By Dave Clark
Graham Ford is wary of setting expectations too high for his young Surrey side this season.
The arrival of Ford and availability of captain Graeme Smith for the entire season following his surprise decision to retire from international cricket has many observers predicting big things at the Kia Oval in 2014.
But Ford, who arrived in London after a spell coaching Sri Lanka, erred on the side of caution when asked about his own expectations following relegation to Division Two of the LV= County Championship last year.
“It’s very early days for me to make too much of an assessment,” Ford said.
“I’ve been with the lads for just over three weeks, it’s been an interesting time for me and I have had an opportunity to look at the lads out in Cape Town.
“I think the exciting thing is there’s a real youthful feel to the squad. With that comes a lot of energy and enthusiasm, which is always nice for a coach.
“When you have a lot of youth it leaves you slightly short on experience, but with Graeme being available all the time that’s certainly going to help with experience in the squad.
“Lots of excitement I think is what we’ve got. How quickly we can develop the group is something I can’t really answer at this stage but I certainly feel there’s plenty to work with, so exciting times.
“I wouldn’t be making any predictions or setting any targets at this stage. We’ll be going flat out to try and get out of Division Two, but I’m certainly not making any bold predictions at this stage.”
Relegation last year came after the beaten Twenty20 finalists won only one four-day game all season.
But rather than clear their minds of any negative thoughts, Ford is keen for his players to dwell on the disappointment and use it as a motivating factor.
“We’ve touched on it,” he added. “I haven’t gone into it in huge depth.
“I think it’s a real motivating factor in terms of the work that we’re going through at the moment.
“Through the season hopefully it will be something that keeps motivating the lads when times are tough.
“Obviously it was a disappointing experience at the end of last season and it must have been very unpleasant and I want them to remember how unpleasant that was to try and motivate them through the tough times.”