Ottis Gibson up for the battle as Yorkshire begin promotion bid

OTTIS GIBSON remains committed to a “five-year plan” to take Yorkshire back to the top of English cricket.

As the club starts its County Championship season against Leicestershire at Headingley today, the head coach said that he is “happy with where things are”, both personally and team-wise.

Yorkshire recently said farewell to Darren Gough, their managing director of cricket, in an effort to address the financial problems that led them to the brink of administration.

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Gough was the highest paid director of cricket in the country at £260,000 a year plus benefits, with the club expected to announce imminently a record loss of some £3m for the financial year.

Five-year mission: Ottis Gibson, the Yorkshire head coach, believes his squad is in a strong place as it targets promotion back to Division One of the County Championship. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comFive-year mission: Ottis Gibson, the Yorkshire head coach, believes his squad is in a strong place as it targets promotion back to Division One of the County Championship. Picture by Allan McKenzie/
Five-year mission: Ottis Gibson, the Yorkshire head coach, believes his squad is in a strong place as it targets promotion back to Division One of the County Championship. Picture by Allan McKenzie/

Amid a forensic examination of the club’s finances by Colin Graves, the incoming chair, with the club having suffered a £10m negative swing since the start of the racism crisis/pandemic, there has been speculation concerning various positions at the club.

Gibson has taken a pay cut and will presumably take on more responsibility too; Yorkshire have no plans to replace Gough before the end of the season.

Andy Dawson, the club’s long-serving commercial director, has stepped down from his role, and it is likely that further savings will take place behind the scenes.

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However, out on the field, an almost peripheral concern amid all the off-field turmoil of recent times, Gibson is pleased with how things are roughly midway through his five-year strategy.

“When I signed up with Yorkshire, when I spoke to Darren Gough in the interview, we both agreed that it would be at least a five-year project to get the team – never mind the club, because that’s administrators above us – back to winning ways and playing really good cricket,” said Gibson.

“With everything that’s changed since Mr Graves has come in, I’m carrying on because I suspect they see the value in me carrying on to try and finish that five-year project and hopefully at the end of that time we would be winning trophies again.

“This is a five-year project and this is only year three. I’m comfortable with the discussions that we’ve had (about the future) and I’m still here, so I’m happy with where we are.”

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The five-year plan suffered an immediate blow when Yorkshire were relegated in 2022 in what felt like an unstoppable downward spiral on-and-off the field amid the racism fallout.

Yorkshire performed much better last year despite key injuries and bad luck with the weather and they would have finished third, as opposed to second-bottom, but for the 48-point penalty imposed because of the racism crisis.

“If I go back to the first year when I came in, relegation obviously wasn’t in the plan,” said Gibson. “We didn’t think that would happen. Then, to try and get back first time of asking, that didn’t happen either.

“If we can get back this year, the confidence generated and the group of players we have would still give us a really good opportunity to try and win the County Championship in that five-year block. If that happens, I feel like I would have done what I came in to do.”

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This time, there is no threat of a points penalty hanging over the club as it begins the new season on a level playing field.

Gibson and the players operated with that sword of Damocles hanging over them for almost two summers, which must have had a psychological effect.

“To start any journey knowing where you’re going is a great starting point,” said Gibson. “For the two years previous, when we started the season, we didn’t know what was going to happen.

“When we lost the 48 points, that deflated everybody – not just the cricketers but the administrators and the people working upstairs very hard, so to not have that hanging over us this year, if we don’t get promoted it’s on us rather than on any external factors.”

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Gibson continued: “We have to play the type of cricket that we believe we can play to get ourselves promoted this year and start getting things moving forward.

“Mr Graves has come in and it feels like there’s a bit of calm, and hopefully we can just go out and play the way we know we can play.

“There’s a good spirit among the players, a real energy and camaraderie among the lads. That comes about also when you don’t feel you’ve got anything hanging over your head because the last two years have been tough, but this year everybody is in a great place to start the season.”

First up, as was the case last year, is Leicestershire, who achieved one of the best and most remarkable wins by an away team at Headingley when they chased down 389 inside 87 overs, triumphing by three wickets with seven balls to spare.

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Gibson is taking neither them nor Yorkshire’s promotion bid for granted.

“They played well last year; you have to give them credit,” he said. “Rain affected that game, but at 390, or whatever, we had enough of a lead to win.

“But that’s the thing about the Second Division – it’s hard to get out of. On the day those guys played really well and deserved their win.”

Gibson concluded: “It just goes to show that we can’t take anything for granted.

"We can have the best squad in the division, but we’ve got to go out there and earn the points – no one’s going to give them to us.”

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