Thursday, 29 November 2012

"We'll support you evermore!" Yeah, right.

Not so long ago we were delighted that there was still a chance that the Poppies might survive.  A few weeks later and all too many of us are reverting to type and moaning that our team of unpaid teenagers aren't wiping the floor with settled teams of paid adults.  Are we really expecting us to be any more than barely competitive with our bunch of willing kids?

Have we forgotten the condition the club is in?  Absentee owner?  Non Park draped around our neck like a noose?  Almost all our fans melted away to the dubious pleasures of shopping and Sky Sports?  A team run with almost no budget, out of another ground by a bunch of volunteers?  Ringing any bells yet?

Survival in even the short term is a distant prospect.  The pulse of the Poppies can barely be felt.  Every game is an effort to maintain a holding pattern in the hope that something better will happen.  And what are the players and staff hearing from the terraces and online forums?  All too often it's typical Kettering moaning!  And as for those still whining about Imraan, do they really believe he is sitting back and coining it from our 400 gates?  Killing our club off will hurt us more than it will him!

I wouldn't blame anyone making the effort to keep our club going were they to jack it in.  Not only have hundreds of "fans" deserted our club, too many of the few left don't seem to have grasped our horribly reduced circumstances.  IT IS ALL ABOUT SURVIVAL, AND NOTHING ELSE.  Sad to say, but if we don't win a game between now and May, at least the club has lasted until May.

Who knows, we may even survive.  Other clubs in a similar position have not only survived, but re-established themselves.  Now is not the time to wobble.  Stick with it guys, on and off the pitch.  If we don't make it we can at least hold our heads high and say we gave it our best shot.  And if better days return we will be ideally placed to welcome back those supporters who used to sing, "We'll support you evermore", or "You are my Kettering..." which should have been followed with the line, "as long as we win all the time."


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Poppies best ever signing?

Lewis Wilson - any player utilising the surnames
of both of the granddaddies of PATGOD
must surely be a rare footballing talent?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

A big "Non" to Non Park.

In the coming week our club officials (yeah, I know, but bear with me) will be trying to locate a suitable football ground for us to borrow to enable us to host Bedworth.  Obviously our new owners will have taken over before this game, (yeah, I know, but again, bear with me) and they may have some say as to where their new team actually play.

It would appear that a continued ground share at Corby, playing on Sundays is on the table, assuming the league allow us to do this, and, I guess, the opposition are happy to play then.  This option would appear to be better than than the reported offers to borrow either Leamington or St Neots, even though it is heartening that two clubs we have no history with us are prepared to make such a generous offer.

A worrying development is the prospect that Non Park may feature again in our future.  As far as can be ascertained Ladak is still paying some sort of rent.  The new investors are also reported to be in discussion with Cousins.  This would lead us to suspect that should anything actually happen with  buy-out or additional investment that Non Park would feature.  Obviously this would be good news for Imraan who can foist his crushing lease for the ground onto someone else, and hold on to his knee-caps.  Good news too for Cousins who gets a few more footballing paydays before ploughing the site under bulldozers in a couple of years time and putting up yet another warehouse.  It's possibly good news for any new investors who, electricity supply allowing, will have their shot at making Non Park earn money from it's "wonderful facilities". 

These amazing amenities include such ground-breaking features as -

  • Lots of rooms - some with keys!
  • Some rooms with power supplied to them!
  • Occasional heating!
  • Windows!
  • Wonderful location, just outside a village in rural East Northants (voted the 596th best place to live in England in 1994!)
  • Views of the pitch!
  • Some working toilets!
  • We'll follow Alan Doyle's Poppy Army
    anywhere.  Well, almost anywhere...
  • At least one room with running water (not hot)

But is a possible re-relocation to Non Park any good for the supporters?  Between our first and last games as tenants of the place we have managed to lose at least 1200 supporters.  Of the 300 who made that last game at Bashley I'd wager not that many would be prepared to be forced to return there again.  It's no coincidence that over 50% more people turned up at the next game at Corby.  We never wanted to be at Non Park, and now we've managed to get away from the place the last thing we want is to be dragged back, screaming to that cursed soulless pit.

If any future owner has found themselves accidentally reading this I truly hope they will not be suckered in by the "glamour" of the Irthlingborough folly, and the stories of how the place is basically a cash cow that somehow has been mis-managed by everyone since Mad Max Griggs's days of wild spending.  It's a money pit.  Pure and simple.

