Sutton out to emulate Lancashire
Luke Sutton is as happy as anyone at Lancashire’s LV= County Championship triumph - and hopes to apply their blueprint for success to his Derbyshire side.
Sutton may no longer be a Lancashire player following last winter’s return to Derby, but his links with the club where he spent five seasons remain undeniably strong.
He still lives in the north-west, is in touch with the majority of the squad and numbers Lancashire captain and near neighbour Glen Chapple amongst his closest friends.
Chapple’s lifting of the trophy two weeks ago brought great joy to Sutton - and also served as an inspiration as he attempts to build on a “pleasing” first campaign back in charge of Derbyshire.
“I was absolutely delighted for Lancashire. It was an amazing achievement and they deserve all the plaudits they get,” Sutton told ecb.co.uk.
“I’m still very close to the lads. I live just down the road from Glen Chapple; he’s my regular drinking buddy. He has been an outstanding first-class cricketer who has played through different eras and seen it all.
“He has worked 20 years to win the championship and to see him get to that point and actually achieve it, I’m really, really pleased for him.”
Sutton’s admiration for his former colleague is fulsome, but he reserves even higher praise for Lancashire coach Peter Moores, who, he claims, was central to bringing the championship trophy back to Old Trafford after a 77-year absence.
“I knew Peter Moores when I was a young pro starting out,” added Sutton. “In my opinion, he’s the most exceptional coach in the country. I said that before they won the championship.
“He’s a phenomenal coach and a great guy to work under. You respect him as a person and he doesn’t just develop you as a player - he develops you as a person. I don’t see any coach that gets close to Mooresy.”
It is Moores’ contribution to Lancashire’s success - in a year when they have had to contend with court battles, the on-off redevelopment of their ground and impending financial peril - from which Sutton claims Derbyshire can learn the most.
He moulded a group of young, relatively unknown and predominantly local players into County Champions, defying expectations while at the same time reinforcing coaching credentials that were established when he led Sussex to the title in 2003.
“They had a squad of 16-17 players, some of which were young and untested, so to come through all the off-field issues and win it is an amazing achievement.
“Last year there was only two players in our side over 30 - me and Wes Durston, who was 30. That’s an incredibly young age and there are a similarities to take from Lancashire.
“I admit that I steal this off Peter Moores, but playing young players is absolutely no requisite to say they’ll do well.
“What you have to do is create a really healthy environment for them to play in, where they don’t fear failure and they’re not treated like kids.
“You put faith in them, you put confidence in them and you let them make mistakes at times. You help them learn. If that environment is right, talented young players will flourish.
“The absolute key - and this is what Peter Moores is outstanding at doing - is creating that environment.”
Sutton has already begun to put into practice the lessons learned from Moores, which came in particularly handy after he took a more prominent role in running the team following John Morris’ shock departure as director of cricket a month into the season - and midway through a game.
While Derbyshire’s fifth place in County Championship Division Two serves as a reminder of how far they have to go to match Lancashire’s achievements, it nonetheless represented a significant improvement on bottom place last year.
“We made a lot of changes this year and we blooded a lot of youngsters,” said Sutton, who won his own plaudits for his leadership of a team laced with young talent such as Ross Whiteley.
“For us to come fifth and win five championship games was really encouraging. We came third in our Clydesdale Bank 40 group, which again was very good.
“Creating the right sort of environment is much harder than it sounds and it’s difficult to maintain - a lot of clubs can’t.
“In our own little way, we continued to play well throughout the year. We played pretty consistently, as did Lancashire.
“That’s a sign of the environment you’re creating and it leads to a bit of consistency. It’s definitely an important stepping stone for us.”
Sutton, who played in the Lancashire side that finished runners-up in 2006 and came within 25 runs of winning the title in 2007, could be excused a tinge of regret after missing out on glory this summer.
Not so. “I really, genuinely couldn’t be happier for them,” he insisted. “You’re going to have to take my word for it.
“The way I look at it is, things happen for a reason. You have your time and whether Lancashire achieved success while I was there or not, hopefully I had some input in getting them there - even if it was a tiny percentage.”