Peter Anderson - the man who would be known as Chief
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:13 21 August 2017
In 1989, Peter Anderson became chief executive of Somerset County Cricket Club, helping transform the club during his 16 years in the job. Here, the Beer resident tells Steve Jennings how he did it.
With Somerset in the doldrums, Peter Anderson was faced with the task of changing the fortunes of the Taunton club.
The team was misfiring after the glory years and had just lost its captain. With the club chairman also departing and the finances being far from healthy, there was much work for the new man in charge to do.
The whole place needed strong leadership, and Peter offered just that. He said: “I was trained in leadership and management, having been a senior figure in the police, so I knew I had to get a good team around me.
“I looked around to see who I had off the field and there was some talent there and all they needed was a bit of leadership.”
Aside from having to manage an off-the-field team that did not always welcome change, the club’s supporters had been used to watching a successful side and were restless and impatient. But Peter was not scared to make the big decisions: “I used to spend time walking around the outfield at games to talk to the supporters and gained a lot of feedback.
“A lot of the committee were standing off me but I tried to lead from the front. I had a decent relationship with most of the players but one or two could be quite difficult.
“I also had a decent relationship with most of the local press, who were quite supportive actually, so I was able to get messages across.”
The playing staff needed some attention. “On the field we had some seasoned pros, some of whom were coming to the end of their time.
“We were lucky because in my first couple of years we had Jimmy Cook and he carried us. What a gentleman he was; a fantastic player. So we didn’t get hammered all the time and things changed gradually.”
But Peter had some fortune with the signing of a New Zealand-born fast bowler called Andrew Caddick, who was desperate to gain a contract to play in England. “I was dead lucky with Caddick,” he admits. “There was a guy I knew from Hong Kong who was now Leicestershire’s chairman and he told me of a lad playing in London, who had been trying to get on the Middlesex staff, called Andy Caddick, but he didn’t want to go to Leicestershire.
“So I got hold of Caddick and asked if he would be interested in a trial for Somerset and he agreed straight away. The next day we were playing a 2nd XI game at The Oval and he agreed to play. He got 10 wickets in the game and scored 60 so I said ‘sign here!’.”
Caddick went on to become one of Somerset and England’s most successful bowlers. But if the club was to be successful again they needed to produce good, local players. Peter recalls: “Brian Rose, who I vaguely knew, said to me ‘build an indoor school of excellence’, so I did. And it is the best thing I did because all this helped develop the academy into what it is now.
“I knew a guy called Ted Crowe from Blundells School and he introduced me to a gentleman called Sir Christopher Ondaatje, who took a shine to what I was trying to do and he helped me with a big deposit to start the indoor school. Then, with the Foundation for Sport and the Arts we got funding to top it up. So we built the indoor school with [hospitality] boxes on top, which – quite successfully – gave us another income stream to keep the school going.”
The results were immediate and by the early 1990s the club had many promising youngsters, including Keith Parsons, Jason Kerr, Seaton boy Andy Cottam and two future England internationals: Mark Lathwell and Marcus Trescothick.
Progress on the field was slow but sure, with the club enjoying some high-profile cup runs in the early to late ’90s. With these big cup games came increased financial gain and this all helped change the health of the bank account.
With the County Ground still looking tired there were also opportunities to build improved facilities. “We got another grant to build the Botham Stand, which I know is in the wrong place, but I had to sell the six boxes to fund the stand and members told us they would only buy the boxes there if they could look over the wicket, so that’s why it is there.
“And we revamped the catering at the ground by getting in some good people to run it with fresh ideas, so, bit-by-bit, the finances started to repair.”
But sports clubs are judged by success on the field and Somerset enjoyed a golden period in the late ’90s and early noughties with three Lords finals, including a first trophy win in 16 years when Leicestershire were defeated in 2001. “We lost two finals on the trot; then came that victory.
“And we came second in the County Championship. That was amazing because absolutely everything went for us that year. In fact we were unlucky not to win that too!”
Peter was often outspoken but always passionate, but the man called Chief does like to see some disputes end peacefully. The bad feeling from 1986 and the ‘Battle of Shepton Mallet’ continued and this was something he was keen to put to bed, once and for all. “I told Richard Parsons that to sort this we must honour them: Botham, Richards and Garner. So I went to see them – I knew Richards and had met Botham – so I just asked them all and they were very gracious and all said yes. So we named a stand after Botham and gates after Richards and Garner and they all came down separately, and that helped settle things down.”
In 2005 Peter enticed a young South African, Graeme Smith to skipper Somerset for a short while. He had a very positive effect, leading the club to an unlikely trophy win in only the third ever Twenty20 tournament when Lancashire were beaten at The Oval with Smith scoring 64. Peter felt this was an opportune time to retire.
He visits Taunton occasionally and always enjoys a warm welcome from the members. But he spends most of his time at his home in Beer and is at Seaton CC a few mornings each week, passionate about the pitches he prepares.
Peter’s achievements at Somerset are undeniable when you consider their situation in 1989 and the transformation thereafter under his stewardship.
“I never backed down to anything or anyone. I had a habit of falling out with people, but that actually stood me in good stead. I wasn’t right all the time – of course not – but you have to be true to yourself. I recall when I left school my housemaster – a Welshman – saw a few traits in me and gave me one piece of advice and said ‘keep fighting’. And that’s all he said. And that’s what I did.”
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