Monthly Archives: April 2014

Nine years after their much publicised beginning, FC United continue to thrive in an alternative footballing environment

 

fc united 5

 

‘‘I am an FC fan,

  I am a Mancunian,

  I know what I want and I know how to get it,

  I wanna destroy, Glazer and Sky,

  Cause I, wanna be, at FC’’.

 

Bury FC’s Gigg Lane is a temporary home for FC United of Manchester, but on every other Saturday it certainly doesn’t feel that way. As their team battle to a 2-1 victory over a stubborn Matlock Town, their eighth win a row, FC fans provide their own rendition of Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols, a swipe at their former love, the somewhat better-known Manchester United. With around 2,000 fans in attendance, they create an atmosphere rarely seen in the higher echelons of the English game. Flags are a constant fixture in the main home section, whilst banners cover the two uninhabited stands. ‘Making friends not millionaires’, one reads. It neatly encapsulates the manifesto of FC United, a club built by the fans, for the fans.

 

At the end of the game, the bond between the fans and the players becomes even clearer for all to see. Fans swarm towards the front of the stand, whilst the players do half a lap of honour, shaking hands with the supporters that have helped to shape the team they play for. It is akin to the relationship fans and players share in Germany’s Bundesliga, where the feeling is more of mutual admiration than grudging acceptance of one another. The Bundesliga model has many similarities to the way in which United are run, albeit on a grander scale, where clubs must be controlled with at least 50% plus one of votes on important decisions, by their members, the fans.

 

FC United have now spent nine years in non-league football, and crowds remain unwavering in their loyalty, showcasing the strength of a supporter-run institution. Much like supporting Manchester United, players move from team to team, but the fans remain the one constant.

 

United were famously formed in 2005, as a rebellion against English football’s modern ways. ‘‘Changing kick-off times for the benefit of television, soulless all-seater stadia full of ‘new’ supporters intent to sit back and watch rather than partake in the occasion, heavy handed stewarding and ridiculously priced tickets’’, all playing a support role to the main enemy of the piece, the Glazers. 

The Glazer family controversially acquired a stake in Manchester United in 2003, much to the dismay of many fans of the club, once it was realised the debt they would be have to take on, after years of being debt free. The majority of United fans chose to live with the decision, but a substantial amount, enough to form the beginnings of a new team, decided it was time to defect, with Glazer shares standing at 57%. It’s a decision they have not lived to regret.

 

‘‘It’s been brilliant. A refreshing change both on and off the pitch. On it with players who actually care about the club and the supporters, being able to mix with opposition fans, the chance to stand with your mates on the terrace. Off it, the fact that we as members own the club and directly shape its future…no one can take that away from us, which is the most important thing of all’’, says Michael Holdsworth, from the North West and Lancashire supporters’ group.

 

FC are effectively the polar opposite of the way current Premier League clubs are run, democratically owned and controlled by its members, the fans. There are seven core principles that help to define the club, as outlined by the official website; the board will be democratically elected by its members, decisions taken by the membership will be decided on a one member, one vote basis.

 

The club will develop strong links with the local community, admission prices will be affordable as possible, young participation will be encouraged by the club, the board will strive to avoid outright commercialism, and the club will remain a non-profit organisation. The rules appear to have been strictly adhered to since the emergence of the club, helping to form a distinct community feel around Gigg Lane. Michael credits this spirit to a number of different factors, ‘‘we’re all here for a common goal, to show that there is a better way for football.

 

‘‘The fact that ordinary supporters own the club democratically for the benefit of supporters and the community gives us that family spirit and feeling.  The atmosphere crowd-wise is down to the fact that ordinary people and youngsters can afford to come along and watch the games, as well as the type of people a club with our ethos attracts’’.

 

The early years of FC United proved an unmitigated success, and despite promotions stalling, they are still very much on an upward trajectory. Given the strength of the club’s foundations from the very beginning, a rapid rise up the leagues was somewhat inevitable. The inaugural season in the North West Counties League division two resulted in a title, with 6,032 fans flooding Gigg Lane to celebrate on the final day. The next season followed the same pattern, as United clinched division one. Promotion to the Northern Premier League division one north proved no obstacle. Despite being denied a hat trick of league titles by Bradford Park Avenue by just one point, United gained by promotion by virtue of a 4-1 victory over Skelmersdale United. 

