Struggling Sussex dig deep
"Stay strong" is the gist of what Sussex professional cricket manager Mark Robinson is saying to his men this weekend.
A quarter of the way into the County Championship season, things are not as bright as the holders would like. They are not making any excuses and captain Chris Adams has told me that the players are "hurting".
Not all of them are. One is away with England this week and what a start he's made to his Test career. On Friday it was just at the same time that Richard Montgomerie and Carl Hopkinson were hurrying off the field, having been offered bad light and facing the tough job of following on, that the biggest cheer of the day rang out around the ground.
Matt Prior had scored his century at Lord's. Thirty minutes later play was again under way at Hove and Montgomerie and Hopkinson were dismissed and back in the pavilion.
There are problems at the club but it's also a time to raise a glass to former coach Peter Moores and Prior. Sussex feel justly proud of those two this week.
Robinson said: "Matt's elevation to England is a great endorsement for everything that is good about this club and what we like to promote. England thankfully have gone bold and brave and picked a young keeper.
"Whilst some people have been talking about the role that Alec Stewart has played with Matty's rise, I would like to mention Adams who has mentored him and assistant coach Mark Davis, who for the last three weeks has been throwing balls down every day at Prior to such a degree his shoulder is almost dropping off.
"We also know the part Moores has played in the recent success of this county."
At this stage of the season I'm not convinced Sussex have too much too worry about, although Robinson says the start is a concern and they always target making a impact at this time of the year, as they did successfully last season.
He said: "We are notoriously poor starters probably because of the fact that we have an international leg-spinner who doesn't like the cold.
"Last year Mushtaq Ahmed was all the time saying, 'I'm going to make a good start' and he kept on saying it. This time he's always talking about Bob Woolmer which is, of course, not his fault and you understand it. He gets one press call a day and I get two."
The little fella was sent back to Lahore last week to see his family but again as the story over Woolmer's death took another turn there were around 20 press men surrounding his home and following him. Hardly the respite he was looking for.
Excuses are not being made but circumstances have dealt the club a bad hand so far. At one point they had only 12 fit players, although the squad does only stretch to 18.
Adams admits: "It's a battle this time of the year and the way things are going it's keeping us honest and keen. You have to work that little bit harder but it does make you realise that when the times are good and seem to flow for you it makes it that more special, because right now without doubt this team is hurting.
"I would love to say we haven't done this and we haven't done that but that is not the case. In fact, if we are guilty of anything it's probably over working and trying too hard to correct things."
Another factor which Adams thinks must be taken seriously is that to date he hasn't won a toss. Last year he won the vast majority in the Championship and that at the end of a season does have some significance.
"Grizzly" has just struck a century to help his side draw with Surrey, a result which will help lift some of the pain he says they are all feeling.
Murray Goodwin played magnificently to add a double hundred to his century he scored in the first innings. That’s twice in three weeks I've seen that now. Younis Khan did that in Southampton for Yorkshire.
What does concern some people is whether Sussex could have done more to build on their success last time and bring in a big-name player during the winter. They did try but talent such as Darren Maddy and Will Jefferson turned them down.
Money wasn't necessarily the issue, although if Adams had left it would have given the club a pot of cash and it is the case that if Sussex want to make a high-profile signing they would need to offload one they already have. But here Adams has proved that his staying won't have a been a bad thing but a positive.
Perhaps this isn't a big-name club but Adams has a right to think he is one himself. Their victories have always been put down to the team ethic.
Robinson is hopeful that the likes of 19-year-old Tom Smith will come good, as hopefully will Michael Thornely. Veteran Saqlain Mushtaq was a 'punt' but the excitement surrounds Chris Liddle, the fast bowler signed from Leicestershire.
I''m told he has "heart and a fire in his belly" and can bowl quick. He isn't quite ready yet but in his two matches so far he did well. Robinson admits he has couple of things to work on and at least being forced into early first-team action means he knows what exactly he has to do.
Twice in recent years a county has enjoyed the champagne and plaudits winning the much-coveted Championship title to descend 12 months later into relegation material. Yorkshire did in 2001/2002 and Nottinghamshire 2005/2006. How does that happen? In Yorkshire's case there was the usual squabbling and departures and the best I can offer on Notts is they took their eye off the job in hand. Will Sussex go the same way?
Well they have talked about what happened at Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and England both cricket and rugby and issues over getting ahead of yourselves. They have laid out plans for the season to avoid that sort of slip up. But clearly they haven't coped with the injuries and distractions.
It's too early to write them off yet. The sooner Mike Yardy gets back the better. Last season he averaged 50.77 in the Championship, just pipping Adams into second place behind Goodwin who was up in the sixties.
Mushy must take the wickets, remember he packed his bags last September with another 100 of them to his name. He must have so much else on his mind but if he can get it right and Rana, Lewry and Kirtley are firing, they should be able to do enough at least to avoid the humiliation of going from champions to relegation.
But this is a team which must stay alert to replenishing their stocks. It will be great if they can do so from within. It's probably their only and best option. It suits a club like this.
I always enjoy my visits to the seaside at Brighton and Hove but what has happened to the traditional shows? No sign of the Chuckle Brothers, Cannon and Ball or the Grumbleweeds. The big one this week was '"The ladyboys of Bangkok!"