Devon's pathway manager Sandy Allen working with Olivia Powell at the Devon Cricket Centre<br>credit: Conrad Sutcliffe

DEVON Cricket’s pathway manager Sandy Allen has joined the coaching elite by graduating with a level-four qualification.

Allen, who is 34, spent two years working toward the qualification, the highest offered by the England & Wales Cricket Board. He had to fit his studies in around working for the Devon Cricket Board, his family life and playing Premier cricket for Exmouth.

Experts in every facet of the game spent time with Allen and his 16 co-students, passing on the wealth of their experience.

Former England batsman Graham Thorpe tutored the students in batting techniques and ex-Middlesex paceman Kevin Shine was the fast bowling coach.

Wicket-keeping input came from Steve Rhodes, ex-Worcestershire and England, and Ben Cox, the current Worcestershire glovesman.

Sandy Allen - Devon's new level four ECB coachPeter Such (Essex and England) lectured on spin bowling, as did James Tredwell (Kent and England).

Other tutors and lecturers included Glen Chapple (Yorkshire and England), former England supremo Peter Moores, psychologist Steve Bull and fitness expert Darren Veness.

Former England skipper Mike Brearley, recognised as one of the gurus of captaincy, was a headline lecturer.

Allen and the rest of the cohort had to travel to Loughborough University 12 times for three-day residential units as part of their course. 

When independent study was taken into account, it took Allen 26 months to complete the course. Hard work, but worth it.

“The tutors are all experts in their field who have been there, done it and know how to get their message across,” said Allen.

“What you gain from a the level-four course is clarity and more detail about some aspects of the game you already know about.

“Cricket is a very nuanced game. You might know the basics of something like spin bowling, but James Tredwell knows it inside out.”

Allen said the session with Tredwell was typical of the insights the professionals have into the game.

“James bowled 12 overs in the indoor net at Loughborough and talked us through every ball,” said Allen.

“He would change his angle, maybe change his grip and all the time he was talking about how that would change the way the ball came out.”

Allen is already putting his new skills to good use during winter training sessions with the Devon youth age groups.

Matt Theedom, Devon’s cricket development manager, said the county can only benefit from Allen’s new-found knowledge.

“There are only a couple of hundred level-four coaches active in the country and just one other in Devon, who works for the University of Exeter,” said Theedom.

“It is encouraging to think that Sandy will be able to pass on knowledge he has gained from hugely experienced ex-players and coaches to our next generation of young players.”