I’ve always thought you don’t have to be a great player to be a great coach. Conversely the best players don’t always make the best coaches or managers.
Kevin Keegan was a great player but just came up short as a manager while Sir Alex Ferguson had a successful career as a player but it was nothing compared to his time in charge at Aberdeen and Manchester Utd.
It’s the same in cricket and the perfect example is Paul Farbrace, who is set to be unveiled as England’s assistant coach to Peter Moores after leading Sri Lanka to World T20 glory.
I have to declare a vested interest here as we both come from the same tiny village of Ash in Kent. I first met Farbrace when I was about 11 and he was 15 or 16 and he came to our house to give me an impromptu coaching session.
He’d been invited by my dad after the two of them had met while picking apples on his Uncle Richie’s farm. The nearest town to Ash is called Sandwich and I’d been given the chance to open the batting for Sandwich U11s but didn’t know whether to take up the offer.
Farbrace told me I should definitely open as it gave me the best chance to build an innings. He was a talented wicketkeeper and he gave me a quick masterclass. It was no surprise when he became a coach at Kent County Cricket Club’s indoor nets during the close season.
‘Farby’ had something about him as a coach. I remember telling him that I thought Australian Wayne Phillips was a good wicketkeeper and he scoffed at me. Phillips was a swashbuckling batsman but wasn’t a natural wicketkeeper. Farbrace was a natural wicketkeeper but a limited batsman.
This was in the days before Adam Gilchrist and wicketkeepers weren’t expected to bat. Farbrace’s batting career peaked in 1987 in only his second Championship appearance for Kent. Batting at No 10 he scored 75 not out against Yorkshire and had seemed set for 100 until last man Derek ‘Deadly’ Underwood was dismissed. He was the pride of Ash.
He played for Kent from 1987 to 1989 and then had six seasons at Middlesex before retiring in 1995 after playing 40 first class games and moving into coaching at the age of 28.
Although I played with and against his brother Colin several times the last time my path crossed Paul's was on May 3, 1993 when I was playing for Sandwich in a midweek game against The Mote, in Maidstone. Farbrace was batting at No 3 and it was the first time I’d seen batting gloves with proper knuckle joints. He won’t remember me but I was fielding at deep midwicket and I caught a brilliant overhead catch only to fall over the boundary rope and have to drop the ball.
If, as seems likely, Farbrace gets his chance as England’s assistant coach, he’ll have deserved it. He’s coached England women’s team, England U19s and Kent. He was appointed assistant to the Sri Lankan team in 2007 and returned as coach in 2014, winning 17 of his first 18 matches.
It’s the record that caught the attention of the England cricket hierarchy but even as a kid Farbrace always the qualities that singled him out as a top coach.
Chris Maguire can be followed at @ifthecap