YORKSHIRE’S very own Rolls-Royce is how Jason Gillespie famously dubbed Ryan Sidebottom a couple of summers ago.
It is a tag the left-arm swing bowler takes as a huge compliment, so much so that he embraces, with tongue firmly in cheek, the nickname when asked by The Yorkshire Post what his close season plans entail.
“The Rolls-Royce will be in the garage for quite a while this winter,” laughs the 37-year-old, fresh from winning a fifth County Championship title. “And getting its MOT done.”
Sidebottom, as amiable and down-to-earth off the field as he is fiercely competitive on it, is chatting to The Yorkshire Post in the Carnegie Cafe at Headingley. He is due to meet Gillespie in an hour’s time for a personal de-brief on the 2015 season, something every member of the squad has undertaken this week.
The Australian’s verdict will, no doubt, have again been hugely positive, Sidebottom having overcome a 10-week absence due to a torn left calf suffered in the opening game against Worcestershire to finish top of the county’s averages and reach the personal milestone of 700 first class wickets.
Fittingly, that landmark came during a first over at Lord’s that, in years to come, will surely come to embody Yorkshire’s record-breaking season as Middlesex were left reeling by Paul Stirling, Nick Compton and Dawid Malan being dismissed without a run on the board.
Four or so hours later and the White Rose county had been crowned champions, something that Sidebottom admits still hasn’t quite sunk in.
“It probably won’t until I retire,” he says. “Then, I’ll be able to sit back and reflect. I’d say the same about all my career. Everyone likes to get accolades and for people to mention I have won it five times is nice. But, at this moment in time, I just want to win it again.”
That last comment should be enough to send a cold chill down the spine of Yorkshire’s First Division rivals, as is the fact that success came despite a host of key players missing big chunks of the summer on England duty and Gillespie being the subject of what could have been hugely unsettling speculation over his possible departure.
Strength of mind, something Gillespie has installed in a squad led with aplomb by Andrew Gale, saw the White Rose county through that latter episode.
“The lads were focused solely on their cricket,” confirms Sidebottom. “We couldn’t do anything about ‘Dizzy’. If anything, the lads took the mickey out of him. ‘When are you getting your extra £300,000 a year?’ Or, ‘When does the free Hardys wine arrive?’
“We couldn’t afford to take much notice of the speculation over the England job. But the lads were chuffed to bits when he stayed. ‘Dizzy’ is a great man manager. The ‘Rolls-Royce’ comment was typical of him. It meant a lot to me, especially from someone who was part of that amazing Australia team. It continues to push me on.
“The atmosphere he fosters is great, too. I have been in teams before where the lads have not really criticised each other that much. It was frowned upon and that, to me, made things a bit too nice.
“But, with this team, everyone says what they mean. If you are not pulling your weight, the lads will have a go at you. ‘You’re not doing this’, or, ‘You’re not training hard enough’.
“Personality-wise, we all know what each of us need. I carry on if a catch is dropped, I know that and so do the lads. Steve Patterson hates it when he goes for more than two runs an over. Bressy (Tim Bresnan) is different again, whereas Pudsey (Liam Plunkett) needs a lot of love and to be told, ‘You’re bowling really well, don’t worry’. We all complement each other really well and it works well.”
Sidebottom, of course, followed dad Arnie into the Yorkshire first team. A fine servant to the county, Arnie famously combined cricket with a football career that included stints with Manchester United and Huddersfield Town.
Son eclipsed father’s own tally of 596 first-class wickets and Sidebottom junior adds: “We had Sunday dinner after I’d gone past dad’s tally of first-class wickets and he bought me a bottle of wine. It was really nice. Both of us shed a tear, as it meant a lot to us both. We also had a whiskey together when I got to 700 wickets.
“I do, though, enjoy a bit of banter. ‘I’ve won the Championship, you didn’t...’ that sort of thing.”
Sidebottom returned to his native county ahead of the 2011 season after seven years away at Nottinghamshire. A meeting with Martyn Moxon at a hotel in Brighouse proved pivotal, as the left armer – fresh from having helped England to T20 World Cup success in Barbados – was told about the exciting talent that was coming through at Yorkshire.
Moxon, a key figure in creating the cricketing template that has brought back-to-back Championships to the Broad Acres, got his man and Sidebottom’s contribution since then has justified that effort countless times over.
The big question now, of course, is just how long the former Test bowler can go on? His contract runs until the end of next season, while the impending arrival of fellow left armer David Willey means competition is going to be even fiercer as Yorkshire chase a hat-trick of titles in 2016.
“I am not getting any younger,” admits Sidebottom. “I am into my twilight years but I look at people like Jamie Peacock and Kevin Sinfield (in Super League). Look at how many trophies they have won with Leeds Rhinos over the past 10 years and yet they are still among the best players. They are hungry and that inspires me.
“Mind, Dad thinks I should retire now because his knees are buggered from football and cricket. He tells me, ‘You don’t want to be like me, where you can’t walk down the street properly’. But I feel good and the club really looks after me.
“My Dad did 18 years here and next year will be my 19th season. If I could get to 20 years, I’d be proud of that. But we will have to see what happens. I have one year left on my contract and all I am focusing on is that.
“Being older, I do get called ‘veteran’ and ‘stalwart’, which does p*** me off sometimes. All I want to do is contribute and do my bit for the team. The young lads keep me going, as I want to beat them, get more wickets than them. David Willey is coming in and I am looking forward to working with him. It is a kick up the backside for all the bowlers, as next year we have another in and we will all need to play better to stay in the team. That is a big advantage over other teams.
“We want to make our own legacy. Look at what they did in the Sixties (when Yorkshire won six titles). To win it three or four times in a row, that is when you can hold your hand up and say, ‘This group belongs up there’. That is what drives me on.”