Monday, 30 November 2009

Sweet man-love at the Poppies No.1

It's probably just as well they can't produce a kid.....

What Sunday Taught Us

  1. A sizable minority of Leeds fans still think they are the best club in the world ever, and not simply a team doing well in the 3rd Division as was.
  2. A similar minority of Leeds fans believe that bellowing "Leedsleedsleeds" in your face somehow makes them the best supporters the world has ever seen.
  3. Although Lee Harper worries the hell out of us when the ball is down by his ankles, we wouldn't swap him for anyone else - particularly the Leeds keeper.
  4. No Kettering fan will be travelling by train to the replay unless they have a hankering for an 8-hour return trip with delightful 5 hour stopovers in either Sheffield or Derby.
  5. God bless Ian Roper's all-effort displays, but please keep him away from the microphone & camera.
  6. Being a copper at a Poppies FA Cup game must be the second easiest way of earning cash EVER, second only to being a sofa tester, and just ahead of stroking puppies.
  7. The white rose of Yorkshire was superseded, and made redundant in 1485 by the Tudor rose, which is Northamptonshire's emblem.
  8. The thousands of away fans in attendance made less noise than the couple of hundred AFC Wimbledon fans earlier this season.
  9. Nothing quite beats getting wet at an FA Cup game.
  10. Moses needs to sort his f**king head out while he still has a career in football ahead of him.
  11. It is almost impossible to send coherent text messages whilst standing in driving rain.
  12. Lee Harper has been thoroughly reading his guide book to "Manager-Speak".
  13. Leeds fans seem to be labouring under the impression that a tie against Manchester United means a return to the big-time. This might be true if the gap in league places between the Red Devils and Leeds wasn't almost exactly the same as the gap between Leeds and us!

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

After a couple of years of unnecessary success, the Club is pleased to announce that everything will soon be getting back to normal -

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

My Perfect Council

Feargal Sharkey slags off Kettering Council!

80’s pop-star Feargal (Loving You) Sharkey has weighed into the debate as to which town in the UK is saddled with the most embarrassing Council. Following KBC’s decision to prosecute HMV in Kettering for letting Faryl Smith sing at the branch, Mr (A Good Heart) Sharkey , on Radio Northampton's drivetime show, labelled Kettering Council as “Ludicrous”.

The (You Little Thief) singer went on to bemoan the “Ridiculous Decision” the Council had made. He may have also added, “the stupid feckers!” but this is unconfirmed at this point.

It does make you wonder about KBC. Why do they want to appear as though they hate anything good that comes out of the town? At this point in time Kettering is known to the outside world for three things: -

(A) The Poppies

(B) Faryl Smith

(C) Wicksteed Park

If there is a story in the press over the next week about KBC trying to close Wicksteed Park we will be left with the inescapable conclusion that they are systematically trying to destroy everything positive to do with the town!

Maybe if they manage to abolish all the good things in this town they feel they will be able to bulldoze what remains of the heritage quarter, build shopping centres on every street, and round-up every first-born son to be sold into slavery without stirring up any dissent.

Now that Feargal (Teenage Kicks) Sharkey has thrown his hat into the ring, we contacted other 80’s pop stars to find out their opinion of KBC’s overall performance.

Annabella Lwin of Bow Wow Wow thought that the Council was being short-sighted in not suporting popular local amenities. Marco Pirroni, of Adam and the Ants was worried that KBC was out of step with the wishes of the people it was elected to serve. And Kim Appleby of Mel and Kim fame added that the Kettering Borough Council had pissed her off for the last time and that they should, “Sort themselves the f**k out before I put a cap in their asses!”

Thursday, 19 November 2009

One down, a couple to go....

This didn't seem to bother our Irish friends 23 years ago. They and the other nations which make up these islands thought it was a real gut-buster when England lost out to that stumpy, coke-addled cheat Maradona when he decided to change the rules of football.

It's taken a while for any sort of payback, but now it's happened, I'm not sure I can be arsed to let this bother me today!

Now, if only the Jocks or Taffs ever had an important game they lost to a cheating foreigner, I'm sure we'd all get a kick out of that too.
We should live so long!

