by Jon Culley

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Derbyshire

Coach Les Stillman, aged 45. Came here with Australia `A' in 1995. Coach at Victoria, captained by new Derby skipper Dean Jones.

Objectives "With Dean around I know there will always be things happening. I aim to get a balanced side competing in every game."

Prospects " could provide several Test players, not just Dominic Cork and Devon Malcolm but others like Chris Adams. People should stop running down English cricket. The standard is not nearly so bad as we're led to believe."

Position last season 14th

Championship tip "Warwickshire are the side that stand out."

Durham

Director of cricket Geoff Cook, 44. Former Northants and England opening batsman, in charge since Durham's 1992 debut.

Objectives "I'm looking forward to seeing some of our talented younger players establish themselves as useful cricketers."

Prospects "I'm loath to hide behind injuries but there's no doubt that seeing little of Jimmy Daley and Jon Wood, for example, had an effect last year. With those, plus the likes of Melvyn Betts and Steve Lugsden, we hope to see improvement."

Last season 17th

Tip "I fancy Yorkshire will do well."

Essex

Coach Responsibilities shared.

Objectives "We were fifth in the Sunday League, but we'll be hoping for improvement in our one-day performances, having gone out early in both the other competitions," the general manager Peter Edwards says. "We expect our new overseas player, Stuart Law, one of Australia's brightest limited- overs players, to give us something extra."

Prospects "We finished with five wins in a row in the Championship, which is encouraging. The signing of Paul Grayson from Yorkshire improves the squad. I have a feeling he could be as successful as John Childs and Peter Such have been after joining us from elsewhere."

Last season 5th

Tip "Warwickshire are going to be dangerous again."

Glamorgan

Director of coaching Alan Jones, 57. Coach John Derrick, 33.

Objectives To avoid a repeat of last season, when a bright start in the Championship fizzled out. "These are exciting times and a heavy responsibility rests on me," the new captain Matthew Maynard says.

Prospects The potential of such players as David Hemp and Adrian Dale will have to be fulfilled if Glamorgan are to make an impact.

Last season 16th

Tip "Curtly Ambrose's presence will make Northants a strong bet." - pace bowler Steve Watkin.

Gloucestershire

Coach Andy Stovold, 43. Former Gloucestershire opening batsman, appointed in 1991.

Objectives "To maintain the progress made last year."

Prospects "We took some people by surprise last year, but we knew we had a good young side. We will miss the wickets Javagal Srinath took but we have Courtney Walsh back, and Andrew Symonds's decision to return is a fillip."

Last season 6th

Tip: "Warwickshire will, I'm sure, continue to do well."

Hampshire

Director of cricket Tim Tremlett, 39. Former Hampshire bowler promoted from coach to present position with Malcolm Marshall coaching the first team.

Objectives "To improve on all fronts, particularly in one-dayers, where our cricket last season was disastrous. If we could finish just below top six in the Championship we would feel we'd be making progress."

Prospects "You do not replace players of the calibre of Malcolm Marshall, Chris Smith and Mark Nicholas overnight, so we are very much at a transitional stage, but we expect some of the younger players to fulfil their potential and hope that, as coach, Malcolm will bring the best out of Winston Benjamin."

Last season 13th

Tip "Kent may be good outside bet for the title."

Kent

Coach Daryl Foster, 57. Coached Western Australia before joining Kent in 1991.

Objectives "To maintain our form in one-day cricket is obviously one aim, but the big thing is to improve in the Championship. You cannot make excuses for finishing bottom."

Prospects "We are good enough to be in contention. Duncan Spencer, who had a back problem last year, is back and Carl Hooper is returning. He has been a magnificent player for the club."

Last season 18th

Tip "Lancashire and Middlesex have to be respected but Warwickshire, set the standard."

Lancashire

Coach John Stanworth, 35. Cricket development officer appointed on Wednesday after David Lloyd's departure to England. Ex-Lancashire wicketkeeper.

Objectives "To maintain the fine work done by David, who has left us with a young, talented squad."

Prospects "Replacing Wasim Akram will not be easy. But there are very few changes apart from that. Our failure to win the Championship for 45 years rankles with some members and it would be nice to put that right."

Last season 4th

Tip "I'm not qualified to give one yet, although I can tell you who will do well at under-17 and under-19 level!"

Leicestershire

Cricket manager Jack Birkenshaw, 55. Former Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Worcestershire and England off-spinner, appointed in 1992.

