So what’s this we hear about Dean Thomas joining the Poppies. Coming in as assistant manager, apparently. Not a bad appointment – after all, he knows all about clubs in hopeless positions, having left the only one in the country who are having a worse season than us! But before Hinckley’s fortunes nosedived he was the best manager they ever had. Correction – the ONLY manager they ever had. He occupied the Hinckley hot seat for so long, all the way back to their late 90s formation, it seems rude that they didn’t name a stand after him, or at the very least a portakabin.
Over the years DT has been out there for what seems forever, occasionally orbiting a bit too close to planet KTFC and causing a large crater. Before their troubles he took Hinckley from Leicestershire nobodies to the fringe of Conference National. Along the way we met in a promotion showdown at their place and there was no mistaking who came off best. Certainly not Morrell Maison, who found that clueless bullshit can only take you so far and was sacked after the game, never to be heard of again apart from two further spells in charge.
But long before that, DT was ingrained into our past. Even without the benefit of a grainy old Match of the Day recording, the 6,000 plus who were there will never forget how he settled the real ‘County Cup Final’ in 1989. Especially Shoey, who despite everything else he did in a Poppies shirt, will never quite live down being caught napping at the near post by a bobbling 30 yard daisy cutter. Almost every member of that Cobblers team ended up playing for us at the back end of their careers – except Dean Thomas. Perhaps he had better offers. Or maybe he still couldn’t risk running into Shoey and trying to keep a straight face.
And then there was the time he brought a Bedworth team to face us in the Cup. Even for late era Gary Johnson, this shouldn’t have been too tough a gig, but Bedworth’s side included old favourite Ooh Jonny Graham whereas ours starred that dynamic strike duo, Carter and May. That’s as in Reckey & Leroy not Helena Bonham & Maggie, though the latter partnership would definitely have tested the away keeper more often that dismal autumn afternoon.
So there’s good reason why the name Dean Thomas is enough to cause a modest shiver, as it generally heralds the end of our interest in a competition for another season. But as we are past that stage on all fronts, what harm can it do! Welcome to the Poppies and remember Dean, you owe us.