Big Interview: Danny Gilbert's mission to unearth the next hidden gems for Lancashire

When it comes to cricket, Danny Gilbert lives it, breathes it and most certainly loves it.

By Craig Salmon
Saturday, 30th April 2022, 8:00 am
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 1:55 pm

The 29-year-old seam bowler is the captain of Garstang who ply their trade in the Northern League.

While every Saturday and some Sundays during the summer Gilbert can be found donning his whites and leading the Riversiders, his involvement in the sport does not just end at the weekends.

His role at Garstang enables him to show his prowess in a playing capacity, but during the week his mission is to help juniors develop their skills at the sport.

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Danny Gilbert takes a wicket for Garstang (photo: Tim Gilbert/Preston Photographic Society)

Gilbert is the head coach of Lancashire boys Under-15s – a position he combines with his coaching company Fylde Coast Cricket Coaching Limited.

It’s a venture he runs with his business partner Bobby Denning – a former opening batsman for Fleetwood and St Annes, whose coaching work has seen him develop the sport in Europe and work within disability programmes for the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Together the pair work primarily in schools delivering coaching programmes, but also host summer camps and their expertise can also be utilised in a one-on-one coaching capacity.

Interestingly, they also offer a match day coaching and preparation programme which can aid teams – both junior and senior – in the build-up to an important game.

Danny Gilbert is the captain of Garstang but also runs a cricket academy and coaches in the junior set-up at Lancashire (photo: Tim Gilbert)

As well as working as development officer for the Lancashire Cricket Foundation, Gilbert has been the fast bowling lead for the Red Rose women’s and girls’ pathway and spent a period as coach for Lancashire Thunder Ladies’ team in the Kia Super League.

Gilbert – a level three coach – admits his life is cricket intensive but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

"Myself and my business partner Bobby Denning whose been around the sport for years and is a level four coach, we set up the coaching company in 2019 while we were both still working for Lancashire,” said Gilbert.

"But we went full-time with it in 2021 and we work predominantly in schools and clubs; one-on-one coaching.

Bobby Denning during his days as an opening batsman for St Annes

"It’s been really good and I am really enjoying a different challenge combining the business side of things with the coaching.

"I am still heavily involved at the county as the head coach of the Lancashire boys Under-15s and we have just kicked-off the new season.

"It is a really busy time of the year but also really exciting too.”

Gilbert admits he gets a real buzz out of seeing youngsters develop their games.

His goal is to help produce players who could potentially go on to have careers in the game and represent Lancashire, maybe England.

"I have been involved in the youth set-up at Lancashire for a long time now from when I used to be full-time employed for them,” he said.

"With the boys’ programme, from the Under-11s,12s,13 and what have you.

"Then I shifted the girls and the women’s game where I was bowling coach, assistant coach.

"Then I ended up working a little bit in the Kia Super League with Lancashire Thunder.

"I the left Lancs but I have been brought back in recently to coach the Under-15s boys.

"There’s some great talent there and plenty of lads who I believe can go on and develop into good cricketers.

"We have five or six lads who will be trialling for the North of England team which is a prestigious honour.

"There’s many a great player who has gone through that pathway such as England batsman Joe Root.

“These lads are aspiring professionals and if things go well over the next couple of years, they could be playing second team county cricket and then after that you never know.

"In five years’ time they could be full-time professionals.

"At the end of the day, they have just got to keep enjoying it. To be in Lancashire’s Under-15s set-up means they are very talented, they’ve just got to keep going and working hard. It’s a real privilege for me to be a part of it."

Through his coaching company, Gilbert has a bird’s eye view of some of the young talent which potentially could be tapped into by Lancashire.

“Initially, we started off with the business, working fairly locally,” said Gilbert, who is studying for a masters of research in sports leadership and professional development.

"But it’s really expanded over the past year. We have an extensive schools’ programme – I think we are working with 30 schools.

"That involves coaching, delivering school curriculum activities, after-school clubs. It’s grown and clubs from all over have the county have used us. We have done work with clubs like Chorley, Longridge, Garstang of course, Fylde and a number of others.”

Captain Danny Gilbert believes Garstang are primed for a shot at the Northern League title this year.

Having been in the Moore and Smalley Palace Shield for many years, the Riversiders won promotion to the higher level in 2017 when they claimed the Premier Division title.

Since then they have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.

Not once have they finished outside of the top six in the Northern League and in 2019, they were runners-up behind Leyland.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have prevented Garstang from building on that record finish the year after, but in 2021 they finished fifth – just six points behind runners-up Lancaster.

Strong in both batting and bowling departments, coupled with the expertise of Indian professional Punit Bisht, Gilbert sees no reason why his men cannot fight for the title this summer.

"I think 100% we are going for the title this year,” said Gilbert, whose side host Kendal at the Riverside today.

"If we play our game and to our potential, we will be tough to contend with.

"I think consistency is the key and which has probably been our downfall in the past.

"The title boils down to who can be the most consistent throughout the season.

"We played Netherfield first game of the season and pretty much dominated them and they are always up there.

"We pretty much dominated Chorley in all aspects of the game and they were top when we played them. We know we can do it, we just need to do it for longer periods of time during the season.

"Every game is tough but we’ve just got to focus on ourselves and if we do that everything else will look after itself.”