Paul Collingwood ready for another season as he tries to build something '˜special' at Durham
Will Smith describes his run-scoring exploits last season as an '˜inspiration'.
Ryan Pringle waxes lyrical about his captaincy and the thrill of playing for someone so aggressive in his tactics and so total with his trust in young talent.
‘You just trust every decision he makes’ is a neat summary of the complete respect that Paul Collingwood demands.
After a brutal two seasons, spirits are high at Durham and there is belief that something special can be achieved this season.
There are many reasons for that.
The signing of three established international players is one, as is the massive psychological boost that comes with starting on zero points, a clean slate.
Collingwood’s presence and leadership is arguably as big, if not bigger, than both those factors.
Ashes winner, County Championship winner, One Day cup winner, ICC T20 winning captain.
A highly-rated coach, he could easily have left the county game behind by now.
Yet here he still is, on the eve of his 23rd season, still determined to drive Durham forward and improve his own game, learning from the game’s brightest talents.
The thought of giving up on Durham doesn’t seem to have once crossed his mind.
“The freezing cold (doesn’t help motivate), I’ll give you that,” he says.
“But look, I’m in a great position at the moment.
“I can coach through the winter and as long as I stay physically fit, Durham are absolutely fine with that.
“To play professional sport for a living and to still be competing, I’m not going to give that up easily. I’m still enjoying it, it still puts a smile on my face. I still want to drive this team forward and achieve big things.
“You never stop learning, to work with the guys that I’m working with, it is incredible to watch with the skill levels that they have.
“You really do learn on the job. If I can open up different areas of scoring, find different ways of putting bowlers under pressure, that’s exciting, to be trying new things.”
Collingwood was outspoken when a number of players moved on in recent years and he remains Durham’s most prominent backer.
There is a determination to put the club back in Division One and on a footing where it can hold onto its brightest prospects.
“Someone tells me it is my 23rd season, I’d lost count to be honest. I’m really excited, to start with a clean slate, no points deductions, it gives us hope that we can do something special.
“The last two seasons have been pretty demoralising in a lot of ways, it has basically been a two-year penalty. But I feel we’re out the other side now, we’ve lost some very important players but we’ve recruited very well over the winter and to have three quality overseas players for the season gives us a great boost.
“We don’t want to be a feeder club, that is very important.
“The players that we bring up from the academy, who have been for a long time, we don’t want them to be wanting to get away. That is important for the future, that we don’t allow that because it does take a lot of rebuilding.
“I don’t see being in the second division as that detrimental in terms of international selection, players might argue against that and ultimately you don’t want to give them any excuses to want to leave.
“That’s our aim, play at the highest level and that means getting up to Division One. There is genuine optimism that this year we’ve got some good young players coming through with some good experience too. We’ve recruited well and I’m hoping for good things.”
Durham’s pre-season preparation has been less than ideal with the weather largely restricting them to indoor practice.
Collingwood swats aside any fears of a slow start in trademark fashion.
“I’m not too worried. I remember one year we only had one grass net and went on to win the league.”
And that is a nutshell is Collingwood.
Ebullient and relentlessly positive.
Always determined to write one more remarkable chapter in his cricketing story.