MIKE Kearns was convinced that St Neots Town would win the Southern League Division One Central title this season – but now he isn’t so sure.

MIKE Kearns was convinced that St Neots Town would win the Southern League Division One Central title this season – but now he isn't so sure.

The owner and chairman of Huntingdonshire's 'big' club still believes Dennis Greene will lead his team into the promised land of the Premier Division in 2012 – and will continue to back his manager despite the few slip-ups that have made the first half of this campaign so interesting. But his initial feelings that the club would walk away with the title in their first season at this level have been reined in since the campaign kicked off in August.

Technically, St Neots are probably the best team among their peers, and the club's budget is certainly second to none in their division – but brilliant wins have been punctuated with the odd draw and a few defeats, mainly away from home against teams they should really have beaten.

Sitting in fourth before their Boxing Day derby at Biggleswade Town – one of the teams also in the hunt for end-of-season honours – St Neots face Chalfont St Peter away on New Year's Eve and Barton Rovers at The Hunts Post Community Stadium on January 2, the Bank Holiday Monday.

“When we started the season I felt pretty confident we were going to win promotion,” said the chairman. “Unfortunately, we didn't realise that all the teams within this league are so well organised.

“They might not be as good as us, but they are certainly well organised.

“At the start of the season I thought we might possibly win the league quite comfortably – I still think we're going to win it, but it's been a lot tougher than we expected and if we win promotion, I shall be more than happy.”

There is only one automatic promotion place up for grabs – and another through the play-offs. To be in with a shout, the club have to finish in the top five. Kearns is quite confident that will happen. “I said to Dennis, if we are in the top five at Christmas, I will be more than happy,” he told the The Hunts Post.

“I haven't put Dennis under any pressure or said we have to go up.

“The club is in the highest league it has been for 120 or 130 years; we're in real football now.”

Kearns recently allowed Greene to bring in big striker Ben Mackey – after midfielder Neil MacKenzie had left the club – and he says his manager will continue to dip into the transfer market, as long as the budget allows.

“Unfortunately, we are stuck with this 'Manchester City' of the Southern League tag,” he said. “Against us is the fact that we sometimes find it hard to get players because everyone thinks we are paying a fortune when we are not.

“We have a budget and we're working within that budget. The budget is set by me to get the club established and to get it where I want it.”

Kearns, who cashed in on his business interests before buying the club, also reacted strongly to rumours that at least two casualties of further wheeling and dealing will be striker Shane Tolley and midfielder Dan Jacob.

He insisted: “There are only three people in this club who know about these things: myself, my son Lee, who is the managing director, and Dennis.

“All clubs evolve – players come and go. We could get rid of the whole team next week and get a new one in – or I could just go out and sign Didier Drogba!”

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