Alec Swann - From the overblown to seeds being sown

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

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

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Football’s the topic for this week’s offering.

The two subjects have little relevance to each other - Kettering Town and the 2016 European Championship draw - yet they are both worthy of a mention.

I’ll get my gripe out of the way first and start with the latter.

Thankfully I was sat in the back seat of a car, nursing something of a hangover, so was able to drift in and out of sleep as the draw was played out on the radio.

When the presenters have gone past the point of trying to make it sound entertaining and are openly mocking the tedious nature of their programme’s focus you know that there is something amiss.

But it was symbolic in that a lengthy process to decide who plays who will soon give way to a drawn out qualifying stage to determine the 24 sides who will contest the finals.

That number is up from 16, another case of football over-egging their pudding to the point of making it an inferior product to what went before.

Almost half the teams who make up the nine groups will have their day out at the finals in a couple of years time, diluting the elitism and watering down the quality.

No doubt those in charge at UEFA would provide you with reasons why (it’s money, we’re not all stupid) but, as with the Champions League, more is definitely not more.

An increase in meaningless fixtures, as with the dreary group stages that clog up the TV schedules year on year, will make for a tournament that won’t come to life until the wheat has well and truly been sorted from the shouldn’t really be there chaff.

The finals should be the pick of the nations with every game having some meaning but as this seems to be a concept that has long since passed the administrators by, I won’t be holding my breath for change come the 2020 edition.

Now for the Poppies.

For the majority of the time I’ve been working at this publication since April four years ago, any news coming out of Rockingham Road/Nene Park/Steel Park/Latimer Park has been of the negative variety.

In no particular order there has been ground issues, financial problems, managerial shenanigans, dubious decision-making, more managerial nonsense, court appearances, winding-up orders, relegations, league demotions, point deductions, transfer embargoes, unpaid debts, tax arrears and the lowest (probably) of them all, playing a game with the only 10 players they had.

But, and I’ve got my fingers crossed given their previous form, in the past couple of months all the stories have been of a positive nature.

Forget the dreadful weather as nobody at the club can be blamed for that, and concentrate on the football.

A string of excellent results, a team that looks to be going places, a more than healthy fan base and a climbing of the Calor League Division One Central table all add up to the kind of stuff that a fan would rather read.

They’ve had more than their fair share of ill-fortune and it’s about time that the Poppies, as a football club and not a soap opera, began to exist for the right reasons.

And it’s good to see.