Jim Lyon - Ripley has brought a glow back to the County

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

It’s been a good summer – the sun has shone, the barbecue has been used more than once and Northamptonshire have got some silverware in the cabinet.

At the beginning of April, I’m not sure which of those seemed least likely.

The latter probably. We’ve been used to leaving the barbecue in the shed and watching the rain come down for the last couple of years.

But we’ve been used to the County finishing their season without a trophy for the last 21.

And while David Ripley can’t take any credit for the first two, much as Northamptonshire supporters may now have some kind of King Canute idolisation of him and believe he is capable of controlling the climate, he most certainly can for the latter.

With promotion sealed from the LV= County Championship this week, albeit not in the style they would have liked as they lost in three days at Worcester, it brought a close to a few months that have seen the most remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

The club’s chief executive David Smith has to take an awful lot of credit. He came into Wantage Road with the finances in a dreadful state and the team looking even worse.

Now revenue is on the up and even the side have enjoyed success.

And that’s where Ripley comes in.

I must confess I was not totally convinced when he was given the job full-time at the end of last year.

I had no doubts about Ripley’s ability to do the job – and was thrilled for him when he was promoted - but I believed the club may have been better served by getting a completely new broom to clear out the cobwebs that had developed over many years.

I am delighted to admit I was wrong.

You will find few nicer men around the county circuit than Ripley. An unassuming fellow who is happy to get on with his job without too much fuss.

And perhaps there lies the key to his success this year.

Every player you speak to will mention how they are given a freedom to express themselves and are trusted to perform.

It’s a freedom they have relished and a style of man-management they have thrived on.

He has also made some astute signings.

Steven Crook has returned fitter and stronger, Mohammad Azharullah has been an inspired addition and Trent Copeland’s contribution cannot be overstated.

It has almost been forgotten in the fuss of Twenty20 glory and the slow progression to Championship promotion just how important a role the Australian played in shaping the campaign from the off.

His early-season form really set the tone.

However, the bulk of the side remains the same as the one we have seen for the last couple of years.

The difference is this year they have been given the chance to flourish.

And Ripley deserves a vast majority of the credit for that.

The statistics have been well documented about how poor a one-day side the Steelbacks have been recently.

He turned that around dramatically.

And having twice narrowly missed out on going up when they had been in pole position, this time they followed the job through.

Ripley may not have been a new broom but he certainly got rid of those cobwebs.

And even though he has no control over the climate, he definitely made the brightest of years for Northamptonshire and their followers.