The End Is Nigh For Kettering Town

9 By Ian  |   The Ball  |   October 6, 2012  |     52

At Nene Park this afternoon, the fat lady cleared her throat. After all of the drama of the last fifteen months, it will be this afternoons Southern League Premier Division match against Bashley that will be remembered as the match at which the bells began to toll for Kettering Town Football Club. After one hundred and forty years, only a miracle can save them now. We spoke last week of the absurd scenario that played out when several of the clubs players sought to get their wages from the clubs owners, only to find that they didn’t seem particularly interested in meeting them to pay them what they were due or even discuss the non-payment.

An exodus of players was to be expected, but more optimistic supporters might have at least predicted that they would be able to field a team of some description for their forthcoming matches. This afternoon, they couldn’t even manage that. The team sheet listed only eleven players including two goalkeepers, but after one of those goalkeepers decided that he could probably think of a better way to pass his Saturday afternoon than by getting humiliated on a football pitch in front of several hundred spectators, they were forced to start their match against Bashley with just ten players. This might, under any other circumstances, have been a match that Kettering Town might have expected to get a result from. Their opponents were just one place above them in the Southern League table, after all. As things turned out, however, a hellish afternoon unfolded in front of a tiny – by the standards of this club – crowd of just 304 people. The patchwork team held its head above water for as long as possible, but they couldn’t hold out forever and the final score of 7-0 provided a fittingly dismal coda to perhaps the worst day in the entire history of the club.

At the full-time whistle, several of the Kettering Town players were seen to be in tears, as was manager Alan Doyle, the former chief scout drafted in following the completely unsurprising resignation of John Beck a few days before. Yet there was no animosity towards these players or the manager at Nene Park this afternoon. Anybody with so much as a cursory knowledge of the events in this corner of Northamptonshire over the last year and a bit knows fully well that the playing staff have been the least of the clubs problems. This is a club that has been dragged to the point of extinction by incompetent, inept management from the boardroom by a small group of individuals that have acted at every turn in ways detrimental to the club of which they appointed themselves the custodians. Imraan Ladak, George Rolls and others have killed this club.

They could have walked away at any point but they chose not to, and of or when this club finally does go to the wall – and it feels this evening like more of a “when” than an “if”, they will have blood on their hands. It was they that gerrymandered the club away from its Rockingham Road home to jump into the grave of Rushden & Diamonds by taking over their home after that club died so speedily that one might suspect that this death was murder rather than accidental. It was they that mismanaged it through last season, put it into a CVA which sold its creditors down the river and then laughed in their faces by announcing at almost the same time that their financial slate was wiped clean that they would remain a full-time club this season. They have overseen the collapse of a club that was for many years one that we might have expected to work its way into the Football League, a club with a solid identity that had represented its home town with dignity and honour, a club which commanded a loyal support-base who didn’t deserve to be treated with the contempt with which they have been treated recently.

Yet through all of this, there was something to be proud of at Nene Park this afternoon. The players, who gave everything in impossible circumstances, were given a standing ovation from the pitch at the full-time whistle by supporters who could see with their own eyes that they had been put in an utterly intractable position. The chances of saving this club, effectively insolvent and tied to a ruinous lease on a stadium miles from its home town for almost a quarter of a century, have sunk to next to nil, barring a miracle. It is to be hoped that a miracle does turn up, but where this could conceivably come from is anybodys guess. The Southern League itself now also has a stark decision to make. They might even reach the undesirable but entirely rational conclusion that there is no realistic chance of this club now completing this season, and that including them in the league is to the detriment of their competition as a while. Expulsion from the league will surely follow swiftly should they fail to fulfil a fixture, and the fact that the club was unable to field a full team for a league match today suggests that this apocalyptic scenario is now only a matter of time.

We wish that it weren’t so. We wish that people more interested in the well-being of the club had been given an opportunity to rescue it while it was still salvageable. Perhaps Kettering Town could have been saved had this happened a year or more ago, but now, on this Saturday evening in October 2012 there is no positive prognosis for Kettering Town Football Club, no likelihood of salvation and only the stench of imminent death in the air. Those responsible for this state of affairs know who they are, as do we. They must never be allowed any involvement at any football club again. Kettering Town Football Club, after one hundred and forty years, must be allowed to die in order that it may be reborn and reimagined by people that care for its long-term future. This must never be allowed to happen to this club again. Such thoughts will probably be cold comfort to its grieving supporters this evening.

