It’s fair to say that the last time Northamptonshire were promoted to County Championship Division One, things didn’t go too well...
The season was 2014, and Northants endured a nightmare six months.
They finished rock-bottom of the table to quickly tumble back into division two with their tails between their legs, failing to win any of their 14 matches along the way.
It was a summer of strife, with perhaps the writing being on the wall before a ball was even bowled, with Alex Wakely being ruled out for the whole summer after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon on the pre-season trip to Caribbean.
There were other injuries as well, with David Sales struggling with calf and ankle problems before announcing his retirement mid-season, and overseas recruitment was also a real issue.
Australian fast bowler Jackson Bird was signed for the summer, but pulled out of his contract with the club on the eve of the campaign due to a back complaint.
Rob Keogh is one of only two current red ball players to survive from any part of what was a troubled campaign, with the other being Adam Rossington, who was brought in as a loan player from Middlesex for the second half of the season.
And Keogh, now 30 years old, is confident that 2022 will not see a repeat of the issues the club experienced the most recent time they were part of the country’s cricketing elite.
Due to Covid-19, Northants have been waiting for the chance to show they have what it takes since winning promotion from division two in 2019, and Keogh is confident they will rise to the occasion.
The past two seasons have been played out in a three-conference system, but the season returns to a two-division format in 2022 with the County belatedly taking their earned place in the 10-team top flight.
“Those celebrations at Gloucestershire (when Northants were promoted) seem like a long, long time ago, but we finally get a second bite of the cherry in division one,” said Keogh.
“I think it’s only myself who is still around from the previous season at that level, which didn’t go to plan. It was a tough year for us.
“So there are no real scars left from that, and it will be nice to have a proper go at it this year.
"I feel we are a better squad, and more prepared than we were in 2014.
“We had bad luck in that year, Wakers got injured and missed the season, and there were some overseas player issues where guys were confirmed, but then couldn’t make it over.
“I seem to remember in one pre-season game we had three or four injuries, so I do feel we are better prepared this time around and the guys are looking forward to it.”
Keogh is also keen to take on the challenge of facing the best English cricket has to offer on a personal level.
“I missed the first stint of that 2014 season with a finger injury, but I did really enjoy testing myself against the best sides,” said the Bedford-born batsman, who ended that summer on a high by hitting 129 in a draw with Sussex at Wantage Road.
“So having a full season at that level, I feel we have a good enough squad to compete, not just stay up.
“Guys are going to be looking at our team, and they are not going to be wanting to face Sando (Ben Sanderson) and Bergy (Gareth Berg) with the new ball, and then obviously with guys scoring runs we can make it hard for the other teams, especially at Northampton.
“It is never a nice place to come and play for other teams.”
The Northants squad are currently on a 10-day training camp in South Africa.
They are based at the High Performance Institute of Sport in Potchefstroom in South Africa, and are due back in the UK next Thursday (March 17).