Jon Dunham – That’s all folks! See you all in August

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

And so, aside from the Northants Combination whose season continues for another week or so, the local football season is done and dusted.

I am still at a loss to understand what happened to Kettering Town in the second half at Latimer Park on Monday.

With promotion seemingly in their grasp, the Poppies uncharacteristically imploded in the final 45 minutes of the season as Slough Town ran out deserved winners to clinch promotion to the Calor League Premier Division.

It was tough to watch if truth be told. After an incredible few months that had seen them storm into the top five, Kettering were primed for promotion – only to fall at the final hurdle.

Fingers can be pointed in various directions but ultimately the players didn’t perform for that final half. Their individual errors were punished and they paid the price.

Perhaps that loss has been easier to get over given what took place earlier in the season when the club won the biggest battle of all in the High Court.

But, when such a defeat occurs, it is the next message from the club that counts and the one that came out of Kettering and, more specifically, chairman Ritchie Jeune was clear.

All being well, come August, there will be nothing hanging over them. They won’t have to give teams a 10-match headstart and the expectations of the fans will be a tilt at the title.

It’s not unreasonable if that is what the supporters will expect. After all, whether people like it or not, the facts suggest the Poppies team that finished the season would have romped to the title if they had been together from the start.

Jeune is ready to take that pressure and I have no doubt that Dean Thomas and the players who stay on will relish it.

They will be the big boys who everyone will want to bring down. With the exception of a few clubs this season, the dislike for Kettering from others has been made perfectly clear.

Nonetheless, it will be up to Thomas and everyone else to try to go one better next time.

With the intentions at Latimer Park being pretty much crystal clear, perhaps more intriguingly is what we may be able to expect over at Steel Park next season.

The new owners have started to settle in and the winds of change have swept through the club with the unexpected break-up of joint-managers Andrew Wilson and Tommy Wright.

It is Wright who has been given the task of leading the Steelmen next season and the promotion of David Clarke to assistant-manager and the return of Gareth Jelleyman as a player-coach have already made the right noises.

Indeed, that is a theme that has continued off the pitch as well. Season ticket prices have been reduced (an excellent move) and the Steel Park Cup pre-season idea is a very good one.

Clearly, when new owners come in, first impressions are everything and the right messages have come out of Steel Park so far.

With big changes comes a need for stability and that will be the key word next season – stability.

It would appear there are a few bridges to be built and I am sure the new owners, all Corby people, will be keen to make that their priority.

The need for the people of the town to the support the club is probably greater than ever. Hopefully, the penny will drop that the town does actually have a club that deserves better support than it already gets.

On the pitch, I think it will be interesting. Wright isn’t the sort of character who will simply accept ‘mediocre’.

He has a certain way that he wants to see the game played and he clearly already has a fair idea of the sort of player who wants to bring in to make it happen.

I have no doubt that his sights will be set on the top half of the table, probably even higher.

Overall, it has been a long, draining but ultimately enjoyable season following the fortunes of Corby Town and Kettering Town with more ups and downs than your average rollercoaster.

I hope you all rest up during the summer, enjoy the World Cup and are ready to go again when pre-season comes around.

The new Calor League season starts again on Saturday, August 9 – see you all then!