Hard work the key for soaring Surrey
In sport, it can be nigh on impossible for teams to alter people’s perceptions of them.
Despite their largely soporific displays at last year’s Rugby World Cup, the French national side will seemingly always maintain a reputation for attractive, free-flowing play.
On the contrary, any report on a match involving Barclays Premier League club Stoke City is almost certain to include a reference to the Potters’ somewhat agricultural style, regardless of their performance.
At Surrey, captain Rory Hamilton-Brown and team director Chris Adams have used a previously prevalent view of their club – brash, flash, but lacking in determination – as the perfect motivational tool.
And after overseeing promotion back to Division One of the LV= County Championship and victory in the Clydesdale Bank 40 final in his second season at the helm, Hamilton-Brown insists total commitment will once again be the minimum requirement for all of his players this summer.
“I think we have a very well-balanced side, but Surrey sides of yesteryear have struggled when they have had a good side on paper, so for us, in this group, something we pride ourselves on is how we do commit, and how we do work,” said the 24-year-old.
“We have a bunch of guys who work seriously hard, because there is that stigma at Surrey of being lazy and arrogant, all that sort of stuff. It’s such a bugbear of ours and we want to be completely different to that.
“That’s tough because you are changing the whole culture of a club. The perceptions of this club are that blokes turn up in diamond-studded hats, smoking a cigarette after having a few beers, and then play a bit of cricket.
“That’s never going to change, that’s one thing I’ve learned. People will always want to view Surrey as that, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address the way things actually happen, and that’s been a massive part (of our success).”
Hamilton-Brown’s insistence on hard work and commitment matches that of Adams, with whom he has formed a close bond at the Kia Oval.
Speaking at the club’s pre-season media day on Friday, Adams outlined his expectations for the new campaign in typically forthright fashion.
“We will work harder than our opposition. We will prepare better than our opposition. We will commit more than our opposition,” said the former England batsman.
“We’ll fight for every run, we’ll fight for every wicket and we’ll fight for every point.”
Referring to the changes implemented by Adams since his arrival at the end of 2008, Hamilton-Brown added: “I think guys are actually excited about having a stricter regime and higher standards expected of them all the time, because that’s what being a sportsman is about. It’s not about all that flashiness and whatever; it’s about walking out there and winning, and then singing a song at the end of it.
“The team rules are very black and white – we’re not a team for grey areas, because with a young side if you have any grey areas there’s the ability to push boundaries – everyone knows what is expected.
“You know what time you have to turn up to the ground, you know what kit you are meant to turn up in for different situations, it’s very clear. And if you step out of the line, you get stung in the wallet, but it’s not just that.
“We’re a bunch of mates and with that the last thing you want to do is let those guys down. Having that sort of feel and on top of that Grizz (Adams) having very strict, black and white rules, it’s very easy (to maintain discipline).
I think the discipline in your life transfers on to the pitch, definitely. Those good lifestyle choices, as a group, just bring you that little bit tighter. It’s not a segmented side, it’s very much a unified side and I think it’s a huge thing to have that discipline off the pitch.”
Eyebrows were raised in December 2009 when Hamilton-Brown, 22 at the time, was prised away from Sussex and appointed as Surrey captain by Adams.
The former England Under-19 international appreciates why some people may have initially doubted his suitability for the role.
However, he is confident he now has the total support of everyone at the club, with Surrey’s recent successes having emphasised the progress made under his command.
Explaining the challenges he faced following his arrival in the capital, Hamilton-Brown said: “With anything you have to earn people’s respect, you have to earn their backing and belief, and I would be very surprised if I had the full backing of the team in that first game I captained against Derbyshire a couple of years ago, because there were guys who had been around for a long time, and you have to earn it.
“I’d like to think now, after two years, that I am their captain. Most of them have bought into it and they can see, more importantly, the direction that Grizz and myself want to take the club in, and they are starting to see a few little rewards.”
Regardless of whether Hamilton-Brown leads Surrey to further glory, one thing is certain. For as long as he is in charge, any previous perceptions of the club will continue to prove a driving force.