Monday, 29 June 2009

Local News 2 - Rushden is nowhere near Irthlingborough shock!

There’s a right royal ding-dong kicking off down the A6 where a fiddly little health centre in Rushden is about to be replaced with a larger outpatients building in Irthlingborough, to serve the entire east of the county.

This is good news for Kettering as it will mean less webbed-footed freaks will need to visit KGH. Good news also for the whole of east Northamptonshire to have a better medical facility on their doorstep. However the news has been met with despair by the people of Rushden, which I suppose, is also good news for the people of Kettering.

The Rushden populace, led by their pitchfork-waving MP Peter Bone are up in arms at having to traipse all the way over to Irthlingborough in order to have their haemorrhoids poked at, or their offspring tested for long-term, deficiencies caused by generations of inbreeding.

Curiously, Irthlingborough has a different MP to Rushden, namely Phil Hope of Corby, who unsurprisingly takes another view on this issue. Even more curious is how the MP for Corby turns out to also be the MP for Irthlingborough too, considering their relative locations. Perhaps there was an attempt in Parliament to lump all the scum in a single constituency, although this is unlikely as Stevenage is not included.

Nowhere in print, or on Radio Northampton (our local station for all things Saints related) has anyone yet mentioned the fact that these two piddling little towns share a football team, and that the distance between the two locations wasn’t an issue when Max Griggs was buying their way to footballing success. Back then they were all one community, happily linking arms and various other appendages, and marching into a bright, shared future.

I don’t remember the MP for Rushden then standing up and complaining that his town’s tiny little team was being dragged, screaming over the Nene to a multi-million pound stadium.

It’s obviously much easier to make the trip from Rushden to Irthlingborough on a bandwagon than it is by any of the more usual forms of transport.

Local News 1 - Corby gets more loads more money thrown at it shock!

Apparently the Tresham Institute with campus locations in Kettering, Corby and Wellingborough recently sought Government funds to undertake rebuilding of their Corby and Wellingborough facilities and improvements at Kettering.

Imagine our shock when Wellingborough and Kettering missed out on any funding whilst Corby was awarded everything it needed to rebuild their campus. Wow. Who’d have thought that would happen?

The next generation of plastic jocks will have yet another new building to deface and then burn to the ground when the mood takes them.

Even though accepted wisdom is that you can’t polish a turd, you have to grudgingly admire the efforts of the people who hand out our money in desperately trying to disprove this axiom.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Patgod Issue Five - Who’d be a “Giant?”

Larger Clubs are usually on a hiding to nothing when playing smaller teams in Cup competitions. Just ask supporters of Lincoln or Notts County last season, or even, tantalisingly, Fulham. We ourselves have been on the receiving end when playing even more “minnowy-minnows” than ourselves. If you win, everyone shrugs their shoulders, but if you lose it can scar for life!

On the subject of being on the receiving end, of course you'll remember the infamous encounter with Histon. During what should have been Morris’s last stand a bunch of lower league, village hoofers bundled us out of the Cup? (Whatever happened to them?)

What about the horrific Trophy encounter with Hastings where we lost 5-0 at home and showed absolutely no battle? (Insert groan here)

On a more pleasant note, after the Charlton season this article was submitted by one of the home fans that day and wonderfully encapsulates the feelings of dread, as a possible life-altering upset looms large.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Money’s (Still) Too Tight To Mention

Our average gate last season was a modest 1572, up from an average of 1497 the previous season. Taking into account some enormous away support this season as opposed to the proverbial one man and his dog the season before last, there has probably been in drop in home support during 2009. Despite a couple of seasons of almost unqualified success we still can’t seem to boost our average attendance. Championships and cup runs may see a spike in attendances, but don’t really add to a concerted increase.

Why is this? Why can’t the club swell the hardcore support even through we pissed the Blue Square North, had a good season this season, and got to the 4th round of the FA Cup?

Part of the problem is obviously the cost of entry into Rockingham Road. Without going into the ins and outs of finances to support what is being purported to be a professional club, £13.00 IS a lot of money to fork out for this level of football. Particularly for the once a season visitor who paid £11.00 or £9.00 the last time they came up to the ground, and is disinclined to come more often because it always costs more to get in. And for what? To watch a bit of kick and rush played in a ground that has had just one new development in 35 years. Not only that, but that one development is the cover over the Britannia Road side which is (a) far too low, and (b) was erected during Mark English’s tenure and consequently, never paid for.

Today there are many more things to do on a Saturday than ever before. Umpteen shopping opportunities. More restaurants. A 10-screen cinema. The attraction of League Football at Nene Park just down the road. Oops, scratch that last one. The Poppies need to fight hard for their slice of Kettering’s disposable income.

Instead the passing customer is faced with differing prices on the turnstile one week to the next depending on who we happen to be playing, which no one else in this league has the cheek to do. The use of a single tea bar, where they can queue for the entire first half. Toilet facilities which can be charitably described as “basic”. Overkill policing. Chavs swaggering about as if they own the place. Ditto the stewards who enjoy taking bottles of water away from people on a hot day, but fail to spot or stop our would-be hooligan element throwing items on to the pitch, or away fans setting off flares.

