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Graham Onions embarks on Lancashire coaching career after abrupt end to playing days

Graham Onions embarks on Lancashire coaching career after abrupt end

In the midst of so much Covid uncertainty, with county budgets slashed as the game reels from the £100 million losses incurred in the 2020 season, it is a tribute to the unequivocal good-eggery of Graham Onions that he has been handed a chance for a brand-new beginning, so soon after the cruelly abrupt end to his playing days.

Back in August, on the eve of Lancashire’s opening Bob Willis Trophy clash with Leicestershire at Worcester, Onions suffered a back injury from which he quickly realised there would be no return. He was advised to retire immediately at the age of 38, taking with him a stellar haul of 723 first-class wickets at 25.70 -32 of which came at 29.90 in a nine-Test England career that would surely have been significantly longer but for the enduring brilliance of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

But now, just over five months after that shattering set-back, Onions is back in the game as Lancashire’s new bowling coach – a role for which he earned an ECB Level Four coaching certificate back in 2015, and which he pledges to approach with the very same dedication that he put into his two-decade first-class career.

“I do class myself as very, very lucky,” he said, having been braced in the current climate for a spell in the freelance world, including a role as head coach at Scarborough College in Yorkshire – a job he hopes to be able to retain on a part-time basis, as and when life returns to some normality after lockdown.

“There’s a definite relief … I could have had income coming in from different areas, but that really isn’t me,” Onions said. “I want to be part of a team. I feel that got the best out of me as a player, and as a coach, being self-employed just doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning. But if I can get up and be part of a team, and help a team culture, then that’s what makes me think I want to be part of something special.

“Throughout my playing days, I worked hard, I gave everything I possibly can. Ultimately, I want to be as good as I can be, and I’m determined as a relatively young coach to start my journey again and commit to everything I do.”

In many ways, Onions hopes to be able to slot straight back into life as he knew it before retirement – he’ll still be living in the same on-site hotel at Emirates Old Trafford that he used as a matchday base, given that his family remains settled in his native North-East, and he looks forward to sharing in the same dressing-room celebrations, given how integral a team’s back-room staff is to its overall success.

“We’ve spoken about it, and the amount of time I’ll see the family is going to be less but the bottom line is I’ve done that for pretty much 20-odd years now so it’s nothing new, it’s the norm for me. When I see them, it will be even more special, I suppose.

“But I love this club. I’ve not been here that long, but I feel as though it is a second home and that I belong to the Red Rose, and I’m desperate to win more silverware and develop some of these young lads from the academy to be professional cricketers.”

But, he admits, some things will have to change, given that many of the players with whom he has been competing for the past three years are now coming under his guidance.

“It’s not a conflict of interest but I’ve just got to make sure that I get that balance right,” Onions added. “Because my philosophy and coaching style is that I’m like a best friend, they can ring me any time, but there are also decisions to make, team selections and honest conversations to have. But I don’t see that as a bad thing because, when you have an open relationship, I found giving feedback comes from a good place. That’s where I want to get to, if I haven’t already got it.”

He’ll need also to get over any lingering regrets at the sudden ending of his playing days.

“I came in on Monday, and the first thing I wanted to do was get the ball in my hand and have a bowl,” he said. “It’s just a natural thing that I’ve done like for so long. But then obviously there was the pain and everything, and I was like, nah, I’m gonna have to give it a miss.

“Do I miss it? One hundred percent. Don’t get me wrong, when I got older, I found the training hard, but do I miss it. Yes, because it’s the camaraderie around the dressing room, it’s the drive to make you better all the time.

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