New Northampton Town chairman reveals fan power and staff loyalty kept him from walking away from deal

New Chairman of Northampton Town Football Club Kelvin Thomas. NNL-151126-162959009
New Chairman of Northampton Town Football Club Kelvin Thomas. NNL-151126-162959009

Northampton Town’s new chairman has revealed he was close to walking away from the deal to take over Cobblers several times - but fans, staff and eventually David Cardoza’s “conscience” helped kept him in the deal.

In his first interviews since taking over as the majority shareholder of Cobblers, Mr Thomas, a self-proclaimed West Ham fan and former non-league central midfielder, said he firmly believed fans had a big part to play in convincing him to follow the difficult negotiations to the end.

Kelvin Thomas, centre is flanked by club chief executive James Whiting, left, and new non-executive board member Mike Wailing.

Kelvin Thomas, centre is flanked by club chief executive James Whiting, left, and new non-executive board member Mike Wailing.

He said: “In reality there were times even yesterday when we were close to walking away.

“But negotiations take on that life sometimes.

“I think we’ve put out a statement last week where we expressed disappointment with the fact there were other parties being talked to.

“We came out and said it, we didn’t hide behind it we said this is what we feel and why we feel this way.

“But if anything, the fans played a part, Chris (Wilder) played a part, I think staff played a part, I think we played a part, and David Cardoza’s conscience played a part.

“I think he really did want the football club to go into the best hands.”

At a press conference earlier today Mr Thomas said there were numerous times when he considered walking away from the deal.

But as of today the former Oxford United chairman will begin acclimatizing to his new club and going through what is undoubtedly a lengthy list of creditors who need to be paid.

Catering company Centreplate is understood to be among those owed money from the club.

“Priority one, is to pay the tax bill and we can confirm we have already done that,” Mr Thomas told the press conference earlier.

”Priority two is to pay the staff.

“But then I would say priority three is all about running the business.

”There will be challenges, and we have a lot of creditors, not much has been paid with frozen bank accounts.”

In an interview with the Chron later he said: “We can’t rush to make payments straight away.

“We have already spoken to some people about what they are owed and making sure we’ve got he right amounts. There is a whole process to go through.

“We’ve got an idea of what the creditor list is.”

Mr Thomas, who will initially be splitting his time between Florida, where he currently lives, and Northampton, said he would need to invest an initial £1 million, to pay off creditors and ensure the club can function until the end of the season.

He said he and his investors intend to plough £4 million into the club in total, which would fund the rest of what has previously been reported as his “ambitious” plans the East Stand development.

With fans having been through the mill over the past few weeks, the Chron asked whether he could assure supporters that he and his investors - who he was keen to suggest were a group of “friends” rather than a “consortium” - are here to stay.

He said: “All I can show you is what we are about and say what we have done over he past couple of months.

“I can say look back further and look at what we achieved at Oxford and look at what we have done as friends in business.

“We will put our heart and soul into making sure this football club successful.”

But little is known about Mr Thomas’s business partners at this stage.

Companies House shows Mike Wailing, who was present at the press conference but not available for questions, to be a experienced entrepreneur with many business interests in the West Midlands including pension trusts, while David Bower is a partner of Oxford-based law firm Bower & Bailey Solicitors.

Mr Thomas assured the Chron the trio bring a “significant” amount of money to the table, but he says he will take on the responsibility of “overseeing the day-to-day operations”, while Mr Bower and Mr Wailing will have more strategic roles.

He said: “We know the money is there. The council has seen it, the football league has seen it - there are substantial funds available.

“At the end of the day we are friends doing this, though I have more of a role to take on as the public face in this.”

Mr Thomas said the Supporters’ Trust will play a big part in the running of the club in the future.

But as to his ambitions for the club in the longer term, he has high hopes.

“The reality is any club can go into the Premiership. The beauty of football is that clubs go up and down.

If you look at fixtures 15 years ago and look at the league tables, you look at Swansea and Bournemouth, things can change.

“If you get a bit of luck, a bit of investment and you perform on the pitch, who knows where it can go.

“This is a football club that has the opportunity to expand with a new stadium.

“It does have the opportunity to go up to League One and maybe further.”