Objectives "First to overcome the loss of Nigel Briers, who has a knee injury that could keep him out for a couple of months. But I'm looking forward to young batsmen such as Darren Maddy and Aftab Habib coming on this year, and Ben Smith is ready to realise his potential."

Prospects "We have a balanced squad with depth, although the fitness of our strike bowlers, David Millns and Alan Mullally, will be an important factor."

Last season 7th

Tip "Yorkshire could do well with David Byas in charge."

Middlesex

Coach Don Bennett, 63. Former Middlesex seam bowler (1950-68), appointed coach 1969.

Objectives "To see an improvement on last year, especially in the one- dayers and specifically the Sunday League."

Prospects "From our point of view, the bowling is the key. Hopefully Richard Johnson, Angus Fraser and David Follett will stay fit. With John Emburey gone we will be looking to Paul Weekes to bowl more."

Last season 2nd

Tip "Warwickshire and Northants will both be competitive again."

Northants

Chief coach John Emburey, 43, after 22 years with Middlesex.

Objectives "I'm hoping to play some cricket, which will help me to encourage the development of the younger players. I'm also looking forward to seeing Mal Loye re- establish himself as a good player."

Prospects "With Curtly Ambrose back we hope to be as competitive as before."

Last season 3rd

Tip "Apart from Warwickshire and Middlesex, I feel could have a good year."

Nottinghamshire

Manager Alan Ormrod, 53. Former Worcestershire and Lancashire player and Lancashire coach.

Objectives "To encourage the development of young spinners Jimmy Hindson, Usman Afzaal and Richard Bates, and of Noel Gie, who did well with the under-19s in Zimbabwe."

Prospects "We have a good enough squad to win something, although I wonder if the wickets at Trent Bridge are sporty enough. Signing Ashley Metcalfe could be the coup of the close season."

Last season 11th

Tip "Surrey could be a force and Shaun Pollock will prove a success at Warwickshire."

Somerset

Director of cricket Bob Cottam. 51. Former Hampshire, Northants and England seamer, appointed 1992.

Objectives "Greater improvement in our one-day form, particularly in the Sunday League."

Prospects "Having lost Mushtaq Ahmed, we have to find 95 wickets. Kevin Shine has been living up to his name but there is still a question mark over Andrew Caddick."

Last season 9th

Tip "I fancy Middlesex."

Surrey

Coach Dave Gilbert, 35. Former Australian Test bowler in his first season at the Oval.

Objectives "We are placing particular emphasis on team spirit, encouraging players to help each other get the best out of themselves."

Prospects "We have good batting and in Martin Bicknell, Joey Benjamin and Chris Lewis potentially a good attack, which will be boosted when Brendon Julian joins."

Last season 12th

Tip "Warwickshire is the yardstick."

Sussex

Coach Desmond Haynes, 40. Former West Indies batsman, in his first season at Sussex.

Last season 15th

Tip: "It is difficult for me to say because I wasn't in England last summer. So the only team I can put forward is Sussex."

Warwickshire

Director of coaching Phil Neale, 41. Former Worcs skipper, Northants coach and England `A' manager.

Objectives "Again we will try to keep things simple, emphasising team responsibility, talking a lot and trying to keep everyone working in the same direction."

Prospects "Losing Allan Donald and Roger Twose leaves two gaps but we still have Allan's influence as a fitness and bowling coach and in Shaun Pollock we have a talented bowler who wants to be an all-rounder."

Last season 1st

Tip "Sussex have a lot of ability and underachieved last year."

Worcestershire

Coach David Houghton, 38. Current Zimbabwe Test player.

Objectives "We are looking to build on last year's progress in limited overs and think we are capable of a top-five finish in the Championship."

Prospects "Tom Moody almost won the Sheffield Shield in his first season as Western Australia's captain. James Brinkley is back to fitness after a year of injury and Alamgir Sheriyar looks a useful signing from Leicestershire."

Last season 10th

Tip "Yorkshire look promising."

Yorkshire

Coach None. Had planned to replace Steve Oldham with a manager but had no applicants who satisfied the job criteria.

Objectives Captain David Byas expects significant steps forward after the gradual emergence of a promising squad. "If players are not producing the goods," he has said, "then we will find others who will do their damnedest, consistently."

Prospects Yorkshire's massive 10,000 membership always demand success but Byas looks to be made of tough enough material to cope with pressure. "We have a pretty good, talented team but it all comes down to individuals performing all the time," he said.

Last season 8th

Tip: "I believe our lads are capable of winning it. We have good all- round ability and have already shown a positive attitude." - Byas.

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