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Walker full of praise for Downton
Walker full of praise for Downton

Coach Matt Walker has heaped praise on outgoing Director of Cricket Paul Downton for this time at Kent Cricket.

The 2023 domestic cricket season has been consigned to the record books and for Kent and coach Matt Walker it was a season of struggles with both the red and white ball.

It was also the season that saw the end of an era at Canterbury with the departure of Paul Downton, the end of the Sam Billings era of being Club Captain along with the comings and goings of the playing staff. 

We have sat down with Walker for his fullest and frankest interviews since Kent’s Great Escape on the Final Day of the Championship season and after talking to the coach already this week about the playing season, today the coach pays tribute to his departing boss, Director of Cricket Paul Downton… 

“What can I say about Paul that hasn’t already been said?” Walker said.  

“I sat down with Paul in the winter of 2018 at the Holiday Inn in Wrotham and it was the first time that the county had had a “Director of Cricket” – I think it was something that we all realised that we needed.”

“But I did not think – and I could ever have imagined – what a brilliant man we had coming in to do the job. I think very clearly from that first meeting I realised, and Paul realised that we were both on the same page and we both realised what the role meant and how it was going to work affecting both of us and the team.”

“Our vision was shared – along with Sam (Billings) – and I think from then on, the six years that followed were incredibly successful.” 

“If you reel it off, it has been a successful period for us with the two trophies obviously standing out – first division status still, England players produced, and promotion sealed in that first season and a Lord’s final along the way.”

“So many positive things have happened and just from my point of view, I think that his appointment has been the most significant cricket decision the Club has ever made, certainly in my thirty years being around Kent Cricket at a professional level – it has been that significant, not only the role that is now there, but also the fact that he did it and the way he did it, and the support he’s shown me – we had a wonderful balance between getting the job done, but also having a real calmness and manner that was very easy to work with.” 

“I will miss him hugely, that is for sure, and I believe that everyone will, but it is a new chapter, and we now move on with Simon Cook at the helm.”

“Paul has left the place in an extremely good spot, a better place from when he took it over, and that is all you try and do I suppose in these types of roles, and along the way there have been some incredibly happy times.”

“For us to win trophies – I do not think that people sometimes realise how hard that is to do – few teams get the chance to do or do it!”

“Some of the “big” sides during Paul’s period have not won anything or got close to winning trophies. We have constantly challenged, and we have two trophies in the cabinet.”

“So, a huge amount of success and I know Paul, I will miss it greatly and we will miss him personally.” 

“As I said at the awards night, an enormous thank you to him having made my life and my job easier and I think a lot will say the same!” 

“He has been very humble saying that he has “just” been part of the team that got the job done. But he obviously was in charge of it all and so deserves all the credit for it; Paul’s never been a dictator and it not someone who “this is what happens and this is how we’re doing it” – he’s been very humble and I don’t think he would have expected any of the praise that he received either at the last members forum or at the awards night!”

“He is a good man, and he knows how loved he is at the Club because people engage with him and have a great time with him and having him around having a great working relationship with him.”

“But I suppose when it’s actually said aloud and you receive a standing ovation, it does hit home!” 

“If you have good people around you, and you are a good person, things can start to happen in a real positive way. It was lovely to see all the tributes and reflection on what he’s really like as a person and not just a cricket administrator!” 

“Looking forward, it is a big step up for Cooky; I think he’s very capable of doing the job. We hired him as a bowling coach, but if you look at the previous jobs, he has had for instance with Hong Kong Cricket where he played a big part in running that.”

“It is a big advantage that he has been around Canterbury for a few years now – he knows the place; he knows the players and there hopefully will not be that weening in period as a result.”

“He will have his visions and his view on things that may have to change as it is a vastly different role to a bowling coach, that is for sure!”

“I hope that not much changes as we have worked together for a number of years now – it has always been collaborative and along with all the other support coaches we have always been a team and hopefully that will stay the same.” 

“A change is always an interesting period for a Club, but sometimes it is a really good thing! I think Cooky will have learned a lot from Paul and seen all the positives he has done and hopefully carry the torch moving forward for the club.” 

For the remainder of the week, our focus with the Coach will focus on the playing staff and tomorrow we reflect on the season of the highest run scorer in the 2023 Ashes and the man who has stepped down as club captain as we talk to Matt Walker with the subjects of Zak Crawley and Sam Billings…