Jon Dunham picks his all-time combined Kettering Town and Brackley Town XI
When I was asked to pick my all-time combined XI for Brackley Town and Kettering Town for the matchday programme for today’s local derby, which has since been postponed, I jumped at the chance.
‘It will be straightforward’, I thought to myself.
But then I actually started thinking about it and while some names were never in doubt, I know for a fact I am leaving a number of fine footballers out.
I started covering Kettering Town for the Northants Telegraph exactly 17 years ago today (they won 3-2 at Bedford Town in the Ryman League that day in case you are interested).
So here is the disclaimer. I am more familiar with Poppies players over the years. That’s just a simple fact.
But I’ve seen enough of Brackley and I think I have developed enough knowledge to be able to pick a team that, on its day, would be more than useful.
The goalkeeper was an easy one - Lee Harper was outstanding during his time at Kettering Town and there are others from that team of around 2008-09-10 who feature heavily in this.
Not least in the back four. John Dempster developed into a formidable right-back having been a centre-half in his early years and got the nod just ahead of James Clifton who starred for both clubs while Tommy Jaszczun was a classy left-back who had spells at both clubs in the latter stages of his career.
And how about that for a central defensive combination. Guy Branston - an absolute beast for the Poppies in that incredible Mark Cooper team - and, obviously, Gaz Dean who remains a class apart these days and who is, unquestionably, one of the best central defenders in the National League North.
Two midfield spots picked themselves. How can you not include the legends?
Glenn Walker is still going and even before he secured legendary status here, I saw him play a few times for Corby Town. A model professional and a damn fine player.
The same can be said for Brett Solkhon. Nearly 600 appearances for Kettering, over 100 for Brackley and more trophies than you could shake a stick at. A legend and he’d be the worthy captain as well.
The other midfield spot was difficult. Tom Winters and Andre Boucaud were both on the final shortlist but, in the end, I went for Shane Byrne.
I first saw him for Corby Town and he was unbelievable in helping them to the Southern League title in 2014-15. He continued that form here at Brackley, playing a crucial role in their impressive recent seasons before departing to Boston.
The front three was probably the easiest area of the lot.
Elliot Sandy would get the hump with me if I didn’t include him but, crikey, he’s worthy. Goals galore for Brackley and a couple of titles. Throw in his spell at Kettering, which included another title, and he’s an easy pick.
We need goals so we turn to the ‘full-time goal machine’ Steve Diggin. At his peak, one of the more lethal strikers in non-League football and, until recently, he was still doing it at Corby Town. 30 goals a season almost guaranteed.
And Craig Westcarr is possibly the best all-round player I have ever seen in non-League football - unplayable at times during his spell at Kettering. One of the first names on the team sheet.
So there you have it. I reckon this team would win more games than it would lose...
Jon Dunham’s all-time Brackley Town & Kettering Town combined XI
GK Lee Harper
RB John Dempster
CB Gaz Dean
CB Guy Branston
LB Tommy Jaszczun
M Glenn Walker
M Brett Solkhon
M Shane Byrne
F Craig Westcarr
F Steve Diggin
F Elliot Sandy