Colin Mitchell, in his all-round Sunday blog, this week looks at the England match fishing set-up, and in particular mercurial Mark Downes.
THERE were very few people – I hope – who would have disagreed with my praise last week for Steve Gardener following his departure from the England squad.
After almost three decades of loyal and fantastic service to his country the Dorking stalwart has been relieved of his duties by Mark Downes.
Some match anglers might think its still a bit too early for Steve to go. He probably does himself too.
But let’s have some praise here for Downesy, a bit of an unsung hero himself for England.
It’s fair to say that Mark hasn’t always been the most popular character in angling. Indeed I’ve had a few minor brushes with him over the years.
But Mark and I have never, ever held grudges over those little disagreements. That’s how it should be, no grudges.
In fact I hold Mark in as high esteem as I do Steve, but for totally different reasons. I’ve fished with and against Steve on numerous occasions and think his angling ability is up there with the world’s very best.
Mark and I haven’t crossed paths quite as much and certainly not in recent years. But having known him for in excess of 30 years I can tell you he’s always been a bit of a tactical genious.
His Starlets side would not be the force they are without Mark having been at the helm for so long. I doubt there are many anglers around who have been with a team as angler, mentor, captain and leader for as long as he has.
He’s run Starlets like a top Premier League football team. The best anglers are brought in, those who fail are carefully sidelined and he’s always had a mix of the best guys to cover all sorts of matches and venues.
It’s difficult to say for definite but I reckon the building of all top angling sides probably started with others looking at Starlets.
They were the first team to have to look professional as well as act it. Mark had them all togged out looking good – which probably made them feel as if they had an edge over their rivals.
From my time on the bank at top team matches over the years I’ve learned how Mark made bank runners the vital part of the team that they really are. He turned around the belief that runners were just the spare guys – his Starlet runners KNEW they were part of the team, their every question to team mates who were fishing a vital part of their armoury.
And when England boss Dick Clegg chose Mark – and Mark Addy – as joint international managers he knew exactly what he was doing.
Cleggy’s no mean angler himself and a great organiser. He obviously knew that Mark had those same qualities.
Dropping Stevie G will have been a massive and tough decision for Downes and Addy to make, just like having to say goodbye to four times World Champion Bob Nudd.
But England’s angling team – just like their football counterparts – need to keep bringing in new blood.
The Downes/Addy partnership has proved to be a winner and I’m sure the arrival of new faces Callum Dicks and Lee Kerry will also be a good move.
Callum comes from a fishing family, he’s a former World Under-22 Champion and having seen him fish since he was a young teen, I can tell you he has the determination you need to succeed.
Lee’s dad Paul was a top sea match angler and a champion caster – not exactly the same as wielding a pole and bloodworms, but it also proves he’s got that competitive instinct in his blood.
England’s football team supporters might still be wondering about the future of Roy Hodgson’s side.
England’s angling team supporters should be happy in the knowledge that their side is in more than capable hands.
The European Championship is in the bag. Roll on the World Champs in September.