Chairman’s welcome

Staffordshire County Cricket Club chairman Phil Oliver

Another cricket season is upon us. I would like to extend a warm welcome to all players, officials, members and sponsors ahead of the National Counties Cricket Association summer.

Having had time to reflect on our 2022 performances, it would perhaps be best summed up as a ‘mixed bag’.

We achieved our best-ever results in the Twenty20 Cup, despite narrowly missing out on finals day. Our 50-over campaign was a huge disappointment, while the Championship programme saw some highlights alongside some disappointing outcomes.

While we were pleased with our progress in the T20 format, the 50-over matches were an area where we let ourselves down.

We have been relatively strong in that area of white-ball cricket in recent years, but failed to hit those heights.

The three-day campaign saw us in with a chance of winning the title in the final round of matches. But defeat by Suffolk at Checkley put paid to those aspirations.

We were also not helped by seeing the game against Norfolk at Leek abandoned without a ball being bowled because of the weather after we had made a decent start by winning at Bedfordshire and dominating a draw at Lincolnshire.

‘Looking to the future’

However, that is now behind us and we look forward to the 2023 season.

The winter has seen plenty of activity going on behind the scenes as we gear up for the new campaign.

There have been changes on the playing side and also the coaching staff which I believe will put us in a strong position to challenge for silverware.

We welcome James Kettleborough into the Staffordshire fold after he joined the county from Bedfordshire.

James will also skipper Staffs in all three formats, replacing Zen Malik (Twenty20), Alex Mellor (50-over) and Pete Wilshaw (Championship) as captain.

At this point I would like to extend my thanks to the three outgoing captains for their hard work in their respective roles.

We have also seen a number of new players register for our NCCA fixtures. Seam bowler Liam Hurt joins us after leaving Lancashire, and Tom Brett has signed from Bedfordshire. We wish Liam and Tom, and all of the players the best of luck this summer.

On the coaching side, Andy Carr has been appointed as head coach to work alongside director of cricket Dave Cartledge. Andy has spent hours over the winter planning for the season and preparing the players, and hopefully his hard work will bear fruit.

‘Behind the scenes changes’

Off the field there have also been alterations with a restructure of behind-the-scenes roles to streamline how the county operates.

This has been a long process, but sees us fall in line with how the ECB would like us to work. The early signs are that this is a positive step to help to shape the county’s future.

One of the things which has struck me most while I have been chairman and travelling to watch the county has been the support we receive.

It is always a pleasure to chat to Staffordshire followers, who travel all over the country supporting the team. That is very much appreciated.

I would also like to thank our many sponsors who provide financial assistance to the club. Their support is extremely generous and does not go unnoticed by everyone connected with Staffordshire.

‘A season of sadness’

It would be remiss of me at this point to not mention that this season will be tinged with sadness.

Our main sponsor John Whitfield passed away suddenly in January and our thoughts and prayers are with his partner Coleen, family and friends.

John, alongside son Dave through their companies J Whitfield & Son and familyhomes4u, have been the flagship sponsors of Staffordshire.

John was also a regular fixture at matches, passionately supporting the county club wherever we went in the country.

It will be a strange feeling not seeing John at matches this summer, but I am sure the players will do him proud.

All that is left for me to say is that I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can have a fine summer weather wise and see plenty of good cricket.

Hopefully, in a few months’ time, there will be plenty of reasons for Staffordshire cricket to celebrate.

Phil Oliver