Cook wants Durham to aim higher
Durham coach Geoff Cook is determined to stave off the "apathy" which he believes has led recent County Championship winners to struggle the following season.
Cook's side wrapped up the title on Thursday by completing an eight-wicket win over Nottinghamshire, chasing down just 69 to win.
Having seen both Lancashire and Nottinghamshire themselves relegated the season after winning the 2011 and 2005 titles respectively, Cook is aware of the need for Durham not to ease up.
He said: "With no disrespect to other counties, Lancashire won the title a couple of years ago and I don't know if they took their eye off the ball, but they got relegated.
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"Yorkshire had a similar experience, they nearly won the title and were relegated the next season; Notts had a similar experience – title, and relegated. It's important that we don't fall into the same trap.
"We've got to build on what we have now, it's by no means a finished article and the young cricketers here are not finished cricketers, they've got a lot to learn. We have to make sure that we consolidate our position as a decent team. I'm determined that apathy doesn't creep in."
Durham avoided any apathy in 2009, when they retained the title – making this season's success their third in six years during Cook's reign. He said: "We gave the team the target of winning it in consecutive years, which they did.
"We had some good people involved, Dale Benkenstein and Michael Di Venuto, they were high performers and got a massive amount of runs.
"When you get runs and you've got some decent bowlers around you then winning games is a strong possibility. We recruited well, with Ian Blackwell coming, and we were a good team."
With Blackwell and Di Venuto having departed and Benkenstein missing most of this season with a long-term shoulder injury, Durham have been forced to develop a new-look side. Financial restrictions have also limited their options, but their home-grown options have stepped up.
The game against Nottinghamshire saw the long-serving Paul Collingwood captain a starting XI featuring nine Academy products along with batsman Will Smith – one of only two players, along with wicketkeeper Phil Mustard, in the team when all three titles were sealed.
Opening batsman Mark Stoneman, who needs just 14 runs against Sussex next week to reach 1,000 for the Championship season, spoke of the pride in the team.
"From the start of the year there was the whole thing about the finances and no overseas player, we had to make player reductions," he said. "But credit to every single person in the team.
"With a lot of people coming through the Academy system, you have that great sense of pride in what you're playing for. Sometimes, when you're a bit flat, you realise that you're representing something that means a lot to you. It's not just your job, there's that sense of local pride."