PAUL Collingwood will hold talks with Derbyshire about joining them next season – but Durham remain “hopeful” the former England international will stay with his home county.
Derbyshire are struggling in Championship Division Two but have targeted Collingwood as a marquee signing, and will hope to lure the 35-year-old with a lucrative contract. They have tabled a 28-day notice period to speak the Shotley Bridge all-rounder, who is contracted to Durham next season. And Durham chief executive David Harker says they will not stand in his way.
“From our point of view Paul is a product of the Durham system. He’s very much one of our own and we don’t want him to leave,” he said.
“He has done fantastic things for club and country and we would ideally like to extend his contract at Durham, if possible.
“But with fairness to Paul, if he does come back to Durham next year, it has to be what he wants to do and not out of obligation to us. I would like Paul to go away, explore his options and come back to Durham. And the only way he can do that is if he goes to talk to Derbyshire, sees what is on the table and makes the right decision for him and his family.”
Since retiring from Test cricket after England’s successful defence of the Ashes, Collingwood has been a regular for Durham in both the county championship and T20 form of the game.
He has spoken of his “debt” to Durham and agent Neil Fairbrother has said he would be reluctant to leave his home county.
But Durham respect his right to seek a better deal – which may be on offer at Derbyshire, who are hoping to relaunch under new chairman Chris Grant.
“We’re relaxed about it. I think we want to do the right thing by Paul,” Harker said. “With the contract he signed, we could turn around and say to Paul that he has no choice and he has to stay with us. But there is respect on both sides in our relationship.
“At the stage he is at in his career, the next decision is a very big one for Paul and I think he wants to do what is right for him.
“I think he will choose Durham but the ball, understandably, is in his court and he will talk to Derbyshire with our blessing.”
Harker was full of praise for the way that Collingwood has adapted since re-joining his county.
“Paul’s always been a fantastic servant to Durham, even when he’s been away with England,” he said. “I think sometimes people forget just how intense it is when you’re away with England.
“But Paul has always supported the county and he’s a big part of what we do. Now it is fantastic to have him back playing for us – and we hope that continues.”