Jon Dunham – Opportunity knocks for Baillie and Machin

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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Every managerial appointment at a football club comes with an element of risk.

The unpredictability of the great game means a chairman or board are always one decision away from getting it right and one decision away from getting it horribly wrong.

The surprise departure of Dean Thomas from Kettering Town last month left chairman Ritchie Jeune and his fellow board members with a decision to make.

And, despite what appeared to be strong interest from outside the four walls of Latimer Park, they have opted for a degree of familiarity by handing the reins to Thomas Baillie and Scott Machin, who have become the new joint-managers of the club.

Hopefully you all know me well enough by now to know that I listen to all opinions, whether it be face-to-face or on social media.

And, there’s no doubt about it, this particularly decision cause an even split in opinion.

Many are not so sure about the credentials of the management duo, others though believe they are deserving of a chance and that continuity is actually a good thing.

I can see both sides of the argument.

There may well have been better qualified coaches and managers out there who wanted the job.

Being the manager of Kettering Town doesn’t seem to be the poisoned chalice it may have been 18 months ago with the club seemingly back on its feet and targeting a big push for automatic promotion next season.

But let’s not forget that when many people, including some of their own supporters, wanted nothing to do with the club during the darkest days of financial turmoil, Baillie stepped forward as manager and ensured things stayed alive on the pitch.

I would suggest that the word ‘continuity’ did play a massive part in the final decision.

The vast majority of last season’s squad had already committed themselves to the Poppies for next season before Thomas decided to step down.

The run of form that squad went on to throw themselves into the promotion picture last season broke all sorts of records and, at the risk of repeating myself, they would have won the league at a canter had they been together from the start of a trouble-free season.

Baillie and Machin clearly played a big part in that success, they are familiar with the squad of players and they know what the Calor League Division One Central is all about.

I can certainly understand why the club’s hierarchy made the decision they did.

With the likes of Brett Solkhon and now Andy Hall returning to the club, the squad, dare I say it, possibly looks even stronger than the one that finished last season.

And so, with that, comes the pressure to achieve.

It is a big opportunity for Baillie and Machin. A chance to cement their place in the club’s history and take some serious steps in the world of non-League football management.

The club are expecting a tilt at the title and you can bet your last pound that the fans will be thinking the same.

The fanbase grew and grew last season, it was great to see. But that only happened because positive results were being delivered on the pitch.

Despite the defeat in the play-off final, the good feeling remains and anticipation is high.

As Jeune himself said earlier in the summer, the Poppies fans have every right to expect a title challenge this time around.

Baillie and Machin have been given the chance to make it happen and, as that is the case, they should receive the full backing of the fans.

But winning a title or promotion doesn’t just happen. The joint-bosses will have to make it happen.

And, given that the squad that dominated the division for the second half of last season has been retained and added to with quality, then there will be few excuses if they don’t achieve what the club and its fans expect.