Us dedicated fans put up with all this, and cast a blind eye to Rockingham Road’s shortcomings, and argue that our style of play is at least successful. The casual fan, however, has no compunction about voting with his feet and usually does.

There are potential fans out there though. This was never better shown than during last season’s cup run where we had sellouts against Fulham and Eastwood. Now, I can understand the sell out for Fulham, even though they are possibly the least glamorous team in the Premiership, but Eastwood? OK, it was the third round of the FA Cup, but it was still only Eastwood! As ever with the Poppies there is no accumulative gain from the big games or big seasons.

So, what to do to improve matters?

Providing the admission fees and ticket prices haven’t come out yet (unlikely as it seems we are waiting for the season to start before announcing the prices), what about announcing a freeze on prices, as so many others are doing? Good PR. Big piece in the ET about being in tune with people’s troubles during more austere times?

Next, the club must jettison the “Premium Games” bollocks. Why penalise us because of who we happen to be playing? All it does is knock a few off the gate, create ill will and cause trouble at the turnstiles.

If it isn’t yet set in stone, abandon the daft idea of making every game all ticket. Hello, real world calling KTFC! Not quite a Football League club yet chaps.

Encourage supporters to take out Season Tickets by actually making them better value. Leave us with the desperate NEED not to miss out on the bargain, rather than worrying that if we miss a couple of games it won’t be worth shelling out big money upfront.

What about 6-game season tickets where it works out that the 6th game is free? Don’t panic about the loss of revenue. You’ve got the supporter into the ground – offer him something else to spend his money on! Come on Commercial Manager, earn your corn.

This may be controversial, but we should stagger the cheap U16 season tickets slightly, making it more expensive the older the kids get. This would help ensure that youths aren’t simply in the ground because it’s a cheap place to hang out. We may lose a few of them, but the ones who return will be there because they want to support the Poppies, not just to hang out with their friends.

At the end of the day if we’ve made no money from last season’s TV coverage, huge membership drive, sponsorship, merchandise sales and a few big gates, the question needs to be asked, are we really a big enough club to support a full-time playing staff? If not, how long should Imraan continue to make up the shortfall, if at all?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Patgod Issue Five (Probably end of January 1990)

The use of caricatures to shine a gently-mocking light into otherwise darkened corners of seriousness is a long held and noble artform. From the day Neolithic man chuckled to himself as he chipped away at a carving of his missus with enormous boobs and a big, protruding, fat belly, through mockery of the Prince Regent with his enormous boobs and a big, protruding, fat belly, onto Spitting Image mocking Gazza with his enorm…. well, you get the idea.

Unfortunately none of the Poppies players of the early 1990’s were open to such easy lampooning. When you are trying to produce caricatures of almost identically healthy, active athletes (and Neil Horwood), ANY distinctive features need to be picked on and exaggerated.

In this cover shot from Issue 5 Robbie Cooke is clearly Robbie Cooke because of his curly hair and angry, skull-like visage. Andy Wright is clearly Andy Wright because he has a moustache. Glenn Beach is clearly Glenn Beach because Andy Wright refers to him as such. Glenn also conveniently refers to the show stopping volley he scored AGAINST us for Boston, which, let’s face it, got him a move here, and frankly was all he was memorable for.

Other Kettering players of the era could pop up in the fanzine as ink-stained versions of themselves. Ernie with his fringe and old mans face. Shoey with his stubble. Morris with his misery-guts gob (and the fact we could put his initials on his tracksuit!) After that it became trickier. There was Mark Nightingale with his, er, sensible side-parting. Neil Edwards with his, er, sensible side-parting. Dave Heywood with his, er, sensible…well, you get the idea.

Consequently some figures from this period live on in the form of amateurish little scribblings whilst their equally important peers have faded away to nothing. Serves them right for not wearing an eye patch or growing a mullet!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Director Maiden Stakes

With six new club directors announced the question on most people’s lips surely is, who will be first to leave?

Early favourite would have to be the Commercial appointment. They tend to be early fallers and attract the smart money.

The Finance Director is always worth a flutter. Certain other Finance Directors have benefited in the past from wearing blinkers. Particularly when faced with tax-bills.

Operations and Development are longer shots as the average punter doesn't really know what these titles actually mean. Good for the housewives flutter, but not attractive enough for the dedicated board watcher.

Outsiders are the non-Executive appointees because even they don’t know what their titles refer to – so who knows, they may be doing a grand job! May be stayers, but equally possibly they are on the way to the glue factory as we type this!

Rockingham Road Part II

With the news that the Club have actually nominated a location and date for a new ground (ignoring for the moment pesky details like finance and council permission), this is the obvious time to dare to imagine what will greet us on the first day of the 2012-2013 season.

