It’s a Northamptonshire thing - you might not understand

Steelbacks head coach David Ripley gives the Friends Life t20 trophy a kiss after victory over Surrey
Steelbacks head coach David Ripley gives the Friends Life t20 trophy a kiss after victory over Surrey

Jim Lyon reflects on a very special night for Northamptonshire cricket and, especially, the mastermind behind an incredible Friends Life t20 victory

After the darkness had descended at Edgbaston, and as the remaining few were putting the final touches to their work in the media centre, my phone beeped.

It was a message from someone I have known for many years - a fellow Northamptonshire member of the press corps - asking if I was staying in Birmingham for the night.

Unfortunately, I replied, with the witching hour approaching the delights of the M6 and A14 awaited and there was no chance to hang around.

A shame, came the reply, ‘I need a Northants person to celebrate with. What an incredible night. My other colleagues just don’t understand’.

And how could they? Few in the cricketing world could possibly comprehend what it is like to follow Northamptonshire.

The supporters club may as well have a disclaimer stating ‘Glory hunters need not apply’.

I was fortunate that some of my formative years saw the likes of Cook, Larkins, Bailey, Lamb, Capel, Ambrose, Davis et al performing at the County Ground.

The phrase ‘golden generation’ gets bandied around far too much but, in our case, that was certainly true.

Since then? Not much.

In all 21 years have passed since Allan Lamb was the last captain to lift a major trophy and that after a final sponsors NatWest must have dreaded - Northamptonshire v Leicestershire was hardly the marketing man’s dream.

It is a long time to be ignored.

Ben Duckett, one of the many to express their joy on Twitter after the game, was a couple of years from being born the last time success was enjoyed.

Indeed, the World Wide Web itself was only just beyond its embryonic stage.

Social media remained an article from the newspaper you read out in the pub.

Satellite television, the medium through which most would have watched finals day, was also trying to make its way with a certain Premier League just getting to its feet and taking a few first steps.

And it was quite telling that some of the previews broadcast by a certain global digital television station did not even feel the need to mention the Steelbacks ahead of the big day at Edgbaston.

Three teams were playing according to them - Surrey (of course, dear old Surrey), Essex (well, they are Nasser’s mob) and tournament favourites Hampshire.

But then we are used to that.

However, on this occasion, this Northamptonshire side was not there to make up the numbers.

That is was Surrey who were destroyed in the final would have made it even more enjoyable, if not a little surreal, for the loyal followers.

After years of watching at the window, the upstarts had finally turned the tables over at the toff’s banquet.

Ignore the Steelbacks at your peril.

A huge amount of credit for the amazing Friends Life t20 win should go to David Ripley.

The new head coach, whose name should sit proudly among the names of players listed above, has been responsible for an amazing turnaround.

The statistics make incredible reading. The club won only three T20 games across the last two seasons.

This year they are champions.

The mantra ahead of this campaign was that there must be an improvement in the way they played ‘white-ball’ cricket.

That has certainly been achieved.

And perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the success was the reward it brought Ripley.

As Graeme Swann - a former playing colleague of his - said on an aforementioned website: ‘made up for David Ripley, the nicest man in cricket’.

He has given his entire working life to Northamptonshire. From a highly-respectable playing career, through looking after the County’s youngsters and now the first-team.

For him to be part of such a moment should make it all the more special for Northamptonshire supporters.

And those supporters...

The players would have had a great night after the win - the fans should have done the same.

Experiences like that are all the more valuable because of their rarity.

It means so much more after, as Wisden editor and another Steelback follower Lawrence Booth put it, 21 years of hurt.

And yes, I know, other teams have endured barren spells where nothing has been won.

But they don’t tend to be ignored like us.

They are rarely made to feel quite as insignificant as us.

We try to cling to even the smallest claim to fame and fortune but all out sporting success is so often someone else’s treat.

For now though it belongs to the men from the County Ground.

A trophy is coming back to Wantage Road and that is very special indeed.

But then, unless you are from Northamptonshire, you probably wouldn’t quite understand.