We've escaped the bloody place.  Please God the few of us hanging in there with the Poppies aren't forced to choose between our Club and promising never to cross the Nonce Park threshold again.

Old Boys 3 Young Boys 0

After enduring a Poppyless month racked with almost daily dread of checking the latest news, I realised that I missed football more than I realised.  Even a hopelessly uncompetitive bunch of strangers wearing red, getting tonked by village sides – this was still my team, the only one I care about.  So the lure of Arlesey away proved irresistible.  Stick your Soccer Saturday or mooching around the shops, this was the only place to be!  A view shared by 243 others.

On entering Arlesey’s modest but neat new ground, the brilliantly named Armadillo Stadium, it was good to see several familiar Poppies on the pitch. Had any of them been lining up for us, even better, but beggars can’t be choosers.  Nathan Abbey filled his goalmouth  - literally, Sol orchestrated things from left back and Drew Roberts was a reminder of older days.  I swear I even saw Derek Brown on their subs bench – a man who we first saw put boot to ball before mobile phones were invented.  As I say, any one of them would have enhanced our pre-pubescent starting XI, were it not for our rather restrictive salary structure, which effectively rules out anyone with higher expectations than a paper boy.

The Poppies Colts worked hard, albeit it was like watching pinball, and there wasn’t a lot between the sides until Arlesey snuck a goal just before the break. Afterwards it could have been Bashley again. A couple of late Poppies efforts missed by roughly equal amounts of height and width, and Abbey was denied the sorely needed opportunity to burn off some calories. In fact, when you factor in the half time cuppa (two sugars) and slice of Battenburg, he ended the match heavier than when he started it.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Bigger and better FFS!

That curious sound echoing around Kettering this morning was the sound of collective teeth being gnashed as we listened to a sad mare from Corby on the radio casually mention that her club was "bigger and better than Kettering".

As my knee-jerk irritation abated I was forced to admit, she actually had a point.  They play in a higher division than us.  I can only assume their crowds are larger than ours.  They are still in the FA Trophy. They have a ground and we don't.  They have a Chairman who seems to have his head screwed on right.  We have a twelve year old wannabee, sick in bed, playing Championship Manager 2012 and thinking it's real.  Why, they've even got a by-election today.  It's a happening place.

Of course, this conveniently ignores the fact that as a team Corby are no further forward than they were ten, twenty, or thirty years ago.  We may have been the perennial "nearly-men" during our pomp, but Corby have never risen above being background noise in the non-league game.  The only times they see a crowd is when either we or Glasgow Rangers are the opponents (they obviously have a thing for clubs run by twats and fallen on hard times!) 

Were it not for the heroic efforts of their council CTFC would have disappeared many years ago.  By supplying a steady stream of new stadia their council has chosen to keep their club going.  Curiously one doesn't hear of much outcry from other sporting bodies within Corby, which our own council believes would be the case were they to ever lift a finger to assist the Poppies.  Never overestimate the benefit of having a council who see mileage in having a local team bear the name of their town.

Of course Corby Town aren't bigger than the Poppies.  The woman's statement amply proved this.  The bigger team is the more magnanimous team.  The team that comfortably knows it's place in the overall pecking order, regardless of temporary set-backs or temporary surges.  When we allowed Corby to use our ground a few years ago the event barely registered with us.  Our rivalry was in name only despite the desperate continued chip-on-shoulder protestations of Corby supporters and bitter sniping. 

If you're now the "big club", perhaps it is time to act like it.

As for a merger?  We haven't avoided being East Northants FC only to end up as North Northants FC!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Is Keith Cousins the Devil?

They say we know him by many names.  Beelzebub.  The Lord of Misrule.  The Father of Lies.  The Nail.  He may not have the horns of the forked tail, but it looks like we need to add the name of Keith Cousins to the list.  Not, we hasten to add, because he is demonstrably evil, or has spent eternity waging war on man's better nature.  Nor because he enjoys torturing lost souls for eternity in the fiery pit of hell, although we've equally no evidence this isn't the case.

"C'mon Imraan, just sign!"
No, one of the Devil's more under-appreciated talents was in the drawing-up of pretty damn air-tight contracts.  Whether it be Faust, Daniel Webster or Bernie Eccleston (you explain his success?) the Devil has tempted and offered contracts to eternally bind the greedy, morally bankrupt and the breathtakingly gullible.  On the subject of Imraan, one can only guess at the honey-dripping deal Cousins offered to foist Non Park upon us? 

