In 2010, a young Nottinghamshire seamer made a move to the other side of Brian Clough way. In 2013 he started to show his talent and by 2014 he was gaining recognition as one the premier bowlers in English County cricket. By the end of 2015, Division One clubs were vying for his signature and in October he had agreed on a move to Surrey. There is no doubt that Mark Footitt was a central figure in the Derbyshire side, but if you thought the Falcons would be at a loss without him you were very wrong.
Just as Gloucestershire showed last season that they aren’t just Michael Klinger, and Northampstonshire will have to do the same since the loss of David Willey, so Derbyshire are moving on without Footitt.
As they prepare for a new season, the Derbyshire players are very upbeat. A football is kicked around between media day interviews and a huge roar goes up as the ball takes out the hot drinks table. There is a buzz in the room that is typical of a club just days before a new year begins, and the absence of Footitt is not felt at all.
Tom Poynton, who has been at the club since childhood, is realistic about the change:
“Obviously, we’ve got to replace the 70 odd wickets that Mark took for us. He was a strike bowler, a huge asset for us and he really spearheaded our attack.
“But we’ve signed Andy Carter who is a big nasty, fast, ugly bowler that you don’t particularly want to be facing in the nets. He’s a different style to Mark but he’s definitely got all the aggression and character of a fast bowler that you want.”
Shiv Thakor, who moved to Derbyshire from Leicestershire in September 2014, says that everyone at the club is happy for Footitt:
“Obviously Mark was brilliant over the last couple of years. It was a lot nicer playing with him than it was against him.
“We all as a club wish him all the best. He deserved that England call up and we’re glad he’s got it. He’s moved on and I don’t think there are any hard feelings from anyone at the club.”
Like Poynton, though, Thakor is content with where the side is going and is adamant that Footitt’s departure will not hold them back:
“Andy Carter has come, Tom Milnes has come and the thing this year is it will be a whole squad bowling effort, as opposed to the luxury of having someone like Footitt take so many wickets and relying on him too much.
“It’s a great bowling unit, the coaching’s brilliant and I think we’ll make up the wickets without doubt, because it will be a joint effort from everyone in a strong bowling unit.”
Derbyshire have always had a solid mix of experienced players and talented youngsters, who have been supported in recent years by visiting internationals. With the successes of senior batters like Billy Godleman, Wayne Madsen and Wes Durston who have all been at the club for multiple years, this experience remains with the batting even if the bowling looks somewhat weaker.
Thakor insists, however, that there is plenty of strength in the bowling as well:
“Carter has come in as a senior bowler, so we’ve got a senior figure there,” he said, “We’ve got Tony Palladino, who has a vast amount of experience. We’ve got some exciting young bowlers as well, so I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Echoing Thakor’s level of confidence, Poynton added his thoughts on Derbyshire’s hopes for the coming season:
“Our aims are to push for at least a quarterfinals spot in the Royal London, Finals Day in the T20 and to compete in the Championship.
“Personally, I think having just the one spot to go up from Division Two this year is difficult. It’s a long season and confidence and momentum early on will play a big part.
“I think we play seven games very quickly in the championship, so the form our season is going to take in the longer game will be evident reasonably early I think.”
“We are very optimistic about the year,” Thakor added, “We know that we underperformed and 2015 was a disappointing year for us all.
“I think it’s more the case that we will learn from that as opposed to dwelling on it. It’s given us a lot of motivation for this year.”
In natural possession of raw talent and aggression by the truckload, Footitt was always going to be hard to replace. But if the thoughts of a relatively new Derbyshire recruit, as well as those of a player who has spent his entire playing life at the club, are anything to go by it seems pretty clear: there is life after Footitt.