Tuesday, 5 February 2013
He'd been involved in the club committee for some time and cannot have expected to be offered the senior role as quickly as was the case. Nor was it the easiest of baptisms, with the fall out from the resignation of Don Amott substantial. I'll admit to being unimpressed with the way that it was all handled at the time, though I was prepared to wait and give the new man the benefit of the doubt.
I'm glad that I did. Mr Grant threw himself into the role with a vigour that confirmed how he had made such a success of his career in the city. Supporters knew of the work he had done with his local club at Swarkestone, not just as a benefactor but as someone who organised the club, sorted their finances, made them aware of financial opportunities and ensured, with the assistance of some good people, that the club was as well run as any you'd care to mention.
They were sound principles, but would they - could they - work at county level? The new chairman spent time familiarising himself with the cost headings of the club and understanding where, why and how we were spending our money. It was essential for a county that had long existed on the edge of penury and was time well spent. With a full picture of our finances, a man who had forged a brilliant career in that field was well placed to help us to move forward.
There was an early playing decision to make when it was decided to dispense with the services of the then coach, John Morris. The latter had done a solid job, but rumours persisted that he had 'lost' the dressing room. The parting of the ways was sudden and decisive, with Karl Krikken elevated to a role for which he seemed eminently suited.
Results didn't immediately improve, but team spirit did. The genial Krikken is a hard man to dislike and the dressing room responded to his less abrasive style of management. Meanwhile Grant presented to the world his blueprint for the club, one that saw a change in emphasis, with young players given opportunities that they had previously lacked. They were put on to decent contracts too, but were expected to justify them by undertaking coaching qualifications and work with younger players, as well as producing performances to justify their salary.
The chairman took over the negotiation of contracts, a logical move. It left Krikken to concentrate on the cricket side, with the chairman's substantial contractual experience proving of immense benefit. Senior players also saw improved deals, again performance-related as they should be. It became patently clear that Derbyshire was no longer going to be a rest home for the aging professional, or the Kolpak looking for a nice pay day. Players had an incentive to do well and were rewarded for doing so.
2012 was unforgettable. We came close to signing Chris Gayle for the T20, as well as Lasith Malinga, but didn't get the breaks we needed. Young, hungry and talented overseas players, Martin Guptill and Usman Khawaja, did come and were a catalyst for a championship title. Off the pitch, the chairman recruited a highly regarded Chief Executive in Simon Storey, who took over from the admirable Keith Loring and ensured a seamless transition and continued development off the pitch. The club is set to record another profit, a remarkable feat in a dismal summer of weather where others struggled.
Indeed, the only remaining 'issue' was the lack of a 'landmark' signing, promised to supporters in the aftermath of taking on the new role. It was a comment made in the euphoria of appointment, without perhaps full appreciation of the difficulties of overseas recruitment in these days of congested international calendars.
Yet even here Chris Grant came up trumps. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, world number two batsman and only just deposed as number one, was engaged for not one but two summers, with a possibility of a third. Promotion was followed by shrewd recruitment of young talent in Billy Godleman and Richard Johnson, while outreach by the club moved to new levels. The local business community has become more involved, the marketing has become more sophisticated, the club has become more professional, with a lot of good and talented people working tirelessly in support.
The chairman has shown a willingness to contribute himself, part funding the pre-season tour as well as other activities, but it his business acumen that has been a godsend to the club, as well as his unerring ability to do the right thing. One has only to follow his Twitter account to realise how Grant involves, thanks and energises people, inside and outside the club.
He is immensely popular among the players and it was best summed up by Tony Palladino, speaking to me in the euphoric aftermath of the championship win last summer. "I'd do anything for that bloke" he said, nodding towards Grant, who was working the room as a man in his role has to do, but few do better. They all would and the deep affection that the players have for the chairman is patently clear. He looks after them and they, to a man, respect him.
So it is with supporters and members too. It would be the most curmudgeonly of souls who couldn't appreciate the work done by the chairman in less than two years. Yet there are no banners around the ground, no boundary boards with his name on them. Grant has thrown himself into the development of his local club - OUR club - with passion and considerable skill.
Today came news of a major new sponsorship deal, with BuyMobiles.net, the Alfreton-based mobile phone retailer. It went some way towards funding the move for Chanderpaul and was doubtless the result of hard work by both Grant and Simon Storey. It is further evidence of a county's community getting behind its cricket team, perhaps for the first time.
In a club whose history stretches back 140 summers, these are golden days. I would urge every Derbyshire fan to enjoy them and to get down to the County Ground and support their young and talented team.
While you're there, if you see Chris Grant walking around the ground, as he likes to do, make a point of thanking him for a job well done.