Surely to rent out Non Park for £12,500 per month for 25 years (£.3.5 million), plus all utility bills for the entire site, plus all repair costs, plus maintenance, as well as hosting their f*cking car boot sale for free every Sunday, Devil-Cousins must have offered Imraan something special in return?  You'd have thought a couple of inches on the old todger and the telephone number of the new bird off "Countdown" as a bare minimum?

But no.  It would appear that the only other additional detail in the contract is that it cannot be broken.  Ever.  Even if the Poppies played elsewhere.  Cousins wants his wedge.

Of course, had Imraan performed due diligence on the stadium, showed Cousins's contract to a solicitor, or even casually flicked through the bloody thing himself, we wouldn't be in the position we're in now.  Where can we find a Portia when you need one to wheedle us out of a seemingly unbreakable contract? (you see Pete, I did pay a bit of attention in BJS's class!) 

No, Imraan signed as quickly as he could whip the lid off his pen.  Somehow a man who fancied himself as a Poker player and had two football ground owners outbidding each other in an effort to tempt us, had managed to play his hand so badly that just over a year later our club is relieved to have lost a home game at Corby in front of under 500 people.

So, how do we outwit Cousins if he truly has the Poppies by the nuts?  Easy.  Don't pay him another penny.  Pop the keys to the place back through his letter box and tell him to stick the sh1t-hole up HIS sh1t-hole.  He probably won't like this.  But what can he do?  Force the Poppies to play at Non Park?  Break Imraan's legs?  All he can do is appeal to have the club wound up.  I say let him.  I'd rather the Poppies were forced out of business than give him another penny.  If we go back to Irthlingborough we're dead anyway.  As I see it, Cousins has two choices.  He can either lets us go, or force our closure. 

Either way there's no more Poppies paydays for Satan and Imraan can piss off back to playing on his X-box!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Come on you squatting cockroaches!

Ok, our moderate team lost to a very poor Redditch team, at an out of town ground, in front of less than 500 supporters.

But on the positive side, we had eleven men on the park, managed to fulfil a league fixture, in a ground that wasn't Non F*cking Park, in front of a couple of hundred more fans than our last game.

And the game itself was, well, entertaining!  When was the last time you could say that?

The fact that this game happened at all is down to a lot of people putting in work behind the scenes, including Ritchie, the Corby chairman, and maybe even their supporters!  And also, not forgetting, Corby Council, who, in one afternoon have done more for the Poppies than Kettering Council have managed in 140 years.

Poppies live to fight another day.  They are harder
to get rid of than cockroaches!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Pissing on the chips of the programme hoarders!

The news that this coming Saturday a team called Kettering Town FC are due to play a game of football comes as a surprise to the footballing world in general and Poppies fans in particular.  OK, we're borrowing Corby's ground (any chance of getting the seats to spell out "KTFC" as this is something I've become used to?)  OK, we've probably assembled a team of UCL level players who can't get a game at their own clubs.  OK, there's no guarantee that this arrangement at Steal Park will be repeated.  OK, the tiresome "new investor" story is still being pedalled by Ladak.  OK, we still seem to be tied to Scum Park by the most deviously written lease written in the history of the written word.

But still....

This is a game few of us thought we'd ever see.  Beyond the insular world of the Imraan-hating Poppies supporting public it seems that our plight hasn't gone completely unnoticed.  Numerous pundits and websites have highlighted our plight, even if only to hold the Poppies up as an example when clubs over-stretch themselves.  Individuals too have stood up to be counted.  Alan Doyle, seemingly appointed to the post of Manager via text message from a club owner who hasn't seen fit to pay him since the summer is putting eleven bodies together.  Richie Jeune has sorted out this weekend's match and will underwrite the losses accrued.  This is a big gesture for someone with no previous connection to the town or the club.  Beyond shelling out money and getting sacked by Imraan for suggesting the very move Imraan has now asked him to oversee.

Home sweet home.  This week anyway.
We hear that Imraan was too sick to sort this weekend out himself.  Let us be grateful for this mercy as well as for the infection that has laid him low.  Had Imraan personally took control this week we would be scrabbling around on Friday for the hire of the artificial pitch down at the Leisure Village, dragging the local pubs for players and somehow got ourselves stuck with a 1000 year lease of the Olympic stadium.

If nothing else this Saturday will give me a chance to wear my new Poppies shirt, and annoy those people who purchased a dozen copies of the Bashley programme in order to sell them for a fat profit as the Poppies final game.  At three quid a pop for a cover and teamsheet masquerading as a programme, they just might make their money back if they keep in perfect condition for, say, the next 100 years.