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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.

  • October 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Joe - Vancouver Canada

    A tragedy for a club with a great tradition. Everybody should read Ian’s article from last week – it is a terribly sad story. There are many similarities to my own club Portsmouth F.C. and the more the long drawn out administration continues (is Trevor Birch dead or just sleeping?) I am coming to believe we should just bite the bullet and accept liquidation. This would really wipe the slate clean and we must start again from the bottom playing football purely for the love of football. Play up Pompey (and Kettering).

  • October 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm


    In my first season supporting Wimbledon in 1976 we played Kettering in front of over 4,000 people.

    Sad to see the club go this way.
    Take it on the chin, restart a supporters owned club and don’t let anyone screw it up for you.

  • October 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Tony Mee

    I came down to play a pre-season friendly with Rotherham United and its a shame that it has come to this for any club. Hope the fans get some sort of re-birth and start again in their home town.

  • October 6, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Alan Jenkins

    R&DFC and its supporters were played like Stradivarius violins into an early and undeserved grave (plastic supporter tags notwithstanding) by the same type of people who have now done for their successors in the elephants’ graveyard called Nene Park.

    At the time of our demise – I ought to say that I was the Fans’ Chaplain at R&DFC, and I am the Fans’ Chaplain at AFCR&D – there were many, many Kettering Town fans who could not contain their glee, and made their baser feelings known on fans’ forums all over the internet, including ours. It would not be an exaggeration to say that barely a day went past without someone gloating about the way twenty mostly glory-filled years ended.

    Thankfully for us, we proved that, far from being plastic, our supporters had more backbone than anyone gave us credit for, and began straight away to rebuild a team and a club that we could all be proud of, rather than one to despair about. This isn’t the place to mention how successful this endeavour has been to date, but we are immensely hopeful for our – sustainable – future.

    In the meantime, those same Kettering supporters who were gloating at our demise would not listen when we warned them of what was to come if they made the mistake of supporting Ladak in climbing into our deathbed before the sheets had cooled, let alone been changed… and if you think that is a somewhat strained metaphor, look for photos on the ‘Net showing Kettering Town players training in abandoned R&DFC training kit shortly after taking over at Nene Park!

    The strains of “I told you so” will no doubt floating around the pubs of East Northants tonight – along with “7-0, and the dog said no”, doubtless – because we did, indeed, tell them so, and they, because of twenty years of bitterness, jealousy, frustration and stubbornness, would not listen, or allowed themselves to be deluded into believing that this time all would be well.

    They say that the sign of insanity is to repeat an action and expect a different result: if that is true, then the fans of Kettering Town – or at least those who made the arduous trip those eight long miles down the A6 – have been suffering from untreated corporate insanity since that infamous Wicksteed Park meeting at which they raised their hands to vote to embrace the vain hope of progress.

    All that – combined with the twenty year long bitter rivalry which saw R&DFC showered with success and trophies whilst Kettering Town draped its wizened one hundred and twenty year old shoulders in the threadbare comfort blanket of their uneventful history – ought to mean that the fans of the re-born Diamonds are tonight taking our own gleeful turn at sneering contempt.

    And of course, some of us are, because we’re human beings… but the vast majority of us (and how good it is to be building our fanbase to such an extent that the phrase “the vast majority” doesn’t mean the three drunks propping up the bar and the taxi driver who takes them home) are calling on true Poppies fans to take this as an opportunity to jettison their recent past and re-claim their history and take back their club from the jokers who combined to deprive them of it. We are pledging our support, if it’s asked for, and the benefit of our experience.

    It’s true, we want them back in Kettering, much as we want, and plan, to be back in Rushden, for reasons of self-interest. It’s time the cuckoo fled the nest.

    We want the rivalry back: when you look at the playing record between the two teams since R&DFC were formed, who wouldn’t?

    Most of all though, we recognise that by far the majority of Poppies fans are people like us: hard-working, ordinary, not particularly well off people from the industrial and post-industrial villages and towns of Northamptonshire. People who have, depending on which way you look at it, have either been royally shafted by the unscrupulous or led astray by the incompetent. People who, like us, are perfectly capable, freed from the manacles of mismanagement by egocentric faux entrepreneurs, of rebuilding a Club true to the original principles of Association Football, a club of which they can once again be proud, a club ready to be hammered once more by the mighty Diamonds….!

