INTERVIEW: Clare Connor On Paul Shaw, Mark Robinson & The New Head Coach’s Role

Although Mark Robinson has been appointed this week to replace Paul Shaw at the England helm, this is very much not a like-for-like switch. Paul Shaw’s formal title was “Head of Performance”, reflecting a wider remit of responsibilities than just the England XI; whilst Robinson has the more traditional title of “Head Coach”.

So how will the roles differ in practice? CRICKETher caught up with Clare Connor at Lords earlier this week to get some answers!

Asked about Paul Shaw’s appointment, in the wake of the (relative) disappointment of the 2013 World Cup, Connor explains:

“When we appointed Paul, we knew that professionalism wasn’t far off, so we needed someone who had the skills to build a foundation for that program; so Paul’s role was more of a Performance Director role – it was to manage the team and set up a high performance culture and environment.”

But Connor reveals that they always saw Shaw’s role as a transitional one:

“Paul and I spoke very openly before the Women’s Ashes and we knew that he wouldn’t go all the way through to the 2017 World Cup and that a high calibre Head Coach would be the right thing for a group of professional cricketers.”

Unlike Paul Shaw, Mark Robinson will have no direct responsibility for the Academy; but Connor emphasises that he still has a role to play:

“Mark’s responsibility is for the England Women’s Performance Squad [i.e. “The” England squad] but the Academy program is critical to the long term future of that squad; so Mark will be working with those coaches in terms of how best those players can fill the shoes of Charlotte Edwards and Lydia Greenway and Jenny Gunn when they retire.”

Will Mark Robinson be responsible for selection, as Paul Shaw was, or might we go back to a more traditional “Selection Panel”? It seems the latter might be on the cards:

“That selection protocol and structure is still to be decided. Mark will definitely have a say, and will probably be a named selector; but he doesn’t have the breadth of knowledge about the players yet that Paul had.”

Robinson doesn’t officially start work until January, and won’t meet some of the players – those who are flying directly from WBBL in Australia to the international series in South Africa – until February; but Connor concludes by talking about the upside of being able to conduct a proper handover:

“We are in a really good position there – we’ve got Paul leading the program still until the end of the year; but with Sussex’s permission we’ve got flexibility to use Mark and introduce him to the players and the staff. Very rarely do you have that ability to transition.”

Perhaps the most telling thing of all, however, isn’t so much what Clare Connor has to say as how she says it. She is clearly thrilled with Mark Robinson’s appointment and very much looking forward to working with him – getting on with the job of writing the next chapter in England’s story!