I'd like to think that a reasonable turn out will make the effort of getting over to Corby to show that we appreciate the efforts of those involved, and apprecaite that KTFC still exist (whatever a reasonable turn out, and KTFC constitutes these days) but I fear the hundreds that have become disenchanted with KTFC under Ladak may have gone forever. 

The patient's not quite dead yet, even though the doctors are still actively checking to make sure they know which of his pockets has the donor card.

Wanted: someone to end this farce

At Kettering Town we’ve always liked to do things differently. Shirt sponsorship pioneers. Building a stand that ends just past the halfway line. Spotting the management potential of Paul Gascoigne. And now, add to that list, being a club that exists only in name.

If we thought the Bashley game marked some sort of closure we were sadly mistaken. A month later the club drifts on in a peculiar half life and so do we – assuming that if by reading this you still can’t quite let it go.

But for how long? Theoretically there is a game this Saturday against Redditch. No one seriously believes it will happen. We have nowhere to play it, unless Redditch were to offer to host the fixture, and not nearly enough registered players, unless the league sanctions a game of 5 a side.  Though seriously, you wouldn’t put it past them.  They seem to be as reluctant to call time as Imraan is to make a tearful confession that it’s all his fault.  Five postponements and counting – isn’t about time the Pools Panel were called in?

And yet, somehow despite it all we do seem still to possess a first team manager. We know this because once a week, after the latest stay of execution, Alan Doyle delivers another of his dignified interviews along the lines of “no I don’t know what the **** is going on either”.  Fair play to him, he hasn’t given up. Last I saw, he’d put in a seven day approach for a UCL player, who is reluctant to join us.  And not, it goes without saying, because he doesn’t fancy all the extra travelling.

Meanwhile Imraan still talks of his mystery investor, much as Hitler dreamed of ultimate victory as the Russians closed in on the bunker. No one except a few blazers at the Southern League believes there is such a person. Really, Imraan should be told to stop being delusional and stick to his proper job of online gambling.  And even if there is someone stupid enough out there to pump money into arguably a worst business proposition than a Gary Glitter comeback tour, and Alan Doyle can attract people willing to play for nothing and get thumped every week, where will that take us. A homeless band of park pitch footballers, whose sole ambition is to get out of minus points by the end of the season.

It’s not quite the blueprint for glory that was outlined on that fateful night at Wicksteed Park.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The forgotten FA Cup run.

We're taking a quick break from all the present doom and gloom to look back at the first season for a generation that we felt any genuine doom and gloom - the relegation season of 2000-01.  For years before that season we thought we were being put through the mental wringer when we finished out of the Top 5 in the league!  By the start of the current century Peter Morris's grim brand of football was no longer delivering the goods or the 2000 plus crowds.

We eventually slipped out of the league, despite the Herculean efforts of the team once Mallinger had finally shown Morris the door and installed Carl Shutt as our first player/manager for many years.  Morris's last hurrah was a small but eventful FA Cup run to the second round.

 Now, beware, from this stage on in this piece I am having to rely on my own less than perfect memory to fill out the details!  The run began in the fourth qualifying round with a reasonably comfortable 2-0 win away to Chesham United.  The only point of interest I can recall from this game was the temporary participation of Matt Fisher.  One can only assume that he was annoyed to be on the bench, because when he came on he had steam coming out of his ears and within minutes was heading for an early bath.  But don't worry, Matt wasn't done with the season's cup run.

Our "reward" for dispatching mighty Chesham was a home tie with Hull City.  This was not the Hull City of recent years.  The Hull City of Premier League football, 30,000 capacity stadia, and Phil Brown crooning into the microphone like a drunk dad at a kid's party.  No, this was the basement division Hull City of crumbling ground, and long-standing joke of being the largest city in the whole of Europe never to play in a top division.

The game ended 0-0 at Rockingham Road in front of a large 2800+ gate.  I can't remember a single detail of the encounter, but still decided the instant it was over that I simply must make my way up to glamorous Hull for the replay.  Such was the attraction of rushing straight out of work and up the A1 to the back of beyond that the entire PATGOD posse bundled into the editor's car for the trip.  We still managed to get there in time for a couple of pints before entering Boothferry Park and an away end even smaller than the one at Rockingham Road.  Not that this was a problem - tonight was a die-hards only outing!  The fact that we'd just won four games all season had thinned the glory-hunters out of our ranks.  Boothferry Park was a great old ground, with acres of terracing, rusty stands and peeling paint to the fore.  Imagine Rockingham Road if it could hold 20,000!

