“It’s not the despair. I can take the despair, it’s the hope I can’t stand”.
So now at least we know our fate, there is a strange kind of relief. We hoped (against reality, logic and the evidence of our eyes) that somehow the team would escape relegation. We hoped that maybe we’d get away with dropping just one level. But having been through a near death experience, any kind of life is better than none at all, and this may prove to be a line in the sand.
There is no point dwelling on what might have been. They’re all guilty – Ladak, Pickering, KBC, a cast of other characters going back to those who made the fateful decision to sell Rockingham Road in 1985 for a sum not much greater than the Trust have donated in the past few months. We need to move on. We need to adjust to the new reality. We are not a non League giant any more. We are not one good season away from the Football League. We have a fractured fanbase, we have precious little support outside a hard core and we are now to be competing at a level below Brackley and Corby . Some might say, that’s not the Kettering Town I grew up supporting – and no, me neither. I was hooked by the atmosphere, the occasional ‘star’ player, the feeling that we were always on the cusp of being a League club. But you probably have to be a certain type of person to follow a non-League club in the first place. If it was all about nice grounds and big crowds, none of us would bother.
That said, it’s going to take some getting used to. Next season is going to feel like a groundhog day of early qualifying rounds in the Cup. For every new away ground, there’ll be a Redditch United. Some of the pitches will make the Glebe look like Wembley, and every team visiting Nene Park will raise their game. That 10 point deduction will hurt. Plus there’ll be no more trawling for the scores on teletext or studying the table in the Sunday paper – unless it’s one that drills right down into the minor leagues. Minor league – that’s us folks.
All this assumes of course that the SLP with a clean slate is where we bottom out. The truth is, none of us can predict how we will fare in this new environment. A promotion challenge could attract crowds of 1,000 plus – but mid table mediocrity? And if we start losing money again, it’s difficult to see any future.
But the sun is shining and for now, KTFC lives on. Maybe we’ll all feel better and ready for the new season after a break. About 2 years should do it.