 

For the first time in their history, FC United failed to gain promotion at the first time of asking, narrowly missing out on the play-offs on the last day of the season after a sterling effort towards the end of the campaign.  The following season saw United’s most disappointing league effort to date, a middling 13th place. That disappointment however was offset by a trip to Hamburg to take part in St Pauli’s 100th year anniversary celebrations, United’s game with Germany’s famous anti-fascist club ending in a 3-3 draw.

 

The 2010-2011 season for United proved a bittersweet pill. The FA Cup was the scene of arguably the club’s greatest achievement, as they overcame League one side Rochdale, 97 places above them in the football pyramid. Victory resulted in a meeting with another League one side Brighton and Hove Albion, and once again United would not be moved, securing a 1-1 draw. In front of a huge crowd at Gigg Lane United eventually bowed out, but nights like these will live long in the memory.

 

But the joy was slightly short-lived with the news that the proposed new ground at Ten Acres Lane in Newton Heath was cancelled, with the local council citing funding cuts as the reason for the decision. Failure to get planning permission for a new ground was a hammer blow for the club, compounded by three straight play-off final defeats in three years, which left them tantalisingly short of promotion to the Conference North.

 

Fast forward to the 2013-2014 season and things are once again moving apace for United. In a race for promotion, they also have their new stadium to look forward to at the start of the 2014-2015 season, a 5,000 ground stadium in Moston. United’s general manager Andy Walsh believes the move to the new facility will have a seismic impact.

 

‘‘I think as a club we need to get established in the new ground. That’s going to have a big impact on us, nobody can underestimate the big change there is going to be to the football club when we move to the new ground. We are effectively going to be a new organisation really.

 

‘‘We’ve got a facility to run as well as putting on football matches and that really is the prize because running the facility will allow us to achieve our ambitions for developing community support and access to community sport for people in Manchester’’.

 

Andy describes the opportunity to build the new ground as the ‘real prize’, and it is particularly special given the difficulties United have had in securing their own home, ‘‘we gained planning permission at Ten Acres Lane in 2010, but within four or five months we had to shelve them because of changes with government funding and we had to look for a new site which we found in Moston, North Manchester.

 

‘‘We went through a new planning application, and we had some legal challenges on that as well which delayed us by a couple of years. We started building in November 2013 and we are roughly halfway through that programme now.

 

‘‘So yeah it has been a long, stony road but it’s been fantastic. Our membership is now as high as it’s ever been. We have over 3,200 members, we have got over 1,000 season ticket holders and we’re sitting at the top of the table. So it’s good times at the moment’’. 

A move towards a new stadium would be all the more sweet if it coincided with promotion to the Conference North, a league that stands just two levels away from professional league football, an attainable goal. But despite the unparalleled joy that promotion can bring, there is a feeling that success is not the central thing that breeds happiness for the supporters.

 

‘‘I certainly still think we’ve got a great chance of going up automatically and we can beat anyone in the play-off places. I must admit, I’m not all that worried. If we don’t go up, we don’t go up. As nice as it would be to play in a higher division, I do like this league’’, says Michael.

 

Going into the final league game of the season, United once again find themselves in familiar territory at the top end of the Northern Premier League first division. They currently sit one point behind Chorley, and the current league leaders must win away at Buxton to claim the title.  The crunch tie between the two sides earlier in the month ended in a 2-2 draw, and the last day is bound to be dramatic. Andy Walsh, like all United fans, projects an element of caution when discussing future goals.

 

‘‘How far we go on the pitch is a question everybody asks us, and really that’s down to the management. We’ll give the resources that we can, within the football club to the manager and to the players to see where we can go. I always have the view that clubs tend to level out where their crowds are. When you’ve got a crowd of roughly 2,000, then you talk about the top end of the Conference, possibly getting into League Two but as a football club that is a realistic ambition for us’’.

