Saturday, 31 August 2013

Show Some Disrespect!

Disrespect. It’s the hottest new word in the sporting dictionary. Everywhere you look, people are taking offence at some perceived breach of etiquette, like we have suddenly been transported back to the days of a gentlemanly code of conduct.   As if modern sport wasn’t pompous enough, the outbreak of the D word has ratcheted it up another level.

Everton accuse Manchester Utd of showing “disrespect” in their offer for Fellaini and Baines (translation: stick another £10m on it and they’re yours). Pardew slams Wenger for making a  “disrespectful ” bid for Cabaye on the day of a game (translation:  call me in the morning).  Rodgers says Suarez shows a “disrespectful” lack of loyalty (translation: let’s see if the scumbag has a sliver of conscience left). Already 606 callers are bandying it around too, or at least the needy ones who try to talk like pundits.

Meanwhile at the Oval, Michael Vaughan accuses England’s players of showing “disrespect” by taking a pee on the pitch after the game (no word yet from the groundsman on that, but he is understood to agree). Stuart Broad hits back by saying those comments are “disrespectful”.  Vaughan faints at this outrageous slur.  This is all part of the disturbing wider trend of sportspeople taking themselves way too seriously, talking as if the responsibility for national security rests on their shoulders, rather than grown men kicking or hitting balls. Guys!  Get over yourselves, or go off a fight a duel or something to satisfy your honour.  

Arsene and Alan meet to settle their differences. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Pets Corner

The line between real life and spoof news grows ever more blurry. On the eve of Celtic’s return fixture against Shakhtar Karagandy, it was reported that the visitors had been refused permission to make an animal sacrifice before the game.  Apparently this is a regular part of their pre-match preparations back home (somewhere in between a bit of light limbering up, and the final few words from the coach) and had obviously helped them to a 2-0 advantage in the first leg.

I defy you to read that and not instantly picture Borat high fiving his team mates whilst wearing the mankini away strip.  And now struggle to get the image out of your mind.

Perhaps having googled ‘Glasgow football’ it was assumed that a blood soaked ritual would be well received, but they reckoned without the firm hand of UEFA. In an official statement, they said:

“Animal sacrifice is not a part of the beautiful game.”

Phew! Thanks for the clarification.  Although in certain parts of East Northants, they still beg to differ.      

A relieved goat yesterday

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Premiership Transfer Window Frenzy Hits New Heights!!!

Just over a three weeks ago we exclusively reported these earth-shattering footballing stories!

  • Gareth Bale may or may not move to Real Madrid
  • Wayne Rooney may or may not move to Chelsea
  • Luis Suarez may or may not move to Arsenal
  • Cesc Fabregas may or may not move to Manchester United
  • Any number of other exotically named footballers may or may not move between clubs across Europe

  • A week later we followed this up with the following, amazing developments!
  • Gareth Bale may or may not move to Real Madrid.
  • Wayne Rooney may or may not move to Chelsea.
  • Luis Suarez may or may not move to Arsenal.
  • Cesc Fabregas may or may not move to Manchester United
  • Any number of other exotically named footballers may or may not move between clubs across Europe

  • And now, with the transfer window inexorably closing, hold onto your hats for the latest mind-boggling update!

  • Gareth Bale may or may not move to Real Madrid.
  • Wayne Rooney may or may not move to Chelsea.
  • Luis Suarez may or may not move to Arsenal.
  • Cesc Fabregas may or may not move to Manchester United
  • Any number of other exotically named footballers may or may not move between clubs across Europe

  • I hope you can stand the excitement, because I know I can't!

    "C'mon Bale, piss or get off the pot!"

    Sunday, 25 August 2013

    Desperately trying to see "The Big Picture"

    I will never be able to fully express my thanks to the people who have kept the club alive.

    I can put up with our reduced circumstances.

    As much as I hate seeing us struggling I know there is a bigger picture.

    I can just about withstand seeing my team get regularly beaten by clubs who shouldn't even feature on the Poppies radar.

    I can even, with gritted teeth, put up with being surrounded by fellow whinging supporters.

