New head coach Carr looking to drive Staffordshire forward

Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Carr

Staffordshire have been searching for a spark to help them to challenge consistently for silverware – so it’s perhaps fitting that they’ve turned to an electrician to help to provide it.

Staffs last won the overall Championship title in 2014, before being crowned Eastern Division champions in the National Counties Cricket Association five years later.

However, limited-overs success has proved to be elusive, despite a 2016 final appearance in the 50-over format, which saw them beaten by Herefordshire.

Staffordshire have always been on the fringes of the trophy trail but have ushered in a new dawn over the winter to help them to take the next step.

Those changes include the appointment of Andy Carr as head coach, a man well-versed in local cricket, with a playing career which is still ongoing at home club Checkley.

‘Coaching journey’

Away from donning the pads – and also running his electrical business – Carr has been carving out a reputation as a coach, passing on his experience to club cricketers, Staffordshire’s age-group sides and also on the international stage.

“I started coaching at club level 10 or 12 years ago and found an enormous amount of reward when you see a difference in a player’s development,” said the 49 year-old.

“I decided to take it more seriously with the North Staffs and South Cheshire League sides, where I had the opportunity to meet high-performance opposition coaches, which gave me that incentive to move my coaching forward.

“A good friend of mine, the ex-Staffordshire captain Kim Barnett, invited me to Derbyshire – when he was director of cricket – to assist with the second team alongside Mal Loye, Steve Stubbings and John Wright.

“That was a fantastic experience, being able to access the knowledge about what quality coaching looked like. During the same period, I supported another friend in coaching Gibraltar, which was a different level again.

“From there I became more involved with the county board coaching the under-18s and the EPP players.

“I have been privileged to be associated with so many mentors and coaches. The more I continue to talk to can only lead to experience within my own coaching development, which I plan to release back to the county for the growth and success of Staffordshire cricket.

Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Coach is plotting a bright future.
Staffordshire County Cricket Club head coach Andy Carr is plotting a bright future.

“Having coached within the county pathway for a number of years now, it has become a correlation which has seen numerous players I have worked with starting their next journey of representative cricket.”

Carr, who has a Level 3 qualification, has enjoyed coaching success, most notably last summer when he led Staffordshire Under-18s to the top of their County Championship group.

They also reached the 50-over and Twenty20 finals in the white-ball formats, although they missed out on the silverware on both occasions.

‘Moving on up’

It is still something of a jump to take the reins of the senior Staffordshire side – one in which Carr had a fleeting playing career.

He was an 11th-hour call-up for a Championship fixture against Cambridgeshire at Checkley in 2018 and played in the next fixture at Norfolk.

Carr also made a couple of T20 appearances the following season, but he is not concerned by his lack of playing experience at NCCA level.

He points to the fact that new captain James Kettleborough – signed from Bedfordshire in the winter and a Checkley team-mate – and director of cricket Dave Cartledge are well versed in life on the circuit.

“The knowledge of playing experience in any coaching role is important to have,” explained Carr.

“However, we have a huge amount of experience within the squad who can recognise the strengths of our opponents and with the technology we can now access through our analyst we can discuss this as a group in more detail.

“As a coach it is imperative that captain and coach have a clear understanding and working relationship.

“It’s quite noticeable that we already have that bond. Having known Ketts for a number of years from when we first met at Derbyshire, we have managed to build knowledge, respect and trust with each other, from a playing and coaching experience.

“Having both worked on the county pathway together also gives us access and opportunities to recognise our next cohort of Staffordshire cricketers.

“Ketts has played both Minor Counties (now NCCA) and first-class cricket and has high standards and expectations of not only himself but his fellow squad players too, and it’s important we create an atmosphere within the squad for Ketts to get the best out of his players on the field.

“Carlo has been very supportive towards our plans and recognises that we hopefully can create success with a new-looking squad.

“Carlo has a wealth of experience, and I will continue to extract that knowledge and information from him. He is fascinating to talk to and I encourage all of our players to take that opportunity.

“It is pleasing as a coach that we have Carlo at our side for whenever we require that additional input both on and off the field.”