 

Football ownership is becoming an increasingly divisive and thorny subject in the English game. Clubs such as Blackburn Rovers, Notts County, Portsmouth and Coventry City have all been cast under the spell of little-known owners promising big money, all have fallen from grace in ugly fashion. A report released in November 2013 revealed six out of 72 football league clubs are facing ‘critical financial pressure’, with many others struggling.

 

FC United’s fan-owned model has proved to be a viable alternative for clubs across the land, with the likes of AFC Wimbledon, Portsmouth and Exeter City all choosing the same mode of ownership. At the other end of the spectrum, FC Barcelona have proved that clubs owned by their fans can still keep up with the game’s conglomerate giants, and have success at the very highest level. All the current examples point to fan ownership being a better way of running a football club, and Andy hopes that this will happen across the UK in the future.

 

‘‘I’m confident it will happen. This is a growing movement. You look at ourselves, you look at Chester, you look at Scarborough, you look at Wimbledon, you look at Exeter, you look at Portsmouth, it’s a growing movement.

 

‘‘We’re still trying to find the best model, and it’s not a panacea to all evils of the game, but supporter ownership is a better way of running a football club than the traditional model of running a football club’’. 

John Horricks, however, from the Moston supporters group is less hopeful that there is change round the corner, ‘‘I think all clubs should be owned by the fans as they are the club. Unfortunately I can’t see it ever happening unless the government stepped in which isn’t going to happen. Money is the king, and football is now a very big business’’.

 

Given the community spirit that engulfs FC United, it feels a sad waste that all clubs are not run in this way, designed as a pillar of the community rather than a company run to satisfy the needs of its rich hierarchy. But despite appearing as a mere footnote on the footballing landscape, clubs like United provide hope that all fans still have the ability to wrestle power and decide their future. United’s accomplishments in their brief history reinforce the message that success in football strays further than the glitz of the Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, dominated by the modern day super clubs and their vast network of resources. FC United’s way is not the norm, but everything about their manifesto and their subsequent success says there way is a viable way. 

Moyes’ sacking ten months into a six year job proves he was the wrong man all along

 

When it eventually came, there was no real surprise. Maybe a slight element of sympathy for a decent football man, but there will be few tears shed by United fans across the country. Over the season David Moyes’ sacking became more obvious, more inevitable. The decision had backfired.

In this emphatically disastrous season for Manchester United, perhaps the hardest decision is which statistic to use to portray just how out of his depth David Moyes has been. This campaign was the first time in which both Liverpool and Everton have done the double over the Reds in the same season, not to mention the fact that local rivals Manchester City also completed this feat with consummate ease. United were set to finish seventh under the Moyes’ stewardship, they have previously never finished outside of the top three in the Premier League. Manchester United took just seven miserly points out of a possible 39 against the other top seven clubs in the league, in arenas where Ferguson once thrived. This will be a season that lingers long in the memory for all the wrong reasons.

Without wishing to patronise, there is something a little sad about seeing someone drowning under the weight of mammoth expectations, especially with the spotlight honing in on him. While many assumed it would be difficult for Moyes to retain the title in his first season, no one expected such a sheer collapse both in terms of results and performance. Throughout the season United and their manager have portrayed a side burdened by their history, when it’s something that should be embraced and used as a springboard for future success.

The calls emanating from many former United players, in particular Gary Neville, were to give Moyes time. However, as results became progressively abject, these voices of support seemed borne out of duty rather than genuine belief that things would get better. There was simply no evidence that Moyes was assembling a team capable of returning to the top of the league. The Maroune Fellaini signing proved a severe error of misjudgement, whilst the arrival of Juan Mata in January failed to lift performances, suggesting it was a move designed to quell growing fan frustration rather than one to fit into a particular playing system implemented by the new boss. Stability should not come at the cost of progression, merely to make United a martyr for the cause of crumbling football loyalty.

