So I would probably have been there come what may, but there’s no denying that this felt like a final journey, like visiting a dying relative. There can’t have been more than about a dozen Poppies fans at the game. None had any reason to open their vocal cords. The team wore unfamiliar QPR hoops and only the badge on the shirt (which may or may not get washed for future use) identified them as Kettering Town players. But for that they could have been a bunch of decent park footballers. I only recognised two and didn’t feel that compelled to try to identify the others. John Beck did his best to gee them up, giving a virtual running commentary on every hoof, flick and tackle, but his insistence on a high tempo 100mph style was way beyond the players’ skill levels on this evidence, and time and again the ball just pinged out of play. It wasn’t pretty, in fact it was almost unwatchable. But it’s unfair to criticise anyone on the playing side when they’re already wondering where the next pay cheque is coming from. Mark Cooper stood watching quietly. Scouting maybe, or just paying his respects?
Faced with this grim spectacle I drifted away into thoughts about all the nights I’ve spent watching KTFC over the years. My first game, aged about 8, sitting in the new main stand at the end of the Atkinson era, initially quite interested until I grew cold and bored. The highs – great nights in Cup replays and promotion campaigns – but also the lows and the ordinary in-betweens when we scraped a draw against Welling or Moor Green but you at least knew that there’d be plenty more to follow. Looking around Stourbridge’s ground – one covered end, one open end with no steps, a tatty pop side and a cricket field facing it, I’d swap Nene Park for it without question, if it were somewhere in Kettering. But really what I want is Rockingham Road back. If we have to die, I’d rather it were there. We were told we had to move to Nene Park because otherwise the club had no future beyond 2013. Now, is there anyone left who believes we’ll see out 2012?
A corner of a foreign field