The game was a tight one and quite exciting.  That man Matt Fisher was much at the centre of the action - this time for the right reason.  Picking up the ball well outside the Hull penalty area he thumped the ball (rather than an opposition player for once) into the home team's net.  What!  The Poppies were winning?  We'd quite forgotten what this feeling was like!  Hull never really threatened and we saw out the game quite comfortably.  Why couldn't we do this in the league?

After the game there was, for me at least, an unsavoury moment.  Occasionally, I suppose like all groups of supporters, some of our number lack class, or at least, good grace.  Whilst the home fans were filing out they generously applauded  both us and our team, only for one of our spuds to rub their noses in losing to a part-time team.  A tacky gesture when the opposition fans were being noble at a time when they probably felt like shit.

With FA Cup progress temporarily disguising the train wreck masquerading as a league season, we drew Championship Bristol City in the second round.  A (numerically) healthy following made the trip down to Ashton Gate far more in hope than expectation.  After a couple of hours drinking in the kind of estates pub that you only feel comfortable in when surrounded by forty or fifty like-minded individuals we rolled into another impressively sized stadium to see what Morris's boys could serve up for us.

I may be entirely wrong about this, and if so, please let me know, but my I seem to recall this game marked Darren Collins's debut for the Poppies?  If so, it was some debut as he crashed a volley into the City net after half an hour to give us a half time lead.  Something we consistently failed to do against teams in our own division!

Perhaps I am confusing Collins's debut with his former Direones partner Dale Watkins who made a mysterious debut the season before at our match away to Scarborough.  The missus and I had been up on the North Yorkshire coast ahead of the match, and, this being the days before mass Internet usage, and the fact the local newspaper, "The Grumbling Yorkshireman", wasn't as fulsome in its Poppies coverage as it might have been, meant we had no idea Watkins had signed for us.  We spent the vast majority of the game watching this little bald forward who certainly looked like Watkins darting around, making runs that our labouring midfield wouldn't have spotted even if they were issued with binoculars.  Of course the partnership of Direones Watkins and Collins had it's second flowering the following season when we won the Southern League.  Who can forget Dale's shed load of goals, tireless effort and mighty celebrations at Tiverton?  And who can forget Collins berating his strike partner all season for not putting the ball exactly on his foot when he was standing on the edge of the 6-yard box, and yelling out the always confusing instruction to him of "Half and half" every time we had a throw-in?

Of course, as we know, Bristol hit back, but the 1-3 scoreline wasn't too dispiriting, and we could all turn our attention back to the league (oh, goody!)  Morris's last tilt at glory was over, and relegation for the first time in a generation was looming.  A lot has happened since to make that relegation look like more of a holiday than a demotion, but at the time it felt like the end of the world.  Boy, we really had no idea back then, did we?

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Ladak's still got it!

So, the Southern League has declared the Poppies OK to carry on.  The transfer embargo has been lifted and games have been rescheduled to give us the best possible chance of assembling a team.  The club has apparently reached agreements with disgruntled players, and former players.

Of course, there are still a couple of small issues counting against us such as our having no team, ground, funds or supporters, but we're pretty sure such trifling matters can be easily overcome.  How about groundsharing with Corby.  You know, the exact plan that got Ritchie the sack a couple of months ago.

On balance, it has to be said that today's result represents Imraan's finest moment of pure Ladakism.  He turned up at the Southern League meeting with nothing to offer except the obligatory mystery investor and a gripe with DRC Locums.  Armed with this moderate ammunition he appears to have completely won over the Southern League board.  Our complete lack of belief in Imraan's words and actions may colour how we regard him, but we easily forget what a good game he talks. 

It seems he can still charm the birds from the trees.  At least for a while.  In a few weeks when the CVA is still not being paid, we have nowhere to play, nor un-paid players to play even if we had somewhere to play, he may have shot his last bolt!  Let's be honest, Ladak reaches agreements every day with players, suppliers and others.  The problem he has is actually honouring the agreements he reaches.  It will soon be DRC's fault nothing is paid.  Or the pretend sponsors.  Or the "investors" not appearing.

A stay of execution then.  It says a lot for how Imraan has crushed our spirit that this stay has been greeted with a resounding "...meh."  We limp on for a little longer. If nothing else, we've at least given ourselves a couple more shots at a Euro-lottery win!