Lloyd to step down from England post (27 December 1998)

27 December 1998

Lloyd to step down from England post

By Scyld Berry

NEXT week's fifth Test in Sydney will be David Lloyd's last as the England coach. His successor could well come from overseas, but Bob Woolmer, the coach of South Africa, is far from being an automatic choice.

Almost every Ashes defeat claims one victim or another in the England set-up. David Gower and Graham Gooch have resigned as captains, Ted Dexter as chairman of selectors, and Keith Fletcher was dismissed as coach. Now it is Lloyd's turn, although unlike Fletcher he will get his resignation in first.

The only public statement that Lloyd, 51, would make yesterday was: "My contract is up at the end of the 1999 season and I'll be sitting down before then to discuss with the ECB where they and I want to go." But it is almost certain that the World Cup will be his last England engagement, well before the end of next season.

Since Lloyd's appointment at the start of the 1996 season, England's Test record has been: won 8, lost 12, drawn 12. Limited as a coach's impact can be, that is a poor record which may not improve in the rest of this series.

Lloyd's best work is widely seen as the support system which he established for the England players, from dietary to psychological training. He has been open to all ideas (too omnivorously so at times), a keen organiser of practices, a raconteur par excellence, and highly supportive of his players in public, unlike Ray Illingworth, his effective predecessor. But results have shown no improvement, nor have some batting techniques, nor England's catching; and he has twice been censured by the England Cricket Board for his outspokenness.

He was, moreover, placed in a difficult, if not untenable, position by Graham Gooch's appointment as tour manager and also, it can be revealed, as assistant batting coach. Lloyd coached England's one-day party in Bangladesh in October; by the time he joined the Test party in Australia, Gooch had already been in charge of practices for a week.

Naturally Lloyd felt that he had to defer to the more experienced cricketer (118 Test caps to his nine) and by doing so, without jealousy, he has become increasingly marginalised.

Lloyd will continue to coach England's one-day party for the World Cup, if partly because there has been too little continuity in England's preparations as it is. The team should have been settled months, if not years ago, so that each man knew his place or places in the field by now and the game of his team-mates. Instead, England's selectors have chopped and changed so often that in the one-day series in Australia next month they will be trying out two players who have never played a one-day international before: Mark Alleyne and Vince Wells. Though not a selector, Lloyd could have insisted on clearer planning.

It is reliably understood that the England Management Committee will look at overseas candidates before appointing Lloyd's successor. He lost most of his power base when Mike Atherton resigned as England's captain and Bob Bennett, of Lancashire, was replaced as chairman of EMAC by Brian Bolus, of Nottinghamshire.

Woolmer's contract as South Africa's coach is due to expire at the end of the World Cup, but while the timing is in his favour - England would want to blood their new coach in the four-Test home series against New Zealand which follows the World Cup - he is by no means EMAC's automatic choice.

Woolmer has already expressed his weariness with the travel required of an international coach, and he has worked with a young, responsive and highly ambitious side - not quite the same challenge as England.

He said yesterday: "I'd like to remain in cricket, though I don't want to travel too much. My heart's in South Africa but I'll look at all the options available to me after the World Cup."

After doing wonders at Warwickshire, Woolmer should have been appointed England's coach instead of Fletcher, who had to be sacked half-way through an absurdly long five-year contract when he was found to be as defensive in the role of England's coach as he had been aggressive as Essex's captain.

While Gooch would have his supporters for Lloyd's job, notably Alec Stewart, who shares the same work ethic, he may be considered too close to the players and lacking in the fresh ideas which an outsider could bring.

It is also relevant that the three Gs who wield so much power and influence as selectors and tour managers - David Graveney, Mike Gatting and Gooch - have an age and outlook all too much in common.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)