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‘I know it’s nothing personal’ – Rob Newton interview

Northamptonshire opener Rob Newton insists there’ll be no bad blood when he packs his bags later this summer – despite disagreeing with the club’s decision to set him free. 

After more than a decade of service at Wantage Road, the 30-year-old was informed last week that there would be no new contract on the table.

It’s the news no professional sportsman wants to hear, but with club’s around the land feeling the financial pinch of the current pandemic, there will no doubt be countless tough conversations at board level ahead. 

With clubs seeking to trim the wage bill, those unfortunate to be out of contract this summer are in the firing line. 

And sadly the right hander is the first – although no means the last – to have to fall on his sword. 

But rather than throwing his toys out the pram, Newton remains philosophical about the call and even feels some empathy towards those who had to make it. 

“My preference was to stay, but the situation around the world is such that tough decisions have to be made,” he explained.

“I know it wasn’t easy for them. They think they are making a tough but right call.

“I disagree with them – that’s the way of the world.

“But I know they are doing it with what they think is the club’s best interests at heart

“There’s no bad blood or hard feelings – I know it’s not anything personal, it’s just a very strange time.”

Higher honours may have alluded Newton to date, but it’s easy to forget that only a few years ago his name was firmly in Lions contention.  

The former Framlington college man topped 1000 First Class runs in a season for the first– and thus far only –  time back in 2017.

He almost lead his side back to the County Championship’s top tier that year, and the rich vein of form continued the summer, culminating in a triple digit score against a Pakistani touring side who could call upon a new ball pairing of world class Mohammads – Amir and Abbas.

But professional sport can be fickle, with injuries often rearing their ugly heads at critical times.

And that was the case for Newton – named as one to watch by Wisden as a schoolboy – whose momentum was stopped in its tracks by a cruel double injury blow.

A broken finger sustained while compiling that hundred against sub-continental tourists was quickly followed by a troublesome calf niggle and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now though, with all that behind him, the man who also suffered a ruptured achilles back in 2013 is just hoping for lady luck to smile upon him.

“The timing of these things can be unfortunate,” he mused.  

“You never seem to get the injuries in November – they always seem to come mid-season.

“That Pakistan game…I was the form of my life, but I broke a finger in that innings and missed two weeks and then tore my calf the game back and missed two months.

“As a top order batter you get hit on the fingers. It’s just a fact of cricket.

“But then I came back and missed another two months.

“Physically I feel great so I don’t think there is anything holding me back.

“It’s just a case of trying to get through that whole summer and having a clean run. I had that in 2017 for six months and I had one of the best years of my career.”

When Newton reflects on his time at Northamptonshire in years to come, there be plenty of sweet memories to cherish. 

The English sporting public has a what many might describe as an unhealthy obsession with the underdog.

And when David happens to overthrow Goliath, victory is all that bit sweeter.

The Steelbacks are perennially facing an uphill battle – particularly given the riches available to some of their domestic counterparts.

But despite the odds being stacked against them, Newton’s time at the club has coincided with a pair of promotions and a fairy-tale T20 win – a day and night the boy from Taunton insists he will never forget. 

There have also been some outstanding personal conquests to boot.

A double hundred against Leicestershire back in 2016 followed by a pair of centuries in a game against Derbyshire the next year.

And the typically understated Newton – a man who epitomises the ego-less attitude that brought the good times to Northants –  revealed David Sales’ intervention helped him realise the magnitude of his achievement. 

“At the time I didn’t think that much of it,” he laughed.

“But I was batting with Davis Sales – who is obviously a legend of the game –  and he came down and said “I’ve never done that”.

“And it was then I realised that actually if he’s never done that, maybe it was a slightly bigger deal than I was giving it credit for.

“That was probably the best batting week of my career so far.”

Now though Newton – who appeared more than 150 times in Northants colours – must turn his attention to pastures new.

The top order man has racked up more than 8,000 career runs to date and has an impressive haul of 15 long form hundreds to his name.

That alone is evidence itself to suggest that that he may prove a shrewd signing for a side looking to add experience to their batting line-up.

But with so much uncertainty ahead, there’s unlikely to be a quick fix and Newton is strapping in for the long haul with counties expected to tread carefully moving forward.

“I’m only 30 years old and I’ve got a pretty good record to take to other places – I’ve got a lot of good stuff left in me,” he explained. 

“I understand it is difficult and no one is going to be flush. Just trying to work out something that fits everyone. Hopefully that will get sorted in the next couple of months.

“Most counties have to sort out their own playing staff before you are looking to add. That’s true any year but will be more so this year.

“The feelers are out, you get some interest back and it’s a case of finding out how the money looks for the clubs more than me – you can’t be too forceful in these times.

“You’ve got to be patient, wait and hopefully teams will see the merits of having me. It’s just finding a way of making that work for both parties.”

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