More than anything the sheer lack of good performances under Moyes was the most worrying aspect. There were brief flickers in the Champions League, with victories over Bayer Leverkusen and a second leg comeback against Olympiakos giving occasional moments of hope amidst growing despair. Yet the league form equated to embarrassing at times, especially against the sides in the top half of the table. Solid wins against sides below them in the league were too often offset by morale crushing defeats, which left United back at square one. Not one single player apart from David De Gea showed any real signs of improvement from the last campaign, and there was no clear system in place.

Adnan Januzaj’s rise was a shining light, but even his performance levels and number of appearances began to tail off towards the latter stages. The declining form of Michael Carrick was particularly alarming. Moyes was successful in tying down Wayne Rooney to a new deal, but the rest of his transfer business left a lot to be desired.

Although he was left a squad many argue had plenty of deficiencies, Moyes has now had two full transfers to address such issues, to no real avail. The chase of Cesc Fabregas was ill-judged, and the only summer signing Fellaini was a waste of £27 million, with the Belgian not in the mould of a United player. There was more excitement around the arrival of Juan Mata in January, but the poor form of the Spaniard instead served to highlight the fact that United’s new boss was struggling to squeeze the very best out of top class players. Nemanja Vidic announced mid-season he would join Inter Milan in the summer, whilst Rio Ferdinand has appeared discontented throughout. Academy graduate Danny Welbeck’s comments that he was thinking of leaving highlighted Moyes’ poor man-management skills more than ever, the final nail in an already nail-ridden coffin. An inability to work with top players and a clear lack of subtle tactics were his downfall, a poisonous mixture for any manager. His lowering of expectations, most notably ahead of the home game to Liverpool, who he described as favourites, will not have helped his cause either. This is Manchester United.

Changes in United’s squad are needed in the summer, but in the latter stages of the season the signs suggested that Moyes would not be the right man to oversee such an overhaul.

The continuous failure of Manchester United under Moyes suggests that he was never the right man for the job. While it’s undoubtedly easier to judge that in hindsight, it appears Sir Alex Ferguson left his most patent error till the very end. You get the impression Ferguson’s mind was clouded by thoughts of dynasty and a smooth succession, an idealistic world where one strong Scotsman takes after another, bound by terms of contract to rule English football for another 20 years.

Perhaps everybody in the boardroom forgot to mention the fact that David Moyes was trophy-less in a modestly successful tenure at Everton, where cautious tactics and a strong team ethic ensured they were a match for any team, despite their failure to ever win at the homes of any of the big four teams under Moyes. What his Everton team lacked in glamour they more than made up for with earthy grit. Yet United have always been team who look to thrive off moments of genuine inspiration, something that was not often found at Goodison Park. Old Trafford was once a haven for relentless comebacks and virtuoso football. Instead this season it has appeared more like a breeding ground for mechanical, nervous football devoid of any real spontaneity.

Ferguson’s error may have cost United not only in the short term, but in the long term as well. With both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola being seen as genuine candidates to replace Sir Alex the first time round. While it is unclear whether Guardiola ever received a concrete offer, there was clearly a window of opportunity after his departure from Barcelona and his subsequent sabbatical from the game. Jose Mourinho’s advances for the role were less discreet. When Real Madrid defeated United controversially in the last 16 of last year’s Champions League, the Portuguese boss was so gushing in his praise of Ferguson and United as an institution that it was hard to see it as anything but pandering to the United hierarchy to consider him for the role once the great man had left. Yet United went about the recruitment process with blissful ignorance, clearly set in their own ways. Mourinho has often got himself into bother with ill-discipline, but it’s worth remembering that Fergie was no stranger to finding himself the wrong side of the law.

This time round, the options are a little thinner on the ground. Borussia Dortmund’s vibrant boss Jurgen Klopp has already ruled himself out of the running, an early dent for the Reds. Current Holland coach Louis Van Gaal appears to be the front runner, but with a World Cup in mind this summer the may find it difficult to map out United’s new strategy and sign new players, whilst concentrating on the largest tournament in football.

