Rob Keogh and ex-players pay tribute to outgoing Northants head coach David Ripley

"Rips is such a good person, he is one of the nicest men you will ever meet, and he is always there if you ever need him, on and off the field."

By Jeremy Casey
Friday, 10th September 2021, 9:35 am
Updated Friday, 10th September 2021, 9:40 am
David Ripley is stepping down as Northants head coach later this month
David Ripley is stepping down as Northants head coach later this month

So says Northants batsman Rob Keogh, somebody who is well qualified to pay tribute to David Ripley, who this week announced he is quitting his role as head coach at the County Ground.

The 54-year-old has been at the helm for close to 10 years, a spell in which he made history by becoming the only Northants coach to win two major titles - the T20 Blast in 2013 and 2016.

Prior to that, Ripley spent 11 years in the coaching set-up at Wantage Road, working with young players through the Academy and the Emerging Player Programme.

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Northants batsman Rob Keogh

Many of those players in the youth set-up went on to play for the first team, and to be major players for the club.

The likes of David Willey, Alex Wakely, Rob Newton, Ben Duckett and more, as well as Keogh himself.

The Dunstable-born player joined the club as a teenager, and worked under Ripley through the age-groups, before being handed his first team debut as an 18-year-old in August, 2012.

And the coach to hand him that debut? David Ripley, who only a couple of months earlier had replaced another Northants playing legend, David Capel, as the head coach.

David Ripley

So Keogh's entire Northants playing career to this point has been under the stewardship of Ripley.

He knows how the man operates, and what kind of a person he is, and when asked exactly what it is about Ripley that makes him such a good coach, Keogh had no problem expressing his feelings.

"Rips is just a great people person," said the 29-year-old, who hit the winning runs in the 2016 T20 Blast Final win over Durham.

"He is such a funny bloke to have around, and I don't think you get that at most places in a head coach, it can be quite a serious role sometimes.

Rob Keogh was handed his Northants debut by David Ripley in 2012

"But Rips is such a good person, he is one of the nicest men you will ever meet, and he is always there if you ever need him, on and off the field.

"The lads absolutely love him, they find him hilarious, and he has always got stories to tell, and he always wants in on the banter as well.

"He is just a great human being, and he will be missed."

One of the secrets to Northants' success over Ripley's tenure in charge has been the team spirit at the County Ground.

Rob Keogh celebrates with Rory Kleinveldt after hitting the winning runs in the 2016 T20 Blast final

He encouraged the players to enjoy each other's company socially as well as out on the cricket field, and it paid dividends with those T20 wins.

Ripley's time in charge wasn't always a success on the pitch, and there have also been lean years among the plentiful ones, but Keogh says the atmosphere in the dressing room in that time has stayed constant.

"When Rips took over things at the club were not how we would have liked them," said Keogh .

"He came in and we sort of had this switch in mentality.

"The team environment changed, and everyody became best mates, and Rips was at the front of that.

"Rips and Wakers (Alex Wakely) took on a challenge, and we went down that road."

David Ripley has been head coach since 2012

Wakely was made white ball skipper by Ripley in 2013, and would go on to be the red ball skipper as well, captaining the team to those Edgbaston victories.

The two of them were a great team, but a team that is now part of the club's history following Wakely's retirement as a player earlier this summer.

But their legacy will live on.

"Everybody within the squad became so close, and I am still very good friends with a lot of the guys I played with five or 10 years ago," admitted Keogh.

"A lot of that is down to what Rips and Wakers did, so to lose them both in the same year is sad for me, because they have been a massive part of my journey, and Wakers is one of my good mates.

"Rips was my Academy coach and EPP coach, so it is sad news."

The tributes to Ripley have rightly been pouring in this week, all of them praising his ability and many saying what a great bloke he is.

But you don't last as a head coach of a professional sports team without a steely side as well.

You have to have a ruthless streak, and Keogh revealed Ripley could play the discipline card when he needed to.

"He definitely has (a steely side), and I have been on the wrong end of a few of Rips's tellings off to be honest,"

"It would never be without honesty and his opinion, and I value that whatever he has to say, if it is to do with on field or off field.

"His heart is always in the right place.

"He has found another role within the club, and that is good to see, and I am sure we will see his face on the balcony in the future."

As Keogh says, Ripley will still be employed by Northants in the future.

He is set to take on a role overseeing the club's work in the Emerging Player Programme, working with the club's national county partners in Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire and also London schools.

But his role as head coach will end following the club's final LV= County Championship Division Two play-off clash with Essex at Chelmsford, which starts on Tuesday, September 21.

Before that, he takes charge of his final home game from this Sunday, when Durham are the visitors to the County Ground.

Northants go into that game off the back of their record-breaking run-chase win over Surrey on Wednesday, and Keogh admits the players will be giving their all to try and give Ripley a winning seond-off.

But he knows whatever the result, it will be an emotional moment when that final ball of Ripley's Wantage Road reign is bowled.

"This weekend, it is his last home game, and hopefully we can get another win," said Keogh.

"And I am sure he will have a few tears and then we will have a few beers with him as well."

Keogh's tributes to Ripley were echoed by a string of the club's former players on Twitter this week.

Former skipper Wakely said: "The best part of 20 years together. Thank you for everything Rips.

"The most successful coach in the club's history. Fact. More importantly, one of the best blokes I know who changed the fortunes of our great club."

Stephen Peters was made red-ball skipper by Ripley when he first became head coach, and said: "Not sad news, just a great time to reflect on Rips' fantastic stint as head coach.

"He and I came together in 2013 as captain and coach and what followed was one of my favourite periods in my career, largely thanks to working with Rips. Congratulations mate on your tenure.

"Rips is also proof that in sport you can be a seriously nice guy and still be successful."

Pace bowler Muhammed Azharullah said: "Congratulations Rips on an incredible career - perhaps Pakistan should hire him for the vacant head coach role!

"The man is a genius, by far one of the best out there. I wish him all the best for the new role."

Australian seamer Trent Copeland enjoyed a successful couple of seasons playing for the Tudor Rose, and he said: "What an absolute legend! Congrats Rips, thoroughly enjoyed my time playing with you."

Ben Duckett, who made his name at Northants before going to on to play for England and star for Nottinghamshire, added: "Such a huge influence on my career. Was an absolute pleasure Rips. Steelbacks legend."