Feature: Taunton man enjoys life of sun, sea, sand and cricket in Gibraltar (From This is The West Country)
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Feature: Taunton man enjoys life of sun, sea, sand and cricket in Gibraltar
THE British territory of Gibraltar in southern Spain is hitting the headlines for all the
wrong reasons at the moment, but one man from Taunton is making a life for himself
there as a cricket coach. He spoke to County Gazette reporter WILL CARPENTER.
CRICKET in Gibraltar is something of an unknown for many of the sport’s followers, but a coach from Taunton is working hard to develop the game in the British Mediterranean territory.
Paul Lawrence, 40, who also works in the Centre of Excellence at the County Ground in Taunton, has been head coach of the Gibraltar cricket team for nearly three years.
The South African is based there for up to five months of the year, where his role is to coach, develop and advise on both the territory’s national and domestic game.
The opportunity to coach an international side, albeit a minor one, was far too good for Paul to turn down, and the 40-year-old, known by many as ‘Sid,’ didn’t need much persuading.
So, how do you go about becoming Gibraltar cricket coach?
“The opportunity arose when Richard Askew (former Somerset Performance Coach) was over in Gibraltar and got taken on in a different role, and they needed someone to come over as coach, so I jumped at the chance,” said Paul.
“I’m national coach, so I’m in charge of the national team, but also age group stuff, both boys and girls, and cricket in clubs and schools.
“It’s a busy role, but I’m massively enjoying it.”
Gibraltar competes in the World Cricket League and recently took part in a Twenty20 tournament in Sussex finishing tenth out of 12 teams, and Paul, though disappointed, says the development of Gibraltar cricket is likely to take time.
He said: “We haven’t got any grass wickets in Gibraltar, so all cricket is played on artificial surfaces, which puts us at a disadvantage with other sides, but we have to do our best with what we have.”
In the near future the Gibraltar Cricket Association is likely to lose one of its facilities – Europa Point – to football as the national side has recently been accepted into FIFA.
Paul accepts that a cricket stadium in Gibraltar is far from a possibility at the moment, but still expressed his disappointment at the potential loss of the ground.
He said: “It would be ideal to have a cricket facility, but size-wise in Gibraltar we’d struggle to find space.
“At the moment there’s a strong chance that we’ll lose Europa Point because the football side has just got into FIFA.
“We’re trying to sort out things to get a specific cricket facility.
“It’s very frustrating. The facility at Europa Point was predominantly a cricket and rugby facility, and now both sports are going to lose that.”
Paul believes cricket in Gibraltar is developing steadily, but says it could be a long time before we see any players cutting it on the English domestic circuit.
He said: “At the moment they need to work, so it’s trying to fit everything in, and with there being no grass wickets over there it’s a big step.
“There are some decent players, but there would have to be a lot of things fall in place for that to happen.”
A warm climate and a unique opportunity are some of the job’s perks, but the long periods spent away from his wife and young son can be very testing for Paul, who said: “It’s tough, but with modern technology you’ve got Skype so you can have a little chat to him and the wife as well.
“You just miss out on so much, but you’re doing the job you love.
“Life in Gibraltar is a lot more laid back, the climate is fantastic and the people are friendly.
“Everything’s within walking distance and there are some beautiful places.”
Anyone who follows the international news will know not everything is running smoothly in Gibraltar at present with new border controls implemented by the Spanish Government leading to tensions between the UK and Spain . . . and Gibraltar seemingly caught in the middle.
Paul said: “I know the guys in Gibraltar are very passionate about their links to England, and there’s a knock-on effect as well because a lot of the people who live in Gibraltar live in Spain as well, so they have to try to get across both times, and it’s really tough.”
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