Trouble at the Top

(Of the Pitch, that is)


One of the first things that will occupy Lee, Lee, Lee Harper in his new job will be to get the best out of our forward players. Each has their particular talents, but we have yet to hit upon the devastating combination which will have opposition defenders both cowering, and stifling an attack of the shits. Just imagine where we would be in the league if our forwards REALLY hit it off!


Arguably top of the pile presently is Moses Ashikodi. In his favour is his directness and eye for goal. This talent can also be known as greed! But when it is in a striker who hits the net, “Greed”, as Gordon Gekko once said, “Is Good”. What lets him down is his almost pathological inability to play alongside any of our other strikers. Give him the ball in a lone striking position and he’s as good as gold. Try to link him up with anyone and it’s shrugged shoulders and rolling eyes all round, as flicks go to no-one and the strikers spend almost the entire game standing 60 yards apart.


Our other main threat comes from Anthony Elding. He shares Moses’s directness and eye for goal, but the main thing that lets him down is, frankly, he is too good for his teammates. He makes numerous searching, intelligent runs that are almost never spotted by anyone else in a Kettering shirt.


Next in line is our favourite son, and longest serving player (!), Jean Paul Marna. Even though criticism of JP is tantamount to blasphemy at Rockingham Road, even his most ardent fan (Cough – Imraan - Cough) must admit he is bringing very little to the party these days. His lazy, mazy dribbles almost always end with him being dispossessed. He wanders around in a bit of a daze, and seems just a bit to content to be a bench-warmer. Yet, we all still love him, which can’t be said for –


Poor old Damian Spencer, who seems to have slotted into the “handy scapegoat” position gladly vacated by Iyseden Christie. I think much of the ridiculous anger (even for our pop-side) aimed at Spencer is decidedly unfair. For most of his time here he was used as a lone striker, when his obvious talent is to win headers and flick-ons for a second striker. And no-one can argue that he doesn’t win the majority of headers he goes for.


Lastly we have Francis Green, who despite some good games has often looked lightweight when playing down the middle. Seemingly another player to add to our “bit-part-forward-cum-winger-type list. When he first came here he took players on, but these days seems more content to lay the ball off rather than commit the defender.


There’s also Danny Thomas, but his style of play is so similar to Francis’s that it seems unnecessary to rewrite the previous paragraph.


So, there you have it. Plenty of striking talent, which needs shaping into a potent force.


We’ve done our bit - over to you, Lee!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Echoes of Ron

Just a few words by way of post script to the Cooper era at RR.

In an earlier blog, it was noted that coincidences abounded on the trip to Hartlepool. In the days following Hartlepool, as it grew increasingly more likely that MC would soon be gone, I found myself mulling over another coincidence between the Poppies boss who in my eyes he most resembles - Ron Atkinson.

In November 1974, Big Ron's final match in charge before departing for Cambridge United was a Cup victory over League opposition. Would Mark Cooper go out the same way? It transpired not - but he did sign off with a win at Cambridge United!

The Big Ron comparison first struck me in the championship campaign and has grown in my mind ever since. There are echoes in their moderate playing careers before dropping into non-League but plenty of others can rival that. What they have in common at the same age is a presence, a confidence that lifts players and achieves results that others wouldn't, combined with a slightly abrasive edge that some might find cocky.

How many times under Cooper did his teams defy the Poppies stereotype of wilting under pressure and losing the big games? Top of the table by 5 points? Fine we'll make it 10. Crunch match against nearest promotion rivals? Result 5-2. Cup replays against League opposition - played two won two. Older heads can no doubt recall many similar performances in the Atkinson glory days.

Like Ron, Cooper has developed something of a swagger (even if his teams weren't always set up to play that way). He clearly feels he has a big future, and although management is more precarious than it ever was, I wouldn't bet against him matching Big Ron in reaching the top flight. Hopefully without the benefit of a fake tan, bling or regrettable off-mike moments.

At Last!

I don't care that it was an early round of a meaningless county cup competition.

I don't care that they didn't put out their first team.

I don't care that it was only played at Rockingham Road because they'd neglected to pay their electricity bill.

I don't care that it took extra time.

I don't care that it was cold.

I don't care that this pointless game set me back a tenner.

I don't even care that the social club was closed to me.

