Cook backed Durham to succeed
Coach Geoff Cook was always confident Durham could surprise people this season.
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Having only narrowly remained in LV= County Championship Division One last year, the north east side were written off in many quarters as relegation candidates as the new season began.
Instead, they are able to celebrate after clinching the title with a game to spare, the third time in six years they have won the trophy.
Cook said: "There was a lot of emotion at the start of the year from people on the periphery saying we'd struggle in terms of results.
"There was a really strong feeling within the team that if we picked up where we left off last year, when we were probably the form team in the latter half of the year, and could capitalise on our home conditions (we could be successful), and they've gone and played without the fear of losing."
Durham's achievements are all the more impressive having been granted first-class status as recently as the 1992 season.
Cook was their captain and opening batsmen back then and, after retiring as a player, he ran the club's academy before succeeding Martyn Moxon as head coach in 2007.
In what has been a turbulent season off the pitch for Durham, Cook was forced away from his duties for a spell after suffering a heart attack in June, though he was thankfully able to return just a few weeks later.
He was reluctant to take the spotlight after sealing the title with an eight-wicket win over Nottinghamshire, but captain Paul Collingwood said at the trophy presentation that Durham "wanted to do it for Geoff" while bowler Graham Onions insisted: "He is Durham County Cricket Club."
Cook said simply: "That's incredibly kind.
"I've been lucky to be involved with Durham, I was in the right place at the right time 21 years ago and it's been an honour to be at the front of many things that have gone on."
Acknowledging that "it's a good time to have a think about things", he added: "If I can keep that going for another couple of years, that's fantastic.
"But the important thing is that the club keeps promoting itself as part of the north east and the cricketers keep promoting themselves as a decent cricket team."
While emphasising the team spirit, Cook picked out 66-wicket seamer Onions as a key figure in Durham's success this season.
The 31-year-old has consistently been on the fringes of the England squad and Cook feels he is unlucky not to have featured more regularly - but is grateful to have him available.
He said: "If I was in the right place at the right time 21 years ago, I think Graham is in the right place at the wrong time.
"He's a quality bowler but England seem to have some quality bowlers. World cricket arguably isn't of a high standard and England are winning Test matches because of it so it's difficult to break into that team.
"The selectors are very consistent in their selection, consistent in getting Graham involved in the top four or five bowlers, and he's unlucky in that he's consistently fourth or fifth.
"To his credit, he comes back to Durham disappointed, not disillusioned but determined to roll his sleeves up and produce the goods for us again - which is our gain.
"He's hugely respected around the country as a top-class bowler."