Clash of personalities drove Gough from Yorkshire?
Bounced out: Darren Gough bowls to David Byas, who spent one season at Lancashire in 2002
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Darren Gough's departure from Yorkshire had been on the cards for several seasons, according to Ray Illingworth, their former captain and the former chairman of England's selectors. But the return of David Byas as Yorkshire's director of cricket may have been the decisive factor.
Gough has been an integral member of Yorkshire's first-team squad ever since he joined as an 18-year-old in 1989. But in recent seasons he has been unsettled at the club, and his decision to move his family home to Buckinghamshire in 2000 provoked a furious reaction from Yorkshire's fans and members, who felt they were not getting full value for money.
Gough complained at the time that life at Headingley had become "almost unbearable", but his comments found little support from Byas, who was then captain and who, in 2001, led the county to their first Championship title in 31 seasons. "I've no sympathy for him," Byas retorted, "although I must add that I couldn't give a tinker's cuss what he does."
Illingworth hinted that the clash of personalities was a factor in Gough's decision. "Ever since Goughie moved to live in the south, there have been rumours and speculation about him parting company with Yorkshire," he said. "In the long run, maybe there was no smoke without fire.
"It's sad to see such a good player leave," he added, "but it's probably been coming for a couple of years now. Apart from Fred [Trueman], who was the best fast bowler Yorkshire have produced in my era, I can't think of any better than Darren. At his best, he was a really fine swing bowler with a good strike-rate, but since the introduction of central contracts and his knee injury, his contribution has been limited."
Gough was highly critical of Byas in his recent autobiography, and the pair had a public falling-out three years ago. "When we won the Championship, there were two or three players who didn't get on with David," said a county source. "Goughie was one of them."
Yorkshire have insisted that any animosity between Byas and Gough had nothing to do with Wednesday's announcement. Colin Graves, the chief executive, suggested that Gough had made his intentions clear back in November - two months before Byas's return.
"We outlined our plans for the future regarding the team, the players we had, and the captaincy was discussed," said Graves. "[Gough] did not wish to take that route and hence he has made his decision. We are disappointed. We saw a future for him with Yorkshire. He is a character and that is what the game lacks these days."
Speculation is rife as to which county will sign Gough. Warwickshire have emerged as front-runners, and their captain Nick Knight was drooling at the prospect of tempting him to Edgbaston. "Darren's got the leadership and experience we need to bring on our young seamers," said Knight. "He might not be able to bowl 95 mph all day, but he's older and shrewder, and no one can question his motivation and desire to win things."
Other teams in the hunt include Essex, where Gough would be reunited with his old England captain Nasser Hussain, and Middlesex, who at least have the funds to secure a signature that will not come cheap, even at the age of 33.