We beat the Direones, and I finally got to see it!

(In your misshapen face, fool!)

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Further Update from Guy

Hi Lads,

Only time for a quick blog today as I'm expecting a call from Mark Cooper anytime now. Championship football eh? I can't wait! I'll be able to shore up Peterborough's defence in no time. Blue also brings out my eyes!

I've typed up my resignation from Burton - to be honest, they were a pile of shit anyway! And yellow? Who the hell plays in yellow! It just makes you look fat and jaundiced!

Anyway, got to go. I expect my phone to ring any second now.

Any second now.

Just checked, it's still fully charged.

Lee, Lee, Lee Harper

Good luck Lee....

And, "Kettering Reject, Kettering Reject, Hello, Hello!"

Champ in Charge?

With the Rockingham Road hot seat now looking for a fresh posterior fit to rank alongside Mark Cooper's, and Nicky Eaden also on his way to Posh - the question inevitably arises, who will be in temporary charge if the need arises?

In an unexpected move, Champ the Lion has thrown his, er, mane into the ring. "I'm sure it would surprise a few people", he growled, "seeing as I haven't completed all my coaching badges and all that, but I do know the club inside out".

"With my experience of what works best in the area of walking around the pitch waving at little kiddies, I'm confident the team would be in safe hands."

"Providing the role can be combined with my usual pre-match duties - and I don't see why not - I'm ready to give it a go".

And as for whether a successful caretaker stint could open the door for something more permanent, Champ said "That's up to the chairman, all I'm focussed on is getting the lads ready for the next match".

We shall see. Whatever happens, Champ seems to be set to become the first furry, carnivorous, slightly comic creature to manage at a senior level since Altrincham's John King.

Friday, 13 November 2009

And Now The End Is Near

Strange how football works sometimes. A week ago our team was preparing for the Hartlepool game by using Leeds United's training facilities, and a couple of days later we are drawn to play Leeds. On that Saturday a handful of us sat on a train to and from the Hartlepool amongst a sea of blue and white Posh supporter, little knowing that just over a week later they would have prised away our Manager.

It would be fair to say that Mark's appointment by Imraan was greeted with almost universal apathy by us Poppies. "Isn't he the bloke who got Tamworth relegated?" "Wasn't he the little guy who played for Hinckley against us?" Those were two of the more charitable reactions to his appointment. He was hardly the "top" candidate we'd been promised. With the news that this new manager would also have a lower budget than Maison had the previous season, expectations weren't high.

Several months later, Mark's team had pissed the Blue Square North by the small amount of 17 points. Another year on and we were trading blows with Fulham in the 4th round proper of the FA Cup. Even more amazingly, he had managed to coax all-action displays from Andre Boucard! OK, so maybe Mark had something!

Not that Mark's performance in the Poppies hot seat was perfect. Too often he seemed happy to set out his team to stifle the opposition, rather than play them. That said, such games, and the wins they often generated have helped go someway to bolstering his win ratio, as well as his profile. He also managed to sign the odd duff player, and for some reason Jason Lee is the one that springs most readily to mind!

But what is strongly in Mark's favour is that if one of his players wasn't up to it they were out of the team and the club with almost indecent haste. It didn't take him long of looking at the duff keepers at the start of his reign to show them the door and usher Lee Harper in. Compare his record with Maison's nightmarishly misplaced faith in players like Marcel McKee!

So called problem players have also responded to his methods. Moses is the most obvious example, effectively erasing the memory of recently departed fan favourite Gareth Seddon, almost overnight.

What will Mark take to Peterborough (other than Big X!). Certainly a sterner edge defensively. Also a hunger for the fight. He will get the players playing for him and each other. He knows this is a big opportunity, and I'm sure he will do all he can to make a success of it.

Of more interest to everyone here though is what about us? Who next for the Poppies hot seat? Nicky Eaden? Kevin Keegan? I guess we will find out soon enough. But in the meantime, the best of luck Mark, and thanks for your efforts. Not many Managers get to leave Rockingham Road with their reputations intact, let alone greatly enhanced, but you certainly have.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Watching the Detectives

Whilst Imraan, the players, the officials, us fans and of course the police are all licking our lips at the prospect of hosting Leeds United in the next round of the FA Cup, I fear that the police are the ones with potentially the most to gain. How so, you ask?

