Oh brother! Graysons glad to play family fortunes

Simon can lead Leeds to glory as Paul basks in promotion with cricket's Essex
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Simon Grayson would like to think that in terms of winning promotion, he showed his younger brother Paul the way. On the other hand, the Leeds United manager grins, if he was Paul – first-team coach at Essex County Cricket Club – he wouldn't have cut it quite so fine. "I mean, six an over in the last session of the last day of the last match – not good for the heart, watching that," he smiles.

In truth, as Paul acknowledges, it is Simon who is under the greater and more immediate pressure. Having taken Blackpool up into the Championship and, on a tiny budget, kept them there, the former Leicester captain took on the job of restoring the fortunes of once mighty Leeds, the club he supported as a boy and where he began his professional career.

Paul, who played for Yorkshire, Essex and two one-day internationals for England, has just completed his second full season coaching Essex. Having made a conscious effort to target the four-day competition, Essex beat Northamptonshire and Derbyshire in their final two matches to secure a place in Division One of the County Championship.

Fifteen months apart in age, the brothers admit to occasionally talking over problems together. "Not technically, obviously, but in things like man-management there can be similarities," said Simon. "As well as our own experience as coaches, we've both played under great coaches and managers. I'll sometimes talk about how Martin O'Neill handled a situation, or Paul might mention something Graham Gooch said."

There are other parallels. Both regularly remind their players to actually enjoy the fact they are professional sportsmen. "It's one of the least acknowledged but most important aspects of coaching," said Simon.

"When I first went to Leeds it felt like an unhappy club, no one smiled, the players lacked confidence and belief. However much talent you have, or hard you work, if you're not enjoying what you do it has to be reflected in your performance. Winning is vital, of course it is, but there's more to it than that."

Essex have traditionally played their cricket hard, but with a smile on their faces. Today, even with so much more money at stake, Paul Grayson believes that attitude remains fundamental to their recent success. "I expect hard work and application, but I want them to look forward to coming in, whether it's for fitness work, nets or a match. A big part of that is team spirit, enjoying being in each other's company.

"I think we saw the benefits of that with Ravi [Bopara]. He came back from England this summer a little unsure of himself, but immediately relaxed and scored a double-hundred for us. Players like Rav and Cookie [Alastair Cook] are obviously special talents, but they enjoy coming back and being treated as they've always been, the same as everybody else."

With international call-ups meaning that United's game at Bristol Rovers was postponed this weekend, Simon concurs. "As a coach you should be keeping on at your internationals to reach higher levels still. In any sport, individuals can change quickly and you have to keep challenging every single one to strive for higher standards. Just as you do with your coaching staff."

If Essex had not been promoted, Paul would not have been sacked. If Leeds – flying high in League One – don't go up this season, Simon's tenure would be less secure, but then, as Paul smilingly remarks, his big brother is compensated for that extra pressure accordingly. "Sometimes I'll go to a match and see him on the touchline with 30,000 people who all reckon they know better, and I understand why he's getting thin on top. On the other hand he can afford a transplant, so maybe I could have a word with Goochie on his behalf."

"If I had as much time to get a message across during a game as he does, sitting in the sun all day, it might be a bit thicker," Simon retorts. "But I think we've both found most sportsmen are honest about their performance. If they're not, they're going to be found out, whether it's football or cricket. With all the cameras and analysis tools these days, there's no place to hide."

No doubt it helps the mutual understanding that both were good at each other's sport – Simon represented Yorkshire schoolboys at cricket and Paul was offered terms by Middlesbrough FC. Both also have sons who may soon be facing similar choices. The Grayson sporting dynasty looks set to continue, at every level.

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