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid side have surpassed all realistic ambitions and expectations to go toe to toe with larger domestic and European rivals, but his inability to speak English means he still remains a little unsuited to the job. Ryan Giggs, who will take over Saturday’s game against Norwich City as caretaker manager, knows the club like no one else does, but his lack of experience will count against him in equal measure. Aside from that Antonio Conte of Juventus and Rudi Garcia of Roma would prove interesting options, but whether they would be prized away from the obvious lure of Champions League football from their current clubs in Italy remains highly questionable.

The mess that United now find themselves in could well have been avoided with the appointment of a manager used to winning trophies in the first place. They now find themselves in unfamiliar territory of appointing a new manager just ten months after their last was placed in charge. While many other successful clubs sack managers on a regular basis, often at the first signs of failure begin to emerge, United do not have experience of upheaval. They must tread carefully when deciding their next move, and they cannot afford to have another season like this current one. For that, they must appoint someone with a track record of winning, and someone who has a clear football philosophy that will suit the club. Perhaps Sir Alex ought not to let his ego get in the way this time when looking for a suitable candidate.

City still in the title hunt after comfortable victory

 

Aguero PA

Manchester City remain in the title race after they strolled to a 3-1 win over West Brom at the Etihad, their first win in three Premier League outings.

 While strife continues to engulf their neighbours United with the imminent sacking of David Moyes, City went into the game in danger of throwing their own season away, after recent poor results against Liverpool and Sunderland threatening to derail a once promising campaign.

 With rivals Liverpool having completed their 11th straight win on Sunday at Norwich, the onus was very much on the Blues to make sure the Premier League race goes down to the wire. City now lie six points off the top but with a game in hand, and must win all their league fixtures in the hope that Liverpool slip up in their remaining three league outings, one of which is against Chelsea.

 The subdued atmosphere at the Etihad perhaps reflected the position that City now find themselves in, where the title is out of their hands, when for much of the season it seemed as if they were in firm control.

 Although the result was never in doubt, the victory was somewhat overshadowed by the departure of David Silva 20 minutes before the end.

 The Spaniard, City’s most impressive player at Anfield last week, went down in visible pain under a seemingly innocuous challenge close to the half way line. With his ankle strapped he was carefully lifted off the field to chants of ‘one David Silva’, to join fellow midfielder Yaya Toure on the sidelines going into the backend of the season.

 Despite injuries affecting City throughout the course of the season, they were undoubtedly buoyed by the return of star man Sergio Aguero for the Baggies visit. Aguero was vital in the opening goal, which came just two minutes in.

 Liam Ridgewell’s headed clearance was weak, landing right at the feet of the Argentine on the corner of the box. Aguero’s control was impeccable, his shot fierce. The ball was hit straight at Ben Foster, but such was the pace of the effort that he was only able to palm the ball to an onrushing Pablo Zabaleta, who guided his header into the corner of the net.

The Blues were full of confidence, and West Brom were reeling. Aguero wasted no time at all in doubling his sides’ advantage. Picking the ball up 25-yards from goal, his misdirected pass was laid straight back into his path, allowing him to smash past a helpless Foster.

It was electric stuff from Aguero, and it all but ended West Brom’s hopes of extracting anything from a game that they were unlikely to excel in from the very beginning. However, the best moment of the game was yet to come.

The Baggies goal was a moment of pure footballing beauty, yet it was utterly avoidable in equal measure from City’s point of view. With a free-kick around 30-yards from goal, Silva and Fernandinho were guilty of a little complacency.

Their extravagant routine did not work, resulting in Zabaleta receiving the ball wide in an uncomfortable position. Ridgewell was quick to intercept, finding Stephane Sessegnon down the left hand side. Sessegnon found Matej Vydra, who guided the ball into the path of Graham Dorrans.

The beauty of the finish lied in its instinctiveness, as he reacted to a high pass to control and chip over Gael Clichy before firing a pinpoint left footed volley into the top right hand corner of Joe Hart’s net.

If the goal galvanized West Brom it failed to show, and order was restored ten minutes before the interval, as Martin Demichelis avoided his marker far too easily, tapping in a corner at the back post. City went into the break with a two goal lead, with the game very much in their control.