A little while ago we asked the following questions of Northamptonshire Police -

"Can you confirm the numbers & costs of officers designated during the 2008-2009 season at Northampton Town, Northampton Saints, Rushden & Diamonds and Kettering Town?"

Of course, with the "Freedom of Information Act" in place (at least until after the next election anyway), the police kind of have to respond to such frivolous requests, even if it does take months!
The Saints were thrown in just to see what costs "friendly" rugby incurred for having crowds well in excess of 10,000. It surprised us a little to discover that Northamptonshire Police supplied NO officers to cover a single Saints game. We all know that rugby has this happy-clappy reputation. All chums together. Squeezing balls in the scrum and all that. Thousands of baying beer-monsters, and not a hint of trouble. But still, in a society where a meeting of a few dozen people can be considered a threat to public order and cannot happen without police permission, or paid police involvement, this seems a strange statistic.

But what of the Poppies?

Well, would it surprise you to learn that far more PC's attended our fixtures last season than Cobblers and Diamonds COMBINED?

We also played host to more Police Sergeants than the Cobblers and Diamonds COMBINED!

Or of the 10 Chief Inspectors who attended games in the County last season, fully EIGHT of them made their way to Rockingham Road?

This is even more incredible in light of the fact that ours and Diamonds gates were pretty similar last season, and whilst we were charged in excess of £28,000 for the privilege of watching real coppers (no PCSO's mind) catch up with their text messages and stuff their faces with burgers, the cost to the Diamonds for their policing was a big fat ZERO. Perhaps they have more stewards? Or maybe their chairman is a Freemason? Who knows, but not finding tens of thousands per annum for the police benevolent fund must be helpful when working to a budget!

And how can it possibly be right that the Poppies with average gates last season around the 1700 mark ended up with almost twice as many PC's at our home games than the Cobblers who averaged over 5000 during 2008-2009? And this is in a league that included home games against both Millwall and Leeds!

Why are we getting such a raw deal from the local plod? Do they see Imraan, and his reported wealth as a rich, soft touch? Again, no one but the Police themselves will know for sure. And with Leeds United coming here in a few weeks time it looks like we'll have to pray for a sell-out, massive TV coverage and extra merchandise sales just to keep the Boys in Blue happy, who are, no doubt, reserving the expensive helicopter, horses, dogs, and tear gas as this is being typed.

Second Round, Here We Come!

No need for 95th minutes goals today!

And then the draw for the Second Round...

"Which way to the bank...?" Leeds United at home has to be the plum draw of the round. I just really, really hope the local police don't see it as an opportunity to pay off their mortgages.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Taking the Piss

I'm sure our beloved Councillors will be able to explain away how they are attempting the very actions Imraan was vilified for suggesting.

Interesting that, like the rest of us, the local traders cannot see the point of another supermarket in the town centre.

Mind you, a nice big shopping centre in the middle of our rapidly shrinking heritage quarter, and the council can finally congratulate themselves on finally destroying the entire town centre. Bravo.

"Trust me, I'm a politician"

Easy Peasy (kind of)

With the away FA Cup tie at Hartlepool almost upon us, I thought I'd look at our record over the last 20 or so years when playing away to League teams. Initially, I got unnecessarily excited when I made a list of the "Giants" we had sent tumbling out of the Cup on their own patches. At first I thought our record read, Played 7, Won 4, Drawn 1 and Lost 2. Brilliant! We've got to fancy our chances with this record! Better pop straight round to Ladbrokes.

However, after sharing my findings it was pointed out that I'd somehow omitted the defeats at Gillingham and Blackburn. Bugger!

The now complete and accurate list of our FA Cup away-days against League Clubs in recent memory (until I remember another one) is as follows: -

Halifax Town. Won 3-2. Great night, great trip (except for the coach catching fire) Robbie Cooke and Russell Lewis shot us to heaven (well, more exactly, Charlton).

Charlton Athletic. Lost 2-1. The largest Poppies migration which didn't involve twin towers descended on South London. Cooke scored the goal which put us within touching distance or glory.