Curiously, the site nominated is pretty much the same one that Mallinger identified towards the end of his tenure here. Back then he even went as far as producing the most basic looking design for a ground spat out by a Shareware “Design a Football Ground” programme. This crude image was loyally splashed all over the front of the ET on a particularly slow news day. I believe the second top-story was a hard-hitting piece about how pretty kittens and puppies looked.

With regard to a new ground I suppose it would be too much to expect traditional floodlights as they would bother the local residents. We should be aware of the NIMBY effect. Mind you, the same local residents weren’t too bothered when the woods we all played in as kids were bulldozed in order that their breeze-blocked hutches be built. I just hope the floodlights don’t look too wanky. You know – the bog standard lamppost configuration we usually mock, secure in the knowledge of the reassuring monstrously phallus nature of our own floodlights.

Starting a ground from scratch will hopefully permit Imraan and the designers to consider the quality and size of bars within the ground. If there’s one area where the Poppies have trailed most clubs they have played against it is in this area. No matter how poky a ground was or poxy their team, opposition clubs almost always boasted incredibly good off-field facilities. I remember when we lost to Marine in the Trophy a few years ago being amazed by their social club. Various bars in different areas with, if memory serves, an indoor fountain in the lobby. Not bad for a club whose pop side was 4 feet deep, and the opposite side backed straight into their neighbours’ back gardens.

Who can forget Gainsborough Trinity with bar facilities seemingly on all four sides of the ground, and a banqueting hall within the complex. Not bad for a team with only 27 supporters!

Obviously we will need a little more cover at the new ground than Rocky Road currently provides, although I’d be inclined to keep the away fans out in the open. It’s great, when it rains, to see people who have the temerity not to support the mighty Poppies getting drenched for their transgression.

The only worry I have is that the ground be built as an all-seater stadium. Unlikely, but it is a concern if only because a quarter filled all-seater ground can kill the atmosphere stone dead. This is the only reason I can think of why Non-Park has retained one terrace. The silence at that ground if all four sides were seated can only be imagined at with a sense of wonder.

Interesting times then at Kettering, but then again, what’s new?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

"Garry, Garry Hughes, Where Are You...

...We've got some work to do now"

Ace programme editor and part-time ex-Poppy stalker, Paul Cooke has let PATGOD know that Moor Green was Garry's next footballing port of call after leaving Rockingham Road.

Does anyone have any further updates? Let us know.

Or not, it's not that big a deal really.

Corby – Is it really part of the Axis of Evil?

There are several certainties in life if you are Kettering born and bred.

You will moan about the town of your birth to everyone you meet, right up until the moment they join in with your criticism, when you’ll punch them in the face.

You will stare into the sky (and possibly point) when you see passenger aircraft taking off and landing.

If you live to a ripe old age you will end up talking like the hideously ungodly offspring of Dave Tailby and Barry Frost.

You will play skittles at least once in your life.

And of course, you will despise the town of Corby until your dying day.

But why? Why do the people of Kettering and Corby not get along? Why does the song “Ebony and Ivory” mean nothing to the peoples of the two boroughs? They refer to us “sheep shaggers” during their occasional footballing lessons at the hands of the Poppies, but generally we gamely resist the urge to call them a chavvy bunch of fried Mars bar chomping, baby-murdering, lazy-taxi-taking, shell-suited, Irn Bru guzzling, pyromaniacs.

At least, we resisted the urge until just then.

We don’t get along as towns, but I, like most of you I guess, have invariably got on with Corby people on a one-to-one basis.

Again, until just then.

Is it because their town full of plastic Jocks has been horribly grafted onto our fair Northamptonshire County, thus giving us a taste of the border tensions which have afflicted the two countries for centuries?

Is it because public funding appears seems to be no problem for anything that the town of Corby wants, or even just has a passing fancy for? A new town centre every 25 years, just when they’ve buggered up the previous one. An Olympic sized swimming pool. As many football grounds as are needed until they finally build a decent one that a couple of hundred fans can rattle around in. More enterprise zones than you can shake a caber at. A new, practically empty train station. A strange, enormous Cube, the purpose of which is not entirely evident yet. Houses are shit? Ok we’ll knock them down and build them again.

All this building infrastructure obviously pales when compared to the 2 ½ million Kettering council are somehow managing to fritter away on the old market place, turning a slope into a slope with a few steps. That should get those empty shops filled!

In the interests of preparing a balanced piece, I have recently returned from a fact-finding mission to the much-heralded Willows Shopping Precinct in Corby to see what all the fuss is about. I first became aware of the Willows when I saw an advertising billboard for the shopping area on display in Kettering. Nice bit of quality control there from our elected officials. Obviously they were too busy presiding over the ghettoising of Kettering town centre that they didn’t notice they were advertising a rival town centre’s facilities!

Anyway I walked down the mighty thoroughfare that is the Willows Shopping Precinct. A minute later and I had walked out the far end of it. Sure it looks nice and clean. It also looks like it could be a wind tunnel shopping street from any newly built town centre in the whole of the country. Still, what it lacks in character it makes up in having the biggest Primark on the planet. And that says more about Corby than I could if I carried on tapping away on my keyboard for a week….