That is, if we want to get promoted. Don't get me wrong. I want to see us win every game we play. Even at my advanced age I still get a kick out of winning and feel unhappy when we lose. Being in the promotion hunt is always exciting.
Whilst we all would love to see us back in the Conference North, and then Conference National (or whatever it's called nowadays) it would be remiss of Patgod to ignore it's unofficial remit of being contrary of nature, and ask the simple question.
As a club are we ready for Conference North?
Let's be honest - not really.
We have no idea where we will be playing next season. Our tenure at Latimer Park is not certain. And even if it was, despite Ritchie's assurances, most still doubt LP is fit for purpose at Conference level. No 500 seat stand. No segregation. Almost no terracing. No flat bits on the pitch. Were we still at Rockingham Road we would take a very dim view of a club trying to gatecrash our division with the set-up as it stands at Latimer Park.
All of which leads to the spectre of ground sharing with Corby again. Patently their ground is considered Conference North level, but, assuming we were welcome, we would be back to freezing evenings, plummeting attendances and not generating any off-field income. And it's in Corby. Always worth mentioning twice! Ritchie's may have pockets deeper than the rest of us, but I doubt they would be sufficient to fund the club indefinitely.
Is our team up to the step-up in quality. Probably not when you consider half our team came from a Corby Town team who have propped-up the Conference North for most of this season. Take out our loanees, the young Bens who are likely to be tempted away, and Rene finding his full fitness, and then another team, and what are we left with? That's right, the guys from Corby, who couldn't make the step up last season.
Added to this is the fact that at the next level up players are suddenly on contracts. Good if you have an effective player on sustainable wages. Not so good if the player turns into another Dean Martin (ask your father). Also, at this level we are subject to the dreaded transfer window system, where we could be stuck with players for half a season, and that's only if they agree to terminate their contracts.
Lastly, and this may ruffle a few feathers; are we supporters up to a step-up to Conference North level? We still can't quite get our hardcore of support much beyond the 350-400 area. We are significantly down on our average gates for last season, although that may change with a few exciting games to come. Do we really want to be back playing the teams we were playing 10 years ago, and face them with Latimer Park and a third as many supporters as we had the last time they saw us?
|Are we really ready for|
the next Big Step?
And how will our beer-guzzling support react on Day One next season when they are reminded that, as we were no longer quite so Mickey Mouse anymore, drinks had to consumed in the bar only! After almost half a decade of nursing pints while watching games, this news will go down like the proverbial rattlesnake in the Klondike bucket.
Will we remember how to handle be able the intricacies of terraces and crush barriers?
And then we are suddenly forking out £12 instead of £10 to witness admittedly footballing giants such as Curzon Ashton, Bradford Park Avenue and Brackley. I can already hear the whinging!. "For another tenner I could be watching top level rugby....." Sure, another tenner. Oh, and travelling costs. And parking costs. And more expensive food and drink. And then being stuck in traffic for an hour after the game. AND it's only f**king rugby, where no-one (particularly you) cares a toss who wins or loses. And the games are only 80 minutes long, so you're also being gypped out of 10 minutes!
All said and done, if we win all our remaining games and then storm the play-offs no-one will be cheering louder than me. Not that you'll hear as I've rather foolishly booked a holiday during the play off period! It's not my fault - I booked when we were losing every week and Marcus was already half way out of the door! How was I to guess we'd bounce back so well? Bastards!