‘New faces in the squad’

Carr has been heading up the winter training programme for Staffordshire’s players as he prepares for his first summer at the helm.

The new head coach admits there is an abundance of talent in the county set-up. That has been bolstered by the recruitment of former Lancashire seamer Liam Hurt and left-arm spinner Tom Brett, who has joined from Bedfordshire.

“It has been the first uninterrupted programme we have had since the start of the pandemic, which has felt a bit of a luxury,” added Carr.

“We have seen the introduction of some new faces into the squad. So it has been important for coaches to create an environment where players continue to learn and develop their own skills while having an understanding of the roles of their team-mates too.

“The players have worked extremely hard on areas of choice to develop their own individual skills. And we have transferred that process into performance. The players’ attitude towards their training has been very rewarding to see.

“The club has had to quickly identify key areas of gaps that required filling. When we see big-role players retire or move on due to the age-limit restrictions, it’s important we secure the correct balance of the squad to continue to drive forward to reach growth and success.

“We are fortunate we have replacement candidates in most areas within the county to fulfil these gaps, but sometimes it has been necessary to search wider areas to maintain our standards and find candidates that will also deliver some experience into the squad.

Liam Hurt is one of Staffordshire County Cricket Club's new signings.
Liam Hurt is one of Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s new signings.

“During the close season we collectively put some time aside to review the 2022 season and gather our reflections on the previous season to ascertain areas we felt it necessary to strengthen in.

“Taking this into consideration, one of our senior seamers in white ball was unavailable for the 2023 season and our senior spinner announced his retirement. However, this does not highlight the lack of options we have coming through, quite the opposite.

“We are in an extremely strong position in the seam department and our spinners are showing great signs of development. With the close-season signings of Ketts, Liam Hurt and Tom Brett who both have first-class experience, not only will this bolster the departments we wanted to strengthen in, but they will both be used as mentors to our fellow squad members.”

‘Chance to shine’

Staffordshire have whittled down the numbers for their squads ahead of the red-ball and white-ball challenges they face this season.

However, Carr insists that the door is always open for any player to throw their hat into the ring for selection.

“As a county club we will continue to engage in peoples’ thoughts regarding “homegrown” players,” said Carr.

“As selectors we will continue to monitor players within the county. However, any players we consider still have to be able to withstand the current standards we play at while producing consistent performances.

“We have selected a squad of 19 or 20 players across both formats for the 2023 season, with a balance across all disciplines including both experience and youth.

“However, there isn’t a weekend that passes where the selectors do not monitor performances throughout all of the Staffordshire leagues and if we feel that a player warrants selection and would strengthen our team then we would be foolish to ignore that, therefore, by no means do we consider to have a ‘closed shop’ policy.”

‘High hopes’

There seems to be an increased air of excitement – and expectation – that 2023 could be a successful season for the county.

Carr cuts a positive figure as he discusses the challenges, but stresses that it will be a united effort to put Staffs in the frame for silverware.

“It is imperative that we build relationships with each other while being open with trust and respect,” he said.

“If we continue to support, advise and share knowledge within our methods and plans, this will assist each player to grow and succeed.

“As a coach we cannot necessarily control silverware, that is in the destiny of the players to a certain degree, but we can create an environment where individuals will continue to grow, develop and hopefully produce success.

“It will always be a priority for any competitive sportsperson to win trophies, and of course we are no different. However, if we want to go fast, then go alone, if we want to go far, we go together.

“We certainly have a group of special players who are young enough to create something exciting for years to come.

“The infrastructure we currently have in place and continue to build on is extremely solid. I’m sure I speak on behalf of others, but to produce the success counties like Berkshire have achieved in recent years is a challenge we would like to echo.

“This doesn’t come overnight, but with hard work, desire and passion I have for the whole of Staffordshire cricket and all the players. I would like to think I can play a part in continuing to drive the club forward for many years to come.

“Wouldn’t it be a huge satisfaction if we can throw our efforts back and help the county to develop both on and off the field and produce some major success on a regular basis?

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t be recognised as one of the leading National Counties in the country.”

Interview by The Sentinel

Main image: Andy Carr is Staffordshire County Cricket Club’s new head coach. Picture: Alfie Shenton