DICKIE BIRD believes Yorkshire will win the County Championship for the next three years.
The Yorkshire president is backing them to make it five titles on the spin after they clinched their second Championship in successive seasons.
But the legendary ex-umpire fired this warning: “The rest of the country will be gunning for us now.
“We’ll have to be on our guard to keep winning trophies.”
Bird, who has followed the side home and away once again this year, feels Yorkshire have an outstanding group of players.
He has effectively been their 12th man throughout and has seen first-hand the squad’s potential.
“I think Yorkshire can win the Championship for the next three years, I really do,” he said.
“We’ve got a magnificent group of players and the youngsters coming through are superb, while the coaches are doing an excellent job.
“Jason Gillespie, the first-team coach, has done a really great job with that side.
“His big asset is that he’s a great man-manager – he’s brilliant at that – and he’s installed into the team how to win, how to play hard but also how to play within the spirit of the game, the laws of the game.
“He’s done a tremendous job, as have all the coaching staff – Martyn Moxon, Ian Dews, Richard Damms, and so on.
“And the one fellow that we must not forget is Richard Dawson (former second-team coach).
“That boy will one day be the coach of England, mark my words.
“I may not be here to see it, but he played a massive part in bringing our young players on at Yorkshire before going off to become the coach at Gloucestershire, and he’s doing a fantastic job down there.
“They think the world of him at Gloucestershire, and rightly so.
“On top of that, he’s a really nice lad.”
Yorkshire were streets ahead of every other side in the Championship First Division as they finished 68 points clear at the top.
However, although Bird believes they will continue to prosper, he predicts it will be harder from this point on.
“The only thing we’ve got to watch out for is that the other teams will come hard at us now,” he said.
“The likes of Surrey, who have just got promoted, have got some magnificent young players themselves and they will be a threat.
“Nottinghamshire will come hard at us, as will Warwickshire and Middlesex.
“I think if Middlesex can get a good spin bowler, they will have a good chance of winning the Championship.
“The other clubs, the other committees, they’ll all be looking at Yorkshire now and saying to themselves, ‘We’ve got to try to do something about this.’
“Yes, other teams will come hard at us, and we’ll need to be on our guard, but I see no reason why we cannot continue to succeed.”
Bird, whose two-year term as president has coincided with the most successful period in the club’s recent history, steps down from the role in March.
The 82-year-old, who has been a lucky charm, dearly wishes he could continue in the post, but the Yorkshire constitution does not permit it.
“All the Yorkshire players want me to stay on, but, of course, I can’t because it’s the law of the club that you can only serve as president for two years,” said Bird.
“All I can say is that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and taken the job as seriously as possible.
“I’ve gone all over with the team, home and away, and it’s been my life for two years.
“I’ll be very sad to step down because to be president of this great club is a wonderful honour.
“I’ve given it everything, I really have, and if the chance ever arose again to do something like this, I would jump at it.
“But I’m just so happy that Yorkshire cricket is successful again.
“That’s the most important thing.”
Bird’s greatest gesture as Yorkshire president has been to stump up £125,000 of his own money to build a players’ balcony at the Headingley ground.
The Dickie Bird Players’ Balcony, as it is officially known, provides an ideal vantage point behind the bowler’s arm at the Kirkstall Lane end.
Although the Yorkshire constitution does not permit a president to serve for more than two years, perhaps Bird could be given an ambassadorial role.
Certainly, there has been no greater ambassador for Yorkshire CCC during these last two years.