PAUL Pridgeon gave a ringing endorsement of the qualities of new first-team coach Alex Gidman and his five-year plan for Worcestershire after joining the squad on their pre-season Abu Dhabi tour.

Pridgeon is the new chairman of the County’s cricket steering committee in addition to becoming club vice-chairman.

He felt it important to forge a working relationship with Gidman via the trip to the UAE and came back feeling “fully enthused” about the future.

Pridgeon said: “My reasons for going were, as chairman of the steering group, it’s really important I know the personnel I’m working with well.

“I know Kevin Sharp, Allan Richardson and Joe Leach very well. The only person I didn’t really know was the first-team coach so it was important for me to get to know him.

“What I found was someone who is really passionate and extremely knowledgeable about cricket and who already cares quite deeply about this club.

“I am really looking forward to this season and the expectations are high. It is really important we get into (County Championship) Division One this year.

“You talk to Alex and he is not just thinking about getting up into Division One this season, he is thinking about a five-year plan where we can win it.

“That is really positive and where we need to be.

“It was exactly what I feel a cricket tour should be if you are preparing for a new season and I came back fully enthused.

“I had that gut feeling all the way through last year’s T20 that we could do really well in that competition.

"I sat on the plane coming back from Dubai and still had that feeling and that says to me as a playing group and coaching group we are in a good place.”

Pridgeon, who won three Championship titles as a player with Worcestershire, added: “The work ethic that Alex installed in the players out there has been fantastic and the cricket they played out there was very good as well.

“Most of the batters got what they wanted out of the trip. They had time in the middle on good surfaces and also via good net facilities and the bowlers got in the right work-loads.

“It has been a real eye-opener for me and one I really enjoyed.

“I also had time to look at the other three teams out there and none of them were in the condition our boys are in. None were as fit and as far forward to start the season as ours are.

“That is also testament to the rest of the back-up team in Ross Dewar and Ben Davies. They’ve all done a great job.”

Meanwhile, Norman Gifford MBE has been made an honorary life vice president of Worcestershire in recognition of his sterling service spanning 60 years.

The appointment was confirmed at the AGM as his two-year president term ended and members approved Cecil Duckworth CBE as his successor.

Gifford, the club’s County Championship winning captain of 1974, is already a honorary life member.

Chairman Fanos Hira paid tribute to Gifford who joined the County staff 61 years ago and ended his career with 2,068 first-class wickets and 15 England Test caps.

Hira said: “A president can only stand for two years which is a real shame because I think Norman has been a brilliant president of our club.

“He has not been in any way scared to challenge the board and he has been a fantastic ambassador for our club for approaching 60 years. I’d like to thank Norman on behalf of the board and the club.”

Hira is looking forward to the County benefitting from Duckworth’s experience.

He said: “Cecil has achieved a great deal, not just as an engineer and a businessman but perhaps more importantly what he has done for the community and sport.

"I think it is important we recognise that goes beyond developing the (Worcester) Warriors.

“John Elliott (former chairman) told me about Cecil’s involvement in signing Glenn McGrath and his role in developing the Basil D’Oliveira Stand.

“We are very fortunate and lucky to have you (Duckworth) as president and look forward to your wise counsel and sharing some of your experiences and what you’ve learnt from rugby when there was an influx of cash from revised rights deals and perhaps what we can learn in cricket against a similar backdrop.”

Outgoing chairman Stephen Taylor and vice-chairman Tim Curtis were confirmed as honorary life members of Worcestershire.

Taylor is stepping down after four years in the role.