INTERVIEW: Grateful Ripley says he will relish new role at Northants
The 54-year-old revealed at the club’s AGM last week that he is giving up the role he has held since the summer of 2012, with next Tuesday’s LV= Insurance County Championship clash against Essex at Chelmsford his final match in charge.
The news saw people from all spheres of the cricketing world, from fans to players, offer their congratulations and gratitude to Ripley for the job he has done at Northants.
He can certainly leave the post with his head held high having guided the club to two major trophies, winning the T20 Blast in 2013 and 2016, as well as two promotions to the County Championship top flight.
Ripley has also overseen the development of scores of young cricketers, many going on to become Northants regulars such as Alex Wakely, Rob Keogh, Saif Zaib and many more, as well as help to revitalise the careers of others who had been overlooked by other clubs, such as Richard Gleeson, Jack Brooks and Ben Sanderson.
“I have been overwhelmed by the number of messages and phone calls that I have had, and they have made me feel like it has been a decent 10 years,” said Ripley.
“When you get all those people saying nice things it is great, and that is people I have been around a lot throughout that time.
“It’s also nice to get the words from the people who were instrumental with me at the beginning, people like Stephen Peters, Alex Wakely and Mohammed Azharullah.
“It has been really nice, and I have enjoyed that.”
Ripley admits he is relieved the news of his standing down is now in the public domain, as it is something he has had his mind set on since the end of the Vitality T20 Blast campaign in July.
And he admits he is pleased to be staying on at the club in a different role.
“I felt the team finishing bottom of the T20 group was a pivotal moment, because of the cricket we played and how we limped over the line with a group of players that I thought was good enough to do much better,” he said.
“If you have been somewhere a long time, you have to continually feel that you are being reasonably successful to think you can go again.
“There is that shelf-life kind of feeling that you may be passed your best, so I kind of thought it was unhealthy to drag that around with me.
“I started the dialogue with the club about what me packing it in might look like, and they were keen for me to stay, and I was keen to stay as well.
“I didn’t have a lot of love for trying to recreate something at another county, or going to try and bang on the ECB’s door.
“I didn’t really fancy a school job just yet, I wasn’t ready for that either.
“We are still a little unsure as to exactly what my new role will be, there are about 10 things on the potential job description, but by the time I start I am sure we will know what the priorities are.”
And although he has come to terms with his decision to step down, Ripley did admit to some anxious moments once he had shaken on the decision with chairman Gavin Warren, chief executive Ray Payne and director of cricket Nigel Felton.
“The thing is, it is easy to just feel like ‘yeah, I have had enough’,” he said.
“But when it is actually decided and we had all shook hands on it, I had a bad couple of weeks, because that was that.
“I knew I would soon never be picking a side, offering a contract, or seeing a first first-class hundred from a player, and did have to reset myself.
“But once I had done that, I wanted to get the news out and just start on the next chapter.”
That next chapter will of course still be as part of the Northants family, with Ripley set to work as part of the Emerging Player Pathway coaching team, and the Yorkshireman admits that is a weight off his shoulders.
Having been at the club since he was 16-years-old, the thought of moving on would have been a daunting one, but that won’t be the case.
“When you are a head coach, then the job can often finish when it’s not on your terms,” said Ripley.
“Then you are unemployed, and although you might have a little cash this is not football, you can’t just sit around for 12 months and wait for another job to pop up.
“It is cricket, and the redundancy wouldn’t go that far, so it is then ‘what are you going to do?’
“So it is nice to not have that to worry about that.”
For some who have worked at the top of the professional county game, the thought of dropping back down to the youth ranks might not be at all desirable.
But that is not the case for Ripley, who just simply loves coaching cricket.
“I am now focusing on what the job is going to be with the club,” said Ripley.
“As I have always said, I did these jobs on my way up (to head coach), so I am not too precious to think ‘oh, I’m not going to work with the under-14s or whatever’.
“I have done it before, and I enjoyed it, so I will be happy doing it again, it will be great.
“When you working with younger lads there is just less worry. When you are coaching professional players there is always a knock-on effect to the decisions you make, and what you say.
“How does it affect this guy? What about his mate? What will happen if I do that? Will they sign this contract?
“When you have a kid who needs a bit of help with his batting, you just go and have a chat with him about his batting, rather than worry about all the other stuff. So that will be a little bit refreshing I guess.”
It will also offer Ripley the opportunity to perhaps play his part in unearthing another cricketing gem or two - as he did when he was in charge of the club’s Academy prior to becoming head coach.
“You can talk about winning stuff and promotions, and they are absolute highlights and never-to-be-forgotten memories,” said Ripley.
“But seeing the likes of David Willey, Ben Duckett and Olly Stone go on and represent England made me really proud.
“Obviously, it’s not all me that, I just played my little part, but I was the Academy director when those three all came through. That is a massive part of and makes it rewarding working with those younger age-groups.
“I am looking forward to it.”