SUCH is the cut-throat nature of professional football that any manager who survives 10 years in his job must either be a genius or else possess some serious dirt on the chairman.
It is not known whether Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon has got any juicy titbits on Yorkshire chairman Steve Denison, but, joking aside, it should not go unnoticed that Moxon has been back at the club 10 years this month – a tribute to his talent, longevity, and the fact that cricket, mercifully, is not like football in every respect – at least not yet.
It’s a fantastic environment now with everybody working towards the same end and very supportive of each other. I’m really fortunate that I’ve got a fantastic group of people that I work with from the board downwards, and we’re very well led.Martyn Moxon
A brilliant opening batsman for Yorkshire from 1980 to 1997, and the proud owner of 10 Test and eight one-day international caps, Moxon was director of coaching at Yorkshire from 1998-2000 before leaving to take up a similar role at Durham.
He made the tough decision to return to Headingley in March, 2007 – tough because he thoroughly enjoyed his time at the Riverside – for the simple reason, as he puts it now, that “Yorkshire cricket is in my blood”, and the job was “too good to turn down”.
Moxon’s second coming, so to speak, can conveniently be split into two five-season chunks.
For the first five seasons, he fought as tirelessly and as elusively for success as had his predecessor, David Byas.
Yorkshire finished sixth in 2007, seventh in 2008 and seventh again in 2009.
But, in 2010, the club came as close to winning the Championship as they had since Byas captained them to the title in 2001.
Under Moxon and new captain Andrew Gale, Yorkshire finished third, with only a batting collapse on the last day of the season denying them the crown.
It seemed as though a corner had been turned, but, in 2011, disaster struck.
Yorkshire were relegated, and although Moxon survived the subsequent inquest, the coaching set-up was restructured as the likes of Steve Oldham and Kevin Sharp moved on.
Jason Gillespie, the former Australia fast bowler, was recruited to work specifically with the first team, with Moxon taking on more of an overseeing role from the first team down, effectively going wherever the need was the greatest.
Since then, as Moxon says, “it’s been five years of success and enjoyment”, with instant promotion from Division Two followed by a runners-up finish in 2013, a brace of Championships and a third-placed finish last year.
“It’s been an interesting 10 years,” says Moxon, with heavy under-statement.
“It’s scary, really, how quickly it’s gone.
“Initially, back in 2007, it was very much about settling in again and learning what needed to be done.
“Then, after that so-close-and-yet-so-far situation in 2010, 2011 was an absolute nightmare of a year and everything kind of unravelled really, on-and-off the field.
“We restructured the coaching/support staff set-up and haven’t looked back.
“The structure we’ve got now is so much more efficient and lends itself to working much better than the previous one.
“Previously, for instance, I was in charge of the first team but also in charge of everything else.
“It was a bit of a Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none situation, whereas now we’ve got specific roles for everyone and it works a lot better.”
Although the hire-’em, fire-’em culture prevalent in football hardly pervades county cricket, that does not mean to say that a lack of success is blithely tolerated.
Under a less prescient administration, Moxon might not have survived the coaching overhaul himself, but he had a strong ally in former Yorkshire chairman and current England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves.
“Colin, in particular, was very supportive at that time,” says Moxon.
“It would have been easy for him to kick me out, which, thankfully, he didn’t. He gave me the responsibility of putting a new coaching structure together, and, fortunately, it worked.
“I was obviously very grateful to Colin at that time for the support that he did show in me, and, hopefully, we’ve repaid that faith a little bit.”
Graves’s faith not only in Moxon but also in a coaching team that includes the likes of Ian Dews and Richard Damms was memorably repaid in 2014, when Yorkshire won the Championship for the first time in 13 years – and for only the second time in 46 years.
It was Moxon’s first Championship as a player or coach and reward for all his years of hard work.
“It was the highlight of my career, I think,” he reflects.
“Everything that was involved from 2011 through to winning it in 2014, it probably was the highlight.
“Obviously, as a player, I was very proud to play for England.
“But with everything that’s involved in winning the County Championship, and the fact that your neck’s on the line, if you like, to come through it and be successful was probably the most satisfying moment.”
If Moxon thought that things could not get much better, he was mistaken.
Yorkshire were even more dominant in 2015, winning the title with record points and record wins to maintain a transformation that would have seemed inconceivable during the darkest days of 2011.
Last year was frustrating for all at the club, with Yorkshire narrowly missing out on a hat-trick of titles and losing both one-day semi-finals.
But it had the air of a blip as, thanks in no small measure to Moxon’s astute guidance, Yorkshire are very much the benchmark now – on-and-off the field.
“It’s a fantastic environment now with everybody working towards the same end and very supportive of each other,” he says.
“I’m really fortunate that I’ve got a fantastic group of people that I work with from the board downwards, and we’re very well led by the chairman (Steve Denison) and chief executive (Mark Arthur).
“Mark Arthur came in a few seasons back and he’s been absolutely unbelievable with the work that he’s done.
“It’s very much about the people and making sure that they’re looked after, and I think you get the best results when people know that the club are doing everything they can to provide for you and look after you properly.”
Moxon, 56, still looks young enough and fit enough to be playing for Yorkshire, never mind coaching them.
After a decade back at the Headingley helm, his enthusiasm remains just as strong.
“Every year I’m looking forward to the season,” he continues.
“You’re challenged every day, and I think we’ve still got plenty to achieve.
“We’ve got a new coach and a new captain in place now, so that freshens things up automatically.
“We’ve got the next generation of cricketers to bring through and become successful, so that’s something I want to try and oversee during the next few years.
“While the club are happy with what I’m doing and I’m still enjoying it, I will carry on for as long as possible.”