Paul Allott has formalised his return to the Lancashire committee following the departure of Geoff Ogden, one of the true unsung heroes of cricket in the county.
Ogden has decided to stand down 25 years after joining the committee in December 1986, almost 20 of them spent as chairman of the cricket committee.
The former Salford schoolteacher had been a stalwart of Lancashire youth cricket for years before that, and three of the under-16s teams he managed from 1982-95 became national champions – one of them including Glen Chapple, the current captain, and another including Mike Atherton and eight other lads who went on to play first-class cricket.
“I can still remember going up to Rishton to meet Glen and his parents when we signed him,” Ogden reflected before travelling to Old Trafford for Lancashire’s delayed 2011 Annual General Meeting at which he was elected a vice-president of the club. “I’ve still got the picture of Glen’s under-16s team on the wall.”
Mike Watkinson, Lancashire’s cricket director, paid a glowing tribute to Ogden. “He’s one of those people who stays in the background and never gets the headlines he deserves, but he has been massively instrumental in the development of cricket at the club over the last 10 or 15 years,” Watkinson said.
“When I was captain, then cricket manager and now cricket director, he has always been there as a great support and sounding board, and someone you can always turn to for sensible advice. Behind the scenes he’s played a key role in us getting to where we’ve got to this year, and it’s really fitting that he leaves just as we have won the County Championship.
“He’s salt of the earth, a very special person. I think it’s worth stressing that he isn’t leaving the club completely, either – he will still be involved in our development of excellence sub-committee, and on the Lancashire Cricket Board as well.”
Allott was voted off Lancashire’s cricket committee in 2003 shortly after the former England seamer had caused a storm by criticising John Crawley’s captaincy in his role as a Sky Sports pundit at a cup semi-final at Leicester – even though he had only been expressing the views of the vast majority of Lancashire supporters who were there watching the match.
But he was co-opted back four years later by the chairman Michael Cairns, with the support of Watkinson, who had described Allott as “my eyes and ears around county cricket and overseas” as a result of his role with Sky.
The 55-year-old Allott’s continued passion for the club was clearly demonstrated in September as he nervously commentated on the closing stages of the team’s Championship triumph at Taunton from the Rose Bowl, where he was involved in Sky’s coverage of Hampshire’s game against Lancashire’s title rivals Warwickshire.
“For them to win the Championship was a fantastic effort, and it’s a great time to be joining the committee,” Allott said. “For several years I have been championing the cause of younger players coming through the ranks and into the first team and I will continue to do that now.
“The club has always had good young players coming through but they haven’t been given the chance for one reason or another. Last year, because of circumstances, the youngsters were handed the chance and we all saw what they did.”