Maidstone United. Won 2-1. Revenge in some small measure for them beating us to promotion to the league a couple of years earlier. Not sure if we'd got better in the meantime, but they sure as hell were worse! Phil Brown and Darren Oxbrow scored for us. However, only one of them was a Kettering player at that time!

Blackburn Rovers. Lost 4-1. Rovers were about to go on a Millionaire-backed ride that would result in a Premier League title. They took a short break from their inexorable rise to give us a bit of a spank. Brownie scored our goal, which looks better every time you see it, and it looked pretty good at the time.

Gillingham. Lost 3-2. Most annoying of Cup defeats at League grounds because we deserved so much more. Brownie again, and Swamp-Monster Richard Hill did the business for us, but a referee who couldn't spot a foul on a goalie from all of three feet away consigned us to defeat. We were in the midst of one of our periodic downturns, and Graham Carr was picking up players from everywhere to fulfill fixtures. This defeat still rankles.

Ah ha!! Bet you thought I'd forgotten Wrexham. Drew 1-1. Cannot recall for the life of me who scored. Hopefully someone will be able to dredge that one up!

Hull City. Won 1-0. In their pre-Premier League whipping-boy period, Hull were a struggling basement team waiting to be turned over by a sub-standard Poppies team. Matt Fisher's thumping effort turned out to be Peter Morris's last hurrah.

Bristol City. Lost 3-1. Darren Collins gave us a surprising half time lead at Ashton Gate, but eventually we were swept away. Probably the only game where he sweated for us, and didn't spend all his time moaning at Dale Watkins.

Lincoln City. Won 2-1. Almost up to date now. Craig Westcarr scored our first, and then recent pop-side scapegoat Lyseden Christie silenced his boo-boys for fully two minutes by heading our late winner. A sweet victory over their lying, whining, loudmouth manager, who's name now escapes me.

Notts County. Drew 1-1. This was a game against the 2008-9 Notts County vintage prior to Sven, flying visits from Sol Campbell, and shady foreign millionaires. Brett Solkhon put us 1-0 up, and of course, we won the replay after they drew level. We went on to go on and sell out Rockingham Road against the mighty Eastwood Town. Fully 4000 more people turned up for this game than would have been there had it been the third round of the Trophy rather than the Cup!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Derek Waugh RIP

Sad news today that former Ace-Poppies reporter Derek Waugh has died.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Don't all reply at once!

It has now been two weeks since we emailed our local elected officials to ask about their position with regard to the survival of the Poppies. The usual suspects, Hakewell and Hollobone trotted out the usual lengthy platitudes, full of political double-speak, and not even approaching answering the questions asked. If you've written to either gentleman you've no doubt received the exact same reply. We're equally sure they have it saved as a document to send via email upon request - regardless of the questions they are asked.

Of the other 30-odd councillors only two have seen fit to reply. Both positively. As for the rest - so much for democracy and local accountability. So much for the common decency of a response, even if it's, "F*ck you and your football club!" They've all been sent a little reminder as to what the general consensus is about politicians, and the fact that they are helping to foster this opinion.

The important points the Council are somehow not hearing, also the ET with it's coverage, are simply: -

The Poppies want NO COUNCIL MONEY.
The Poppies want NO COUNCIL LAND.
The Poppies seek only a favourable response to building an out of town shopping, football and community area. Such developments, although they may be frowned upon, are NOT ILLEGAL. It doesn't affect any of your precious "town plans" that are usually set in stone until the Council decide to bend or break them.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. SO WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

It seems that we are going around in circles. The Club and Asda (as was) won't put a planning application in without hearing positive noises from the Council, whilst the Council won't officially comment until the application goes in.

Of course, unofficially the Council may try to screw us over for new offices and a pool, but obviously that doesn't count. It's just politicians trying to f*ck us over once again. Just our luck to have the only Council in the country who don't understand the asset to a town a successful football club can be.


Well, the second email stirred up the proverbial hornets nest. Replies came thick and fast - mostly taking exception to our somewhat disgruntled tone at being ignored previously. Some showed support, but were fearful of stepping out of the line so well defined by the Council Leader. Others limply played "follow the leader" and said that the reply from Cllr Hakewell was also their reply. No doubt this is much better than thinking for themselves....