    Sorry about the last bit of that paragraph, I couldn’t resist it…

    Come on Poppies, straighten up, square the shoulders, wipe your mouths and walk away. That chapter’s over. Time to turn the page, and begin the rest of the story.

  • October 7, 2012 at 1:11 am

    One Salient Oversight

    As another AFCR&D member I concur with Alan’s analysis above. It’s devastating to lose the club you’ve been part of for so many years, with so much time and emotion poured into it.

    It’s interesting that on the same day that 304 fans turned up to watch Kettering Town’s final match (probably), 1,157 fans turned up to watch AFC Rushden & Diamonds beat Rushden & Higham United 4-0 in the local derby. That AFCR&D managed to attract almost 4 times as many spectators as Kettering Town in a league 3 steps below is amazing and instructive.

    Kettering fans may be in shock and in mourning, but the darkness can be followed by daylight.

    Already some Kettering fans have formed their own club: Kettering Football Club (KFC) that have a team competing in the Northants Senior Youth League. If enough fans join, the new club is seriously considering applying for membership in the United Counties Football League Division One – the same league that AFCR&D are now competing in.

    So while the original club is about to be consumed, a phoenix is already rising from its ashes.

  • October 7, 2012 at 11:18 am


    Wise words above regarding reforming the club, and casting aside the false (would-be) messiahs of KTFC, hard work though it will be.

    Once the final curtain has fallen (maybe after a turkey shoot away to table-topping Leamington on Tuesday?), it’d be good to see a full probe into the governance of Ladak and George ‘Sausage’ Rolls at KTFC. Just what this pair have attempted to achieve defies logical explanation – as with the various owners of Portsmouth in recent times, and other benighted clubs, a proper judgment day for such club-destroying charlatans cannot come soon enough.

  • October 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Iain Stewart

    Originally from the West Midlands and born in to supporting the Villa, I’ve lived in East Northants for the last 12 years and watched football at various levels in various places locally since then. Desperately sad to see R&D and now Kettering die. I like the area, I like the people and it seems borderline criminal what has happened around here. I suppose I have 2 points to make :

    1. I like that R&D appear to be aiming for something sustainable. It is maybe sad that Mr Griggs didn’t try to do the same 20 years ago. Although I don’t doubt he only ever wanted to create something special for local people the imperative should always have been to create something special for local people that would last! However, compared to Mr Ladak………

    2. I no longer buy a daily paper. I never thought this day would arrive but I actually want to read news in my papers and for my sports news to reflect that there are actually more people in this country who choose every weekend to pay to watch football that ISN’T the Premier League. What has happened to Portsmouth, Kettering, Leeds etc etc over time should have been manna from heaven for a genuinely investigative reporter and newspaper and yet Portsmouth seemed only to be national news while in the top flight, ditto Leeds, Blackburn, Birmingham and so forth, all clubs with currently murky or incompetent ownership in place. The moral seems to be that if you’re going to screw up a local community’s football club, just do it away from the Premier League!

    Sorry if the above isn’t very interesting

  • October 7, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    Steve L

    I’m a Luton fan and I’ve lived in Northants for the last 25 years so I’ve seen the rise and fall of R&DFC and all the stuff that happened.

    For me KTFC deserve what they’re experiencing. I know that’s not a nice thing to say but their fans voted to move our of their own borough, out of their own town, like an American sports franchise but worse. They spent 20 years criticising their local rivals for glory hunting and called Nene Park ‘Legoland’, yet they didn’t see anything wrong with jumping into the Diamonds’ stadium at the first opportunity when Ladak promised them League football. KTFC died at that point, what’s the point of being Kettering Town FC if you vote to move out of Kettering Town?

    I hope Kettering FC can emulate what AFC R&D have and try and get back to Kettering. They should never have left in the first place, it was very obviously never going to work.

    R&D fans warned them about how the stadium was a money pit. They didn’t listen.

    They warned them that Cousins was an unscrupulous landlord. They didn’t listen.

    Cambridge fans warned them about Rolls. They didn’t listen. Weymouth fans warned them about Rolls and they still didn’t listen. Pretty much everyone knew he was a crook, including the FA, yet they just watched his involvement. Hopefully this will teach them to be more proactive in the future, as a fans’ club.

  • October 8, 2012 at 11:58 am

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