After two years with Lancashire, former Warwickshire cricketer and Director of Coaching Ashley Giles has returned to Edgbaston in the newly created role of Sport Director. He will oversee all sporting activity at the Club.
First Team Coach Jim Troughton, also newly appointed, will report to Ashley, as will Head of Women’s Cricket Darren Franklin and Elite Performance Manager Paul Greetham.
Giles is clear about the challenges facing him in his new role: “When I took over as Director of Cricket in 2007, the cricket part of the club was a shambles.
“It’s not like that now. We’ve got one of the best squads in the country, lots of experience and proven ability. The challenge will be getting the balance right.
“We need to transition some young players into the team. Recruitment of new players will be important as well as development of young players, which takes time.
“No-one gets a place in a Warwickshire team as of right. If young players are good enough, they’ll get an opportunity. But we’ve got some very good players in the team and it will take some nudging to get rid of them.
“An early priority will be finding an overseas T20 player for this year’s NatWest T20 Blast and if there’s good domestic players available, we’ll be interested in them. Kolpaks? They are not my favoured option but I am prepared to look.”
Giles also recognises that creating a strong development pathway will be one of his most difficult challenges.
“The development side of things hasn’t worked as well as it could do, or as well as at other clubs. That’s been the case for a quarter of a century, since I came to Edgbaston as a player in 1992.
“It isn’t easy to understand why that is. But we do need to tap better into the Asian network, which is massive. Also, we need to have good relations with adjoining minor counties and with clubs, though it is probably true to say that other counties, such as Lancashire and Yorkshire, have access to a bigger club network.”
Particularly important, Giles acknowledges, is knowing when to pick young players.
“You have to decide when to stick young players in; and sometimes they won’t be quite ready and you have to pull them back.
“I experienced that. I played in ‘93 and then not again until ‘95. Occasionally, of course, you just know a player will be ready. Young Haseeb Hameed at Lancashire was a case in point.”
So why did Giles decide to come back to Edgbaston, and leave Lancashire after just a couple of seasons? Some of it was personal. His home is in Droitwich, so he saw little of his wife and two children when he was up north.
“It became increasingly difficult in year two being away from home, staring at the four walls of a hotel room. It was making me miserable. Now I’m back home, I’ve noticed the difference. Stine [Ashley’s Norwegian-born wife] is sleeping better already and it’s a nice feeling for me, knowing that when I’m at work that I’m only 20 miles from home.”
As pleased as Mrs Giles was, not all family members were pleased to hear the news.
“I was able to tell them on Christmas Day. I told them that I had one more present for them all, and then I said that I was coming back.
“Stine was excited, as was Anders, my son. But my daughter Tillie was really disappointed – she thought the surprise was going to be a dog!”
Professionally, Giles is clear that the move is right for him.
“I’ve completed a Masters Degree in Sports Directorship at Manchester Metropolitan University. I never saw myself in a tracksuit for my whole career.
“Of course I’ve always been concerned about results, but I’ve also had my eye on the longer term, on five-year plans. My natural way is more suited to a strategic role. I’m much more a big picture man than “a week tomorrow” – I hate that.”
Giles is relishing the renewal of his partnership with Jim Troughton, who captained Warwickshire when they won the County Championship during Ashley’s previous stint at the club.
“We got on really well. Our skills and styles are different. As coach, he’s hungry and ambitious – I may have to slow him down a bit!
“His style with people is so impressive, he manages them really well. He’s authentic; he has Warwickshire’s interests at heart. He’s a good bloke.”
Giles comes back into the club after the departure of Director of Cricket, Dougie Brown, at the end of last season. The two have been colleagues and friends for a long time.
“Dougie and I, we were best men for each other; best mates, car mates. He knows I had to apply for this job; and it’s a different role.
“I wouldn’t have gone for it if it had been the same job as Dougie’s and the same as I was doing at Lancashire. That would have been wrong by Dougie and wrong by Lancashire, for whom I have a huge amount of respect.”
So what does Warwickshire’s new Sport Director expect of those who will be working under him? He spells it out very simply.
“I expect good discipline. I expect people to work really hard, to respect Warwickshire and respect each other. If they do that, we’ve got a pretty good chance.”
Whatever fortunes Warwickshire enjoy or endure in 2017, and subsequent seasons, there can be little doubt that their Director of Sport will be spelling out those expectations and assessing people against them.
Equally importantly, you can be sure that he will be practising exactly what he preaches.