Jeff Richardson confirms return as Somerset coach
With world football still reverberating from the record dealings in the filthy rich English Premier League at the end of the January transfer window, Cup Match champions Somerset Cricket Club have completed domestic cricket’s most shrewd piece of business early by securing the services of coach Jeff Richardson for at least another year.
The 64-year-old former Western Stars and Bermuda batter was long rumoured to have made 2022 the last of an unparalleled ten years in charge in the West End — so much so that a member of his backroom staff at Somerset publicly announced the coach’s “retirement” in the build-up to the Annual Classic, which was followed by a lavish presentation on Cup Match prize-giving night that had “farewell” written all over it.
However near perception was to reality, Richardson is adamant those words never came out of his mouth.
“I never really announced my retirement, per se,” Richardson told The Royal Gazette in an exclusive interview. “My approach was going to be taking a bit of a lesser role while someone else took over the coaching duties in preparation for succession after my departure.”
This is welcome news for Somerset supporters; not so welcome for St George’s, who have known nothing but misery since Richardson tied his colours to the red-and-blue mast, his previously long-held eastern loyalties having been switched as a jilted player as far back as 1983.
After being handed the reins in 2012, Richardson not only won back possession of the most prized trophy in Bermuda sport but has overseen six victories without defeat — most by the length of the Causeway — including the ten-wicket thrashing in Somerset last year in the 120th Cup Match.
Sitting uncomfortably alongside those glittering statistics on his résumé have been faltering performances in the league programme, with relegation from the 50 Overs League last season and fitful returns from the Athene T20 League adding ballast to suggestions that an increasingly weary-looking Richardson had reached the end of his tether.
However, a thumping Cup Match win, a massive show of love and appreciation from the Somerset faithful at season’s end, a change of club president and an uncharacteristic shove out the door from the wife — “she played a big role” — contributed to a renewal of purpose from a once clearly unsettled coach.
“At the time I was considering that [retirement], I thought certain things were in place, certain people were in place, and obviously other things were in place that would allow that to take place,” Richardson explained in typically guarded fashion. “But certain things transpired and that's no longer the case. And I think it would be remiss of me to have been so successful from a Cup Match perspective to just walk away from a programme that I’ve spent ten years putting together.”
Former president Vashun Blanchette announced his decision to step away during the post-match ceremonies last July, paving the way for Richard Scott to take over for a second stint and start the process of talking Richardson around.
“He [Scott] confirmed my decision to stay on once he made contact with me after he was announced the new president of Somerset Cricket Club,” Richardson said. “He wanted to have a chat with me to try and convince me to stay on for another year because he was in need of my expertise. And that fit in with what my thought process was at the time.”
Mike Corday, the returning chairman of selectors, welcomed the news.
“There were a lot of rumours going around that were never really true,” Corday said. “A lot of people assumed things that just weren’t the case. We were thinking about some things, but he never really came right out and said that he was going to resign. There were thoughts going through his mind and we spoke about a lot of things, but there was never really anything concrete.
“We’re looking to improve things [at club domestic level]. Although I don’t know what his long-term intentions are, I’m not looking beyond this year. He’s the coach again, I’m still the cricket chairman and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
With Richardson as coach and Scott on board as president, two of the three significant bullet-point items that dominated West End chatter at the end of 2022 have been resolved — the third being the future of captain Jordan DeSilva.
The 32-year-old is off the back of two seasons that have been restricted for undisclosed health reasons, including being captain in name only when Somerset beat St George’s by ten wickets at Wellington Oval in 2021 — in what will go down in infamy as the “Covid Cup Match”.
Former Bermuda captain Terryn Fray ran the show over those two days, but DeSilva was back on the pitch last year after a disrupted start to the season and played a crucial role with his leadership and timely interventions with the ball.
Still, there were expectations that Blanchette’s might not be the only leaving speech in the post-match ceremony, with DeSilva said to be open to the prospect of heading east to advance prospects of playing in the Eastern Counties before he retires.
“As far as I know, nothing has changed,” said Corday when asked of DeSilva’s intentions.
But the coach made it plain that he expects his captain to be in lockstep with his, the chairman’s and the new president’s plans to re-energise Somerset at domestic level, notwithstanding the inevitable lustre that traditionally descends upon July.
“I’ve heard the rumblings, but there’s nothing being said to me directly by him,” Richardson said. “If that were the case, I would hope that he would say something to me.
“Jordan’s had two difficult years at Somerset. In Cup Match down St George’s, he suffered from some illness and last year as well he wasn’t in the best of health, so Somerset Cricket Club really didn’t get 100 per cent out of Jordan DeSilva over the past two seasons. I would hope that he would make things well with the club and give us at least another season or two.”
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