Just over 3 years ago, Chris Silverwood led Essex to a first County Championship title in a quarter of a century. The County were in dreamland, and rightfully so, but before being given a chance to defend the title, England came calling.
Silverwood departed Chelmsford to take up the role of Fast Bowling Coach in the England set-up, which left the Club in a bit of a predicament. Who was going to fill the hole left by Spoons? It was going to be a mammoth task for whoever was appointed, as Silverwood was a true fan favourite, but it turned out that the man for the job was a fellow Yorkshireman who already happened to be at The Cloudfm County Ground.
3⃣ years as Head Coach, 3⃣ trophies 💪
— Essex Cricket (@EssexCricket) November 20, 2020
Anthony McGrath was appointed as the Club’s Assistant Head Coach & Batting Coach in February 2016, with Silverwood saying at the time: “I’ve known Anthony for a very long time, and he is a great addition to our staff.
“We have a strong batting line up and I’m confident Mags will complement it perfectly.”
Spoons, as normal, was spot on. During his first season with the Club, Essex earned promotion after capturing the Division Two title.
During that season they secured 58 batting points, the most of any team in the country, something McGrath was no doubt responsible for in one way or another.
We all know what happened in 2017. An unprecedented season in which most had Essex as relegation favourites. They couldn’t have been more wrong, with the County Championship title being secured with games to spare and Ryan ten Doeschate’s side ending the campaign unbeaten.
Two titles in his first two years at the Club, not bad for Mags, but everything was about to change as he was about to become the main man.
After he was appointed Head Coach, McGrath said: “The Club have put faith in me to take over the excellent job Chris did and really continue the success we have had over the last couple of years.
“I don’t think much needs to change from the formula Chris and myself introduced a couple of years ago, to be honest.. Obviously, I will put my own stamp on things, but we have a competitive squad who are all extremely passionate about the Club and winning trophies.”
That passion for winning trophies has been as clear as ever over the 3 years McGrath has been at the helm. In 2019, Essex became the first side ever to complete a T20 and County Championship double, with Mags being named the ECB Coaches Association Coach of the Year. That accomplishment was followed up with more success earlier this year, with McGrath’s side becoming the first-ever winners of the inaugural Bob Willis Trophy at Lord’s.
Essex batsman Dan Lawrence echoes the previous notions from McGrath and believes his similarities to Silverwood has helped the Club continue to win trophies.
The 23-year-old said: “The transition of him going from Batting Coach & Assistant Coach to Head Coach was really straightforward for us as players.
“We had a great team when Silvers was Head Coach and when he was the Assistant, but the ethos and direction of the two of them as Head Coaches is exactly the same. The fact they are pretty similar is what probably made the switch simple for us as players and has helped us win more silverware.”
Lawrence had another excellent year for Essex, impressing in both red and white-ball cricket, and he credits a lot of that down to McGrath.
“When Mags first came over he noticed that I had a similar technique to him with all my triggers, and he’s been influential in helping me improve as a batter.
“I think with Mags, because he’s such a good person and such a knowledgeable man, it means that everybody completely trusts him. He may notice something in training and ask you to do something slightly out your comfort zone, but you know 9 out 10 times whatever he’s seen and is asking you to do is going to be beneficial to your game.”
2019 Season: Specsavers County Championship & Vitality Blast Champions
Club Captain Tom Westley has also reaped the rewards of working closely with McGrath, adding: “He’s helped me improve and develop as a batsman but from a personal perspective, it’s been extremely helpful having someone to talk to who’s been on a similar journey to myself.
“Mags knows the highs and the lows of batting and when I’ve been going through some tough times he’s always been someone to turn to and lean on, which I can’t thank him for enough.”
Westley was appointed Club Captain in January 2020 and has been working the Head Coach on a much more personal level, saying: “My appointment has meant that I’ve got to spend a lot more time with Mags, which has been great. He’s light-hearted and funny, but there’s a drive and dedication to be the best which filters down.
“One of the things that surprised me was the hours he puts into research and number crunching. We can be travelling to an away match and he’s analysing clips of players or is studying his spreadsheets. He’s non-stop and he lives and breathes the role.
“It’s not your normal 9-5 job and his efforts and attitude is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Nearly every Essex Member and fan would say Simon Harmer is the most important signing the Club has made in the last 10 years. It’s hard to argue against it, as the Club have won 2 Division One titles whilst he’s also skippered the side to a maiden T20 title.
For Westley though, no capture has been bigger than Anthony McGrath.
“In the last decade the Club have made some fantastic signings, but none have been more influential or more important than Mags.
“We talk in the dressing room about the golden era of Essex Cricket with Gooch, Fletcher and Acfield and how we want to create our own dynasty. Since he joined it’s no coincidence that we’ve won 5 trophies in 5 years and we’re now well on the way to building that dynasty.”
23-year-old Lawrence agrees, commenting: “It’s great fun playing for Essex at the moment.
“We’re winning trophies, we have a great bunch of lads playing for the Club with a good atmosphere and Mags has been integral to all of that. It’s a privilege to play for him and hopefully we can continue winning for years to come.”
2020 Season: Bob Willis Trophy Champions