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Edgbaston expects as Giles returns to his roots

Ashley Giles is trading Lancashire for Warwickshire in a bid to restore his work-life balance Getty Images

Not everyone was impressed when Ashley Giles was announced as the new director of cricket at Warwickshire. (He's actually Sport Director, but we'll come back to that).

While the news was rapturously received by the club's supporters, he did not get quite the reaction he had hoped for from his family. For when he announced he had some big news for them on Christmas Day, his 14-year-old daughter, Tilly, had rather hoped he was going to give them a puppy. The realisation that dad - house-trained and relatively obedient though he is - was going to be living at home again did not entirely assuage her disappointment.

But the lure of home was key to this move. While Giles accepts he had unfinished business at Lancashire, he also admits that the strain of living apart from his family was beginning to show. With his wife suffering a serious long-term illness and the family remaining in the Midlands, he all too often found himself sitting alone in his hotel room in the evening, eating room service and wishing he was somewhere else.

"It was making me miserable," he says. "The personal aspect was the big reason for taking this job. Being away from home was increasingly difficult in year two. Four walls of a hotel room… I've done a lot of that in my playing career. I found it hard work.

"I just found I was never at home. Even when I was, I wasn't. You're vacant for 24 hours before you start to come back down to earth. Your suitcase is never even unpacked before it's back in the car and you're off again."

That's not to say that leaving Lancashire was not a wrench. "I was aware I had signed a contract," he says. "And I was proud of our season last year. They have some really good young players. There is something to build on there. I have a huge amount of respect for Lancashire and can only thank them for the way they have looked after me. But family is most important."

Already the benefits of the move are starting to be felt. He reports that his wife is sleeping better - a sign of her contentment, no doubt, rather than his conversation - and he has felt his own spirits rise. "The family are more relaxed," he says. "It's been great for all of us. This does feels like coming home. It's great to be back."

But sentiment wasn't the reason Warwickshire offered this job to him. And sentiment wasn't the reason they sacked Dougie Brown, a man who had served the club with distinction for the best part of three decades, and found the money both to pay him off and compensate Lancashire for Giles' departure.

It was more that Warwickshire's management were concerned at the direction the club was taking. They saw a lack of progress among younger players at the club - it's been an issue for years - and they saw the low mood in the dressing room. They saw success at Lord's (Warwickshire won the Royal London Cup in September) as "papering over cracks" (the CEO's words) and felt they needed to act.

This is, after all, a club that expects its turnover to exceed £20m a year over the next three years - "the best three years of major matches we've ever had," according to the CEO, Neil Snowball - and which sacked its coach a month after winning a Lord's final at the end of the 2016 season.

They've reported the best non-Ashes Test ticket sales they've ever had in 2016 and describe sales for the first day-night Test in England as "flying out of the door" (around 30,000 at this stage). Fighting relegation and failing to qualify for T20 Finals Day is not good enough. Giles, steeped in the culture of the club and respected for his ability to coax the best out of players, has been recruited not just to win more trophies but to establish, in his words, a "legacy" of success that will "last decades".

His attachment to the club should not be mistaken for softness. He is tougher than most think and brutal when required. He won't make life easy for the players: he will challenge them to be the best they can be. The good ones will enjoy that; others will leave.

The word "transition" crops up often at Edgbaston at present. It is widely acknowledged that the squad Giles inherits in 2017 is strikingly similar to the one he left in 2012, having just won the Championship. It's just older. And while there are, no doubt, some benefits to be taken from experience, there is also an acceptance that Warwickshire need to bring through new players.

Whether they come from within or without - to echo a song that Bob Dylan might have written about Asif Din - they need to come in the next couple of years. The fact that a faltering batting unit has been weakened by the loss of two of the relatively young players - Varun Chopra and Laurie Evans - to other counties, will not help. Chris Woakes remains their last home-grown capped player. Giles has not inherited an easy job or taken the soft choice. In his first meeting with his coaching staff - a four-hour affair - he is said to have spent three hours and 55 minutes just listening.

"Our own development system hasn't worked as well as it should have - or as well as other clubs - going back for years," Giles admits. "I am full of admiration for the work Steve Rhodes has done in developing young players at Worcestershire and maybe there are things there we can learn from: the relationship with schools and the minor counties, for a start.

"But our local players still have to be good enough. They can't just come through the system and think that is enough for us to pick them. I don't think we should be silly enough to think new players will just come from within."

Might the new recruits include Kolpak registrations? Giles has often spoken against counties signing players not qualified for England, but he has utilised a few - not least at Lancashire, where he required senior players - and does not rule it out at Warwickshire. "Never say never," he says, "but it's not a favoured option for me. We maxed out on performance-related fee payments for playing locals every year the last time I was here and that is something that is very important to me."

It's also important, he acknowledges, to "tap into the Asian network better".

"It's a massive network that we've failed to tap into," he says. "We need to get to grips with that. It's been an issue for a long time.

"But I'm not saying we're going to clear the decks and get rid of all the older players. We need balance. I want to bring through young players and attract the best talent that's out there. But what better time to give a young player opportunity than when they get to play alongside Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott? When I took over in 2008, the cricket side of this club was a shambles. It's not now. We have one of the best squads in the country."

Maybe that title - Sport Director - isn't quite as silly as it seems at first glance, either. While it is no hint that Giles is about to start coaching tennis or rugby (though he is on the board of English netball), it does differentiate his role from that of director of cricket or head coach.

He will not spend every day with the men's team. While Jim Troughton, the new head coach and the good cop to Giles' bad, will "wake up every day thinking of ways to help that team win," according to the club's chief executive, Neil Snowball, Giles will have wider responsibilities. He will be expected to improve the youth development, the women's team, the recruitment, and anything else associated with developing the long-term success of the club. Generally (though not exclusively) suited rather than tracksuited, his role is similar to the one filled by Andrew Strauss with England. That may prove relevant a few years down the line.

Giles says he probably wouldn't have taken the role had it been that of Director of Cricket. It would, he reasons, have been disrespectful not just to Lancashire - about which he has nothing but praise - but his old friend Dougie Brown, who was effectively sacked to make way for his return. The pair go way back: they were best men at each other's weddings; they played together for a decade; they roomed and drove and drank together. This situation, Giles admits, has been a little "awkward".

"But I'm coming back to do a different role. The circumstances meant, for me, I had to go for the job but I certainly don't want to lose friendships over it. Had it been the same job that Dougie had, I don't think I would have gone for it. I think that would have been wrong by Lancashire as well. I've enjoyed some of my best days in cricket with Lancashire. I wasn't looking to rush off at all.

"Dougie and I have always been mates. And he had enjoyed success here. By the time we got to the fifth or sixth pint, he was starting to understand."

So, his best mate was upset and his daughter wished he was a dog. It's not the ideal start. But Giles rarely has had anything easy as a player or a coach, and he's not afraid to risk his reputation by taking on a tough job at a club where expectations are always high and patience is sometimes thin. His appointment looks a good, long-term fit for all concerned.