Graham: Home start is fantastic for Poppies

Kettering Town player-coach Luke Graham is pleased the club will be kicking of next season on home soil. Picture by Peter Short
Kettering Town player-coach Luke Graham is pleased the club will be kicking of next season on home soil. Picture by Peter Short

Player-coach Luke Graham is relishing the prospect of Kettering Town opening up their Vanarama National League North campaign on home soil.

The fixtures for the Poppies’ return to Step 2 following their Southern League Premier Division Central title success last season were confirmed earlier this week with Nicky Eaden’s team handed a home clash with old rivals AFC Telford United at Latimer Park on Saturday, August 3.

Graham, who will take up a dual role in the forthcoming campaign as well as remaining as the club’s academy director, was part of Mark Cooper’s squad which finished ahead of Telford to win the National League North title back in 2008.

The Poppies sealed the crown by beating Telford 3-0 at Rockingham Road that season and centre-half Graham believes that will only add spice to the opening-day clash next month.

Reflecting on the full fixture list, Graham said: “It’s fantastic to open up at home for everyone, the fans especially.

“AFC Telford is even better due to the history and I think the last time we were in the North we beat them to win the league at home 11 years ago.

“They just missed out on the play-offs last season and will be up there again so it will be a good eye-opener for us.

“But we won't fear anyone, we are positive and wouldn't have minded who we had.

“We have kept the majority of a squad who have a winning habit and good team spirit so we have momentum ourselves and losing football matches isn't in our DNA

“There are also some great early home fixtures against ex-Football League clubs like Chester, Kidderminster and Boston so we should attract some big crowds and hopefully we can get some early positive results to attract more fans to watch us.”

Graham, meanwhile, is also looking forward to taking on one of his former clubs Brackley Town twice over the festive period while he firmly believes the start of the season will be important with no fewer than 10 matches crammed into the first five weeks.

“Brackley home and away over Christmas and new year will be a great marker at the halfway point because they are one of the best part-time sides in England outside of National League and within earshot of them we will be having an excellent season back at a higher level,” he added.

“But the thing that stands out the most is that there are eight fixtures in August and over a quarter of the season will be gone before the first FA Cup first game.

“So it’s important we have some good points on the board and momentum going into the cup fixtures.”