Nixon column: There’s not a big budget so we’ll build from within at Leicestershire

(Photo: Getty Images)

By Paul Nixon

Receiving the phone call on Sunday evening from Wasim Khan offering me the job at Leicestershire really was a dream come true. It’s a club very close to my heart where I spent 20 years of my life; blood, sweat and tears. Leicestershire is part of my DNA now.

I went in for the Essex job last year, got down to the last couple but missed out to Chris Silverwood, who did a brilliant job. I then went away to the Caribbean Premier League again, which went well, so I just feel the timing is right for both myself and Leicestershire.

I’m already looking forward to working with everyone. Leicestershire have done so well off the pitch in the last few years, and are one of the few counties that have had year after year of net profits. We’ve produced England cricketers over the years, it’s just now the white-ball game has gone better than red-ball.

The four-day game has been well below par. It’s time now to get the foundations right and get the culture and identity right, too. We want to create a long-term, high-performing environment.

Getting the job all happened very quickly. It was only a few months ago that former Leicestershire coach Pierre de Bruyn asked me to go and do some coaching with the age-group squads. I’d already been doing some work with Loughborough University and a little bit with the England Performance Programme at Loughborough, too. It was quite out of the blue when Pierre left in September.

I had a decision to make, though. I was involved with one-on-one coaching away from Grace Road, and have business interests in renewable energy as well as my work with the Professional Cricketers Association, while I’m also part of a brain development company.

So it wasn’t easy. I spoke to my wife Jen, and we’ve got a daughter Isabella, who’s nine now. We had a tough time, and thankfully second time round IVF worked with Izzy and Jen fell pregnant.

It was then that we realised how lucky and special we were.

I’ve had 20 years of being away from home, no summer holidays, no breaks because of cricket. It’s tough on family life, so the biggest thing I was working out was ultimately ‘do I want to do it’. That was a ‘Yes’. Then I needed to know if Jen wanted me to do it and would she support me.

Being so close to home makes all these decisions a little bit easier. And Leicestershire is so central; we are two and a half hours away from everywhere. Of course there will be overnight stays for County Championship matches, but more often than not, I’ll be coming home to my family.

It really is the right job at the right time. I’m ready now. Looking back, I probably wasn’t as equipped a year ago with the Essex job as I thought I was, but I feel like I have definitely developed now. I’ve been doing some personal work and that’s all helped.

As I say, though, it all happened very quickly. I had a few chats with people around the club, and I’ve been blessed enough to be in teams that win trophies. I also spoke to Stuart Lancaster, the former England rugby coach, who is a close family friend and we went to primary school together. We had some good chats and Leicestershire chief executive Wasim Khan asked me if it was something I would look at.

I applied and had an interview last Friday morning in the Trevor Bennett Suite in the indoor school. I did my presentation about where I see the club now and how to take it forward and then on Sunday evening I got a telephone call from Wasim offering me the job.

I came in and we started doing some planning on Monday morning, and it’s been non-stop ever since. I’ve probably had close to 500 messages from texts to Twitter to WhatsApp to LinkedIn to Instagram to emails. It’s been off the chart, which has been very humbling.

That’s so nice to see. Leicestershire are a club close to my heart, and I am hopefully close to theirs. I’ve been involved in the game for close to 30 years and met a lot of great people, so many of them have come forward and wished us well.

They want Leicestershire to get back on the cricketing map. It’s a bit like West Indies cricket, where people want to see them do well, just like they did in the Eighties and Nineties. Leicestershire have had that success, winning the Championship in 1996 and 1998.

The club has been the whipping boys for too long now. They’ve been in good positions and just fallen away. The talent and ability is here, no question, we just need to make sure mind-sets, techniques, confidence and fun all come back to a higher level.

My experience in the Caribbean will help with this role. Obviously the coaching side speaks for itself, you’re always learning when you’re coaching. But you’re bringing together all sorts of people, from world-class pros to junior players with tons of ability. You can think of your elite professionals as your seniors, and your academy guys need to blend with them.

Caribbean gleam: Paul Nixon during his time in the CPL with Jamaican Tullawahs (photo: Ashley Allen / Getty Images Latin America for CPL)

Ultimately, the aim is to get the club back to the glory days. Next season will be 20 years on from the last Championship success, and the people at this club deserve those days to return. The first thing I’m doing though is working with the academy.

We need to make sure our academy and our performance programmes are working well. We need to make sure we are maximising the best coaches in the best areas, and from there it will be taking a closer look at the pros.

They’re on a bit of a break, but will be back in at the start of next month. I’ve spoken to a few of them briefly, but I’ll find out where everyone is with their contracts and their fitness levels. I need to know their plans, but I’ll speak with the physio to see where players are injury-wise, too.

I’m keen to do some one-to-one work with the lads. I want to get to know them and their families – it’s really important to find out where they’re from and what motivates them and know them on the deeper level. You need to build this trust up.

We’ve got Callum Parkinson away with the Lions and Zak Chappell on the Pace Programme this winter, and we want to keep developing. Leicestershire have always produced their own. What Worcestershire did this year is what Leicestershire have done in the past. Huge congratulations to Steve Rhodes for that, he’s a guy passionate about his club and I see a lot of similarities between Steve and myself.

We want to build for the long term. We haven’t got the budget of someone like a Warwickshire or Nottinghamshire who can go and double someone’s salary. We have to do it within, but we are very proud of our performance programme and the Emerging Players Programme is world-class at Leicestershire.

The game hasn’t changed in the last 20 years, it’s just perceptions that have changed. At Leicestershire, we need to get those perceptions back to an elite belief. We can do that, it’s not rocket science. Wasim Khan had a five-year vision, and he’s done that in three years, which is incredible. It’s now vital we lift our games to make sure the club moves forward as one.

This article was originally published in The Cricket Paper’s 20 October 2017 edition. Subscribe here:

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