The second half was more notable for the injury of Silva rather than any defining match action, as their seemed to be a mutual agreement by both sides that the game had already been put to bed.

Nasri was blocked by a last minute tackle after a slick move, substitute Stefan Jovetic volleyed wide, and Edin Dzeko had an effort which curled just the wrong side of the post. James Milner, often effective off the bench, was thwarted by Foster.

For West Brom, the result simply confirms that they remain in a relegation fight. For City it was a bittersweet evening. Whilst it was vitally important to secure three points with the league title still on the horizon, the injury to Silva could prove costly with tough away games at Crystal Palace and Everton to come, with every game a must win.

Moores deserves England job – Luis Reece

 

Peter Moores

Lancashire’s latest batting star Luis Reece believes coach Peter Moores would be deserving of the England job, after the current Lancashire coach declared his interest in the role.

 Moores will be interviewed this week for the job, with current coach Ashley Giles, Trevor Bayliss and Mick Newell thought to be the other candidates in the running.

 Giles and Moores are seen as serious contenders for the head coach position vacated by Andy Flower and Reece thinks Moores would be a more than worthy recipient of the job.

 ‘‘Yeah of course he deserves it,” Reece told Quays News.

 “He’s one of the best coaches, if not the best coach in England. If they do come knocking on the door, then there’s no one else who deserves it more than him.”

 Reece played a major part in Lancashire’s stroll to promotion last season, with eight fifties at an average of 55.53, and he is confident the side can continue their impressive form in the new campaign.

 ‘‘Last year we set out the goal of getting promoted straight away, and we were able to do that in great style in the end,” he said.

 “We did it quite easily so that was a great satisfaction. Hopefully this year we can reproduce the 2011 form when we won the trophy’’.

 Despite the left-handers’ impressive Championship form one-day opportunities were hard to come by, with no appearance in the shorter format last term. But Reece does not seem overly concerned, preferring to focus on team objectives instead.

 ‘‘I just played the four-day stuff last year. All I can do is keep scoring runs, and then if there is an opening brilliant, I’ll be ready if and when I’m needed. The main aim is for the side to keep winning, so we’ll see what happens’’.

 One of the most striking aspects of Lancashire’s triumphs in recent years has been the parallel success of the academy with players such as Reece, Kyle Hogg, Simon Kerrigan and Karl Brown all appearing, amongst others.

 One constant throughout the academy system has been coach John Stanworth, who has helped guide and nurture the careers of these players at early stage.

 ‘‘Stanny’s done a great job,” said Reece. “Being part of the academy I’ve seen what he does first hand and he does a fantastic job. It shows with the amount of young players that are now turning into full time professionals.”

 If Peter Moores was to secure the England job, Lancashire should have no problem appointing within. Stanworth, first team assistant coach Gary Yates and veteran fast bowler Glen Chapple having all been at the club for a considerable amount of time and would bring vast experience to the role.

 For Reece, the goal is clear. He must re-establish himself at the top of the order during the opening stages of the season while looking to convert more steady fifties into match-winning hundreds at a considerably greater level.

Jos Buttler looking towards a four-day future

 

Buttler

Lancashire’s stellar new signing Jos Buttler is hoping a regular stint behind the stumps in four-day cricket can take his game to the next level – a place in the England test team.

 Buttler left his home county Somerset in the winter with a slightly heavy heart, as fierce competition with fellow England hopeful Craig Kieswetter led to a lack of opportunities as wicketkeeper in the longer format.

 The 23-year-old is regarded by many as the future of England’s one-day side, with a potent blend of power hitting and outrageous improvisation making him a threat to any attack in world cricket.

 But with a relatively modest first class average of 31.73, Buttler must improve if he is to gain the full attention of England’s next coach. After a poor winter for Matt Prior, there is even more incentive to press for a place.

 ‘‘I’ve obviously come here with huge ambitions for my own career,” Buttler told Quays News. 

“I think here is a place which it’s going to help me do that. Working with Peter Moores and playing at this club, and keeping in the four-dayers as well will take my game to the next level and hopefully I will put in good performances and get noticed by the right people’’.

