Our Behind the Badge series champions some of the unsung heroes who help make Edgbaston such a special place – and the latest is Assistant Cricket Operations Manager Robin French. Like his dad before him, Robin is the man who makes the Bears’ dressing room tick…
Warwickshire have won 15 trophies in the last 30 years. Since 1993, five championships and 10 limited-overs titles have been brought to Edgbaston by a succession of coaches, captains and generation of players. That is serious, sustained success.
But what is the common thread between them all?
From Allan Donald and Andy Moles through Dougie Brown and Nick Knight to Liam Norwell and Hamza Shaikh, one consistent factor has equipped them all to take the field and shine.
That special thread is father-and-son dynasty, Roy and Robin French.
Robin is Assistant Cricket Operations Manager at Edgbaston. His role is to ensure the dressing room environment is clean, comfortable and conducive to players delivering their best on the field.
Robin has done the job full-time since 2011 when he succeeded dad Roy, who had fulfilled the role (then known as dressing-room attendant) since 1993, sharing it for many years with the late, great Ron King.
Many unsung heroes populate Warwickshire CCC.
They don’t come much more unsung than dressing-room attendants, but if the measure of a role is how much it is missed when it’s not done properly, then dressing room attendant is right up there.
Every great Bears feat, from Brian Lara’s 501 to Liam Norwell’s nine for 62, has been underpinned by precise behind-the scenes preparation.
Not least of which is preparing kit for all squad members during the season. And with different kit for the County Championship, T20 Blast and One Day Cup, plus training gear, that’s around 1,000 individual pieces of clothing.
Robin works with kit suppliers to ensure everything arrives on time – and in the right sizes (noting extra-long leg for OHD!) – so that players look the part when they take to the field.
Not that there are any prima donnas in the dressing room, Robin is quick to point out. Players clean their own boots and do most of their own kit laundry. “It’s not like a football dressing room,” he jokes.
So you could argue that Robin French, a Bear and Brummie through and through, is one of the most important people at Edgbaston. But he just takes a quiet pride in what he does.
“I hope I make a difference, a cog in the wheel,” he says, “but in this role it’s hard to quantify.
“If you are a coach, a physio or work in Strength & Conditioning, it’s a bit more black and white in terms of results of what you do. I just look after all the little things that make the players comfortable and in the right frame of mind to go out and play their best for the Bears.
“I guess my job is a bit of everything. My main role is looking after the dressing rooms, making sure everything works and is to hand, and ensuring the players have everything they need from all the right kit to a morning cuppa.
“The players are really good to deal with. It’s especially when they leave the club that a lot of them make an effort to say they have really appreciated what I do. That’s nice to know.”
Robin could not be more ‘Bear.’ Edgbaston is the only workplace he has known and it’s one he started to get to know very early in life.
“Dad was a steward before he worked here,” added Robin, “so I would come along and watch games.
“I did a bit of stewarding too at Sunday League games when they used to park all the cars on the Colts Ground. It would be full to bursting and I loved parking up the cars and meeting all the fans. There was a great vibe to Sunday afternoon cricket.
“Then Dad got the job in the dressing room so I’d sometimes pop in and help him out after games. I’ve been around the dressing rooms ever since I was a youngster. The Bears were soon in my blood. I was 15 when I went to the NatWest final in 1993, up in the Edrich Stand at Lord’s. What a day!
“I’d always been around Edgbaston a lot and then in 2005 started assisting dad properly. Then in 2011 he retired so the opportunity came up to go for the role myself. I must admit I was umming and ahhing about whether I could do it but thought ‘why not? I had nothing to lose’ – and I’ve been here ever since. It’s all I’ve ever known work-wise.”
It can be a gruelling gig with some very long days. During County Championship and Test matches (his role also covers all international matches at Edgbaston) Robin will be at the ground from 7am until 8 or 9pm.
But fitness is certainly no issue – he cycles the 32-mile round-trip between home and Edgbaston every day – and, as with everyone with a Bears passion, all the graft and hard yards are more than worthwhile when another trophy is added to that mighty haul.
“It is a privilege to be in the dressing room,” he said. “You really see first hand how much everybody cares so it is tough when things aren’t going well but really special when you win a trophy. I think we’ve won more trophies than any other county since the ’90s, though it still doesn’t feel like enough. We always want more!
“All the years I’ve been doing it, the players have been somewhere between good blokes, going up to fantastic. There are so many I could pick out as being a real pleasure to deal with. Neil Carter would be my favourite. Jeetan Patel as well. Jonathan Trott was always really good and I always enjoy seeing Ant Botha when he comes back with Notts. And Ian Salisbury.
“It’s always great to welcome the international squads, especially when there are some Bears there. That’s why we are all here, to get lads playing for England, especially when they have come up through the ranks and the academy at Edgbaston like Sam Hain. It’s lovely to see them grow at the club as people and as cricketers.
“Working for the Bears is like a love affair. It’s so much more than just a job. I’ve made mates for life, some are still at the club and others who have moved on, but there are some very special people.”
And one of those very special people Behind the Bears is Robin French.
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