Jon Dunham – Anything could happen, this is the Poppies after all!

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

If Kettering Town somehow claim the Calor League Division One Central title tomorrow afternoon, it will surely be one of the most unlikely championships any team has ever won.

This isn’t me being over-dramatic, it is just a simple fact.

Certainly in my experience of watching football, there haven’t been many title successes that have left a mark on history due to the unlikelihood of it happening.

Arsenal at Anfield in 1989 (Michael Thomas’ forward roll and all that) is probably the best example when it comes to an unlikely scenario unfolding before our eyes.

The Poppies head to North Greenford United tomorrow as rank outsiders when it comes to lifting the crown. They have to win to start the sequence, realistically Dunstable Town have to lose to Uxbridge and both Rugby Town and Daventry Town must drop points at the very least to make it happen.

It’s unlikely, of course, that everything could come together that simply. But nothing is impossible.

However, the beauty of this situation for Kettering is, as boss Dean Thomas has already observed, that there is no pressure on them to deliver the title.

For so long, the likes of Dunstable Town, Rugby Town and Daventry Town have seemingly had one hand on the crown, only to let it slip.

And while that has been happening, the Poppies have merely plodded along stringing good result after good result together.

As you all know, I like to deal in facts. So here are a few.

On October 26 last year, Kettering played Chertsey Town at Latimer Park. They won 2-0 thanks to goals from Will Muzvimbiri and Chris Logan. It was just their fifth win from 11 league matches, the rest had been lost.

They had 15 points at the time but that victory, with the addition of some players of much higher quality than the ones they started with, started a 21-match unbeaten run, which ultimately catapulted the Poppies into the promotion picture.

A total of 70, yes 70, points have been accumulated in the 29 games since that win over Chertsey. I think it is fair to say the other three teams who can win the title today must be grateful that Kettering didn’t start the season with the team they now have. All these words would be irrelevant and the Poppies would already be champions.

For a club that so nearly went out of business earlier in that month of October and survived thanks to the tenacity of Ritchie Jeune, the volunteers and the help of the football community, it has been a quite remarkable turnaround.

There are those who scoff at them, although funnily enough the accusations about how much money they pay and everything like that only seems to come when the team those fans follow have been beaten.

The truth is, the Poppies were given a second chance. They have run with it and are now on the brink of promotion, although it is fairly clear from speaking to numerous people that there is no pressure whatsoever on them to deliver elevation.

But Thomas is an experienced manager and has been around long enough to know that the expectation from not only the Kettering supporters but also others within in the league will be for his team to go up, whether it be tomorrow or through the play-offs.

Either way, it has been a remarkable journey – one that no-one could have predicted just a few months ago.

Like them or loathe them, there is all of a sudden some real humility amongst the Kettering fanbase. They realise how close they were to losing their club and they seem determined to enjoy these good times more than ever.

It’s unlikely to end in title glory this weekend, that is the truth.

But having witnessed some of the things I have over the past two years (some of which will never be revealed), I have become wise enough to not rule anything out in football any more.

However, of all the crazy situations that have come up, if Kettering were to somehow win the title tomorrow, it would probably top the lot. I wish them well.