 Buttler freely admitted that his wicket-keeping needs to improve, and that he was being held back at Somerset.

 With Old Trafford pitches offering spin in recent times, his keeping when up to the stumps will be duly tested, especially given the quality of Simon Kerrigan and Stephen Parry.

 ‘‘I’ve been the wicketkeeper in the limited overs stuff and not wicket-keeping all the time I feel like I was taking a big risk to my place, not giving myself the best chance of performing for England if I’m not keeping regularly.

 ‘‘My wicket keeping needs to improve and to do that I have to be keeping all the time’’.

 A decision was made to rest Buttler during Lancashire’s current season opener against Nottingham after a long winter, but that hasn’t dampened his excitement to get out on the pitch with his new club. 

‘‘It’s very much a new chapter, so I’m excited to be here,” he said.

“It’s a great ground, a great club with great traditions, so it’s great to be part of it and I’m looking forward to playing in my first game.”

 With former England coach and a wicketkeeper himself Peter Moores at the helm, there is no better place for Buttler to improve.

England hopeful Moores tips Lancashire for Championship title

Peter Moores has tipped Lancashire to win the County Championship on their return to the top flight this season.

 Whether he is around to see it through could be another matter, however.

 The former England coach is being strongly linked with a return to the national job following the departure of Andy Flower after the 5-0 defeat in this winter’s ashes.

 Moores was controversially sacked as England coach in 2009 after falling out with Kevin Pietersen. But with the South African no longer part of the England set up, the Lancs coach has emerged as one of the front runners for the vacant role.

 Despite his interest in the England job, Moores is fully focused on the start to Lancashire’s County Championship season, which begins away to Nottinghamshire on Sunday.

 ‘‘At the moment it’s a case of we’ve got a season to run, it’s my current job and I love it. It’s a fantastic job,” Moores told Quays News at Emirates Old Trafford earlier today (Friday April 4).

 “We’ve got great support and a great set of players. So I’m just focusing on what we’re doing here, and we’ve got a big game coming up on Sunday.’’

 Lancashire gained promotion back to the first division of the County Championship last season at the first time of asking after being relegated in 2012, just a year after winning the title.

 The 2011 success proved this group of players has the ability to win division one, and the former wicketkeeper is confident his youthful side can mount a title challenge.

 ‘‘I definitely think there’s a chance we could win it,” said Moores.

 “There are some really good sides in the division so it won’t be a simple task to win it, but I think we’re as competitive as anybody else.

 ‘‘The key is getting players playing well early. Jos Buttler’s joined us which is a good strength, we’ve got Jimmy Anderson in those first four games which will be a real bonus I think, especially with the early season so, yes, we can win it’’.

 Lancashire sent a clear message to their competitors with the signing of England’s one-day keeper Jos Buttler during the winter, who will look to increase his chances of a test match call-up with a prolonged period behind the stumps for his new county.

 ‘‘He is very keen to push on as a four day player,” said Moores. “He wants to push for a test match place so he wants to be playing four day cricket which is exciting for him, to keep in that format of the game.

 ‘‘But I think as a batter we have all seen him be very explosive in one-day cricket, and it’s a chance for him to try and start showing what a quality player he can be in the longer format.’’

 Lancashire’s youth team has impressed in recent years, with the likes of Anderson, Simon Kerrigan, Stephen Parry, Karl Brown and Luis Reece all emerging from the academy in recent years.

 Promising young wicketkeeper Alex Davies is also likely get his chance behind the stumps this season when Buttler is away on international duty.

 There is plenty of confidence ahead of the new season, and the first four day match of the season at Trent Bridge should offer Lancashire’s pace bowlers plenty of assistance in chilly April conditions.

 Added Moores: ‘‘It’s an exciting place for us to go and play because we’ve got swing bowlers in people like Hogg, Anderson, they’ll be looking forward to bowling there’’.

 Captain Glenn Chapple is out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury, whilst Buttler will be rested after his England exertions in Bangladesh. Paul Horton will stand in as skipper.