OPINION: Glover’s new-look Poppies have it all to do to prove the doubters wrong

Sport reporter Jon Dunham takes a look at what might lie ahead for Kettering Town in the 2022/23 National League North campaign.

Friday, 5th August 2022, 8:00 am
Lee Glover will be leading Kettering Town into the new Vanarama National League North campaign after a summer of change at Latimer Park. Pictures by Peter Short
Lee Glover will be leading Kettering Town into the new Vanarama National League North campaign after a summer of change at Latimer Park. Pictures by Peter Short

There’s no question that Kettering Town surpassed all expectations last season as they were only denied a play-off place on the final day of the campaign.

Unfortunately, it seems the Poppies almost became the victims of their own success.

They proved to be one of the best in a tightly-packed group who were vying for that final spot.

Brad Gascoigne is among the new faces at Kettering Town this season

What could have been a straightforward, mid-table finish became something more and it put their players, some of whom were virtual unknowns before a ball was kicked, into the shop window.

And here lies the main issue at this particular moment in time.

The National League North is tough, it gets tougher as each season passes by as a number of clubs flex their undoubted financial strength.

The reality is that once clubs came calling for the likes of Connor Barrett, Alex Brown, Connor Kennedy, Callum Stead and Jordon Crawford, it left Kettering unable to match those offers from elsewhere.

No-one could begrudge those players mentioned a move to earn more money, they earned every bit of it last season.

The Poppies’ efforts to try to keep Ian Culverhouse as manager fell through and it’s fair to say many were taken by surprise when the club confirmed Lee Glover as the new boss.

Since his appointment, Glover has had the difficult task of pretty much starting again when it comes to building a squad.

It’s taken time, it’s taken patience and I have no doubt it would have taken some serious wheeling and dealing.

Similar to this time last year, there are a number of unknown quantities within the Poppies ranks as they gear up for the new campaign and, similar to this time last year, it makes it difficult to work out exactly how the season will pan out.

Some have already made their minds up, however.

A slow-burner of a pre-season both on and off the pitch has made sections of the Kettering fanbase a bit more agitated than normal.

At least one online season preview has them down to finish 23rd in a division of 24 while a number of supporters seem certain that relegation is on the cards.

That’s their opinion and I’m not gonna be one of those who shouts and screams at them just because I might not agree.

But I’ll happily reserve judgment for the time being.

People have pointed towards Glover’s inexperience as a ‘number one’ when it comes to management. It’s a fair point.

But he’s also held down assistant roles in the Football League at the likes of Peterborough United and Mansfield Town and let’s not forget we’re talking about a man who has played in more FA Cup finals than all of us put together.

And maybe it’s worth making the point as well that this is a big moment for him - a chance for him to show what he can do at the forefront of a club.

Recruitment has been tricky. It always is when you’re dealing with one of the more modest budgets in the division - it may be boring and frustrating to hear but it’s a cold, hard fact.

It’s also worth remembering that last season was also the first full one Kettering have played back at Step 2. Anyone wanting the club to spend money it doesn’t have in the pursuit of a promotion challenge, quite frankly, needs a reality check.

At this point in history, Kettering are what they are financially and Latimer Park is what it is as a home ground.

Indeed, they must use their own surroundings to their advantage once again - the constant moaning and groaning from opposing managers last season ended up being a joy to hear rather than something to take offence of.

Will there be another play-off challenge? Probably not.

Are Kettering dead and buried before the season even starts? That’s an easy thing to say but, at this stage, it’s based on pretty much nothing.

Will it be difficult, will they have their struggles? No question.

Slowly but surely, Glover has pieced together a new-look squad and the truth is, predicting what will happen is difficult at this stage. I’d like to think a mid-table finish isn’t beyond them. But it might make more sense to ask me again after 10-12 games.

It all kicks-off at title favourites AFC Fylde tomorrow (Saturday).

Some might call that a free hit. Given the respective budgets, the Poppies don’t have much right to go up there and upset the odds. Glover, however, believes his team are capable of doing just that.

But it’s the two home games that follow against Bradford (Park Avenue) and AFC Telford United that will certainly tell us plenty about what this season may hold.

The only certainty about another campaign for Kettering Town is that it won’t just pass by without incident, it never does…