Jon Dunham - A new era dawns for Poppies

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

Whisper it. It has been a good week for Kettering Town.

Now there are a few words that haven’t been written for a while.

But, after possibly the worst of their near 141 years of existence, a big ray of daylight has appeared at the end of what has been a very long, dark tunnel for the Poppies.

If you had told those fans who packed into the Northern Lights Police Club on Tuesday night that this would be the evening that they had been waiting for, many wouldn’t have believed you.

And, as the events of what proved to be an emotionally-charged evening unfolded, there were many who felt what they heard was too good to be true.

The Imraan Ladak era is over and the Ritchie Jeune era has dawned.

It has taken time, a long time, to get the deal done but the roars of approval (and relief) as Jeune put pen to paper on a shareholders agreement on Tuesday spoke volumes.

We could (and we have) debate long and hard about who was to blame for the situation the Poppies ultimately found themselves in during October last year. There is no doubt where the vast majority of the supporters felt the blame lay.

But now it really does have to be a case of ‘what’s done is done’.

That isn’t to say that everyone should simply forget what happened to a club that seemed to be prospering some three years ago. Indeed, many in football could do worse than examine the mistakes that were made by Ladak and others and ensure the same thing doesn’t happen in their own backyard.

Somehow, Kettering look like they are going to come through it. Clearly there are still issues that need resolving, although Jeune does seem confident that the remaining winding up order served by Rushden & Diamonds (2008) Ltd can be resolved while the work continues to try to get the club’s new home of Latimer Park ready for the start of the new season.

But, regardless of your allegiances, you have to take your hat off to Jeune and those volunteers who have battled such adversity over the past nine months or so.

There were numerous times when I had conversations with people, who were convinced it was all over. Indeed, on a number of occasions the Poppies were so close to being finished.

However, through nothing more than sheer determination, they are coming through the other side, the club still intact, albeit at a lower level. But everything has to start somewhere.

Quite why Jeune, a newcomer to the club during last summer, took it upon himself to guide Kettering through this period, we may never know.

But his cool persona and his ability to deal with all the issues that have come up have already stood him in good stead for what lies ahead. If he wanted a quickfire introduction to the perils of non-League football, he got it – and then some!

And that is, perhaps, why he made it perfectly clear on Tuesday that the club will be run on an even keel while he is at the helm. He didn’t go so far as to say there won’t be debt as the Poppies look to climb back up the ladder. But he made the point that any debt would be manageable and covered by the new management board and himself.

The Poppies are set to start the new season with a clean slate and there is little doubt that Dean Thomas will be looking for promotion, that’s the way he is and it is what the fans will demand.

But let’s focus on the fans for a moment. A hardcore of 150 or so were there on Tuesday to hear the news. That was more than some of the club’s attendances at Steel Park towards the end of last season.

There are many who have turned their back on the club when they reached the depths. This isn’t a criticism, it was understandable to a certain extent.

From Nene Park to Steel Park – we are talking about a club that was unable to reach out to those in their hometown.

Those fans who stayed away demanded three things – the removal of Imraan Ladak (check), the club being restored to the borough (check) and the club cutting its ties with Nene Park (nearly check).

No matter which way you look at it, Jeune has delivered, although as he rightly points out, he wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of stalwarts like Ken Samuel, Bob Brown and Gary Graham – volunteers who weren’t ready to stand by and see their club be destroyed.

Yes, it is Burton Latimer. I know that isn’t technically Kettering. But at this moment in time, it is the best the Poppies can offer and it is a lot better than being out of the borough again.

It has been utter carnage for the past few months but the Poppies are almost ready to end this most miserable chapter and begin a brighter one.

A winning team will help but surely Jeune and everyone else who have helped keep it alive deserve the backing of the the fans?

I hope they get it, they have earned it. Like them or not, the local football scene is better for still having Kettering Town around. Now we wait to see if they can prosper again...