    I can put up with a lot.  But I'm not sure I can swallow being asked, as we were over the tannoy yesterday, to "Continue supporting the Poppies", by Dave Dunham of all people.

    Saturday, 24 August 2013

    First Impressions of Latimer Park

    I would guess that for most of the 789 in attendance, Tuesday night was their first peek at the facilities at our new home. Curiosity perhaps mingled with apprehension – just how basic would it be? I admit to being unsure how I would feel about the experience, but I began to warm to the place immediately. 

    Approaching the ground, there was for the first time since Rockingham Road a sense that we were back in familiar surroundings – semi home territory at least, and people were approaching on foot rather than car being the only option. A queue snaked to the turnstile block, adjacent to a clubhouse that looked inviting, and inside there was something of a reunion atmosphere as the Poppy fraternity gathered in greater numbers than expected.

    Along what I guess we’ll call the Pop Side, the little stands add character and the temporary one at the end provided a reasonable view, with space to replace it with a larger one if there is sufficient demand.  With the tents in between, the waft of cooking and spectators clutching pints it felt a bit like watching a festival cricket match – no bad thing.  Obviously a warm summer evening is a far cry from a wet night in November but it was possible to imagine how the facilities could be improved before the weather turns – a bit more cover, and maybe a walkway behind the stands before the grass gets churned up by more pairs of feet than LP is used to.

    In the longer term, I wonder if anything can be usefully cannibalised from Rockingham Road, before the wrecking ball moves in. Could there be a viable covered end from the materials that make up the ‘Mark English Stand’?  Are the Cowper Street slabs reusable, or the tea huts? It would be nice if some part of RR could be transplanted – even if it is just the clock!

    After the experience of the last two years, playing at grounds that though well appointed and modern never felt remotely ‘ours’, this ramshackle arena, backing onto houses not industrial units or fields, is closer in spirit to scruffy old Rockingham Road.  A few hundred spectators lining the pitch on three sides will feel like a crowd, rather than being exposed in the wide open spaces of Nene Park or Corby. This is our home for the foreseeable, and it’s ok, it’s intimate and relatively accessible. Most importantly, it’s a place to regroup and see where the future takes us.           

    Friday, 23 August 2013

    Poppies fans get jitters shock!

    Well, two games, two defeats and it's already clear we need to be a bit cannier to get anywhere in this division.  We need the elusive formula of experienced heads and willing young legs that the better clubs at Southern League level seem to find.  And, judging by some of the reactions of our jittery supporters since Tuesday night, we need to find this formula quickly!

    Never a group to over-react (!) we have had to put up with the usual Poppies supporter freak-out to a reverse.  The usual phrases have been heard, and read on our various forums - "Worse game ever", "Worse team ever".  "Going down again".  "Embarrassment", Humiliated", "Disgrace."  Those last three all featured in one particularly spiky post on Poppynet by one of our more schizophrenic supporters, and he wasn't even at the game!

    I recall reading similar comments when we were pissing Conference North, reaching the fourth round of the FA Cup, and finishing in the top 6 of Conference National.  We had a fully professional squad, the majority of which are currently earning their corn quite comfortably in the Football League.  We wallowed in the success only funded by access to Imraan's bottomless company credit card, and still often squealed like flapping nancies whenever non-entities like Luton Town or Cambridge United managed to deny us 3-points!

    Thankfully, calmer heads are starting to prevail.  It's a bad start to the season, but, as far as I can remember, no-one has ever gone down after two games.  Yes, we weren't very good and were beaten by a team who played an effective system.  Yes, our team is not as good as ones we can all remember.  None of us want to be in this league, or at Latimer Park particularly.

    But this is the team we've got, and this is the league we're playing at.  And playing at Latimer is by far a better prospect than Nonce or Steal Parks.  Rome wasn't built in a day, but somehow, because we're Kettering Town Football Club, all too often we expect things to come to us quickly or easily.  Well, clearly they won't.  Just because the club still exists we aren't guaranteed to win every game and every league.  We're at rock bottom and any climb back up the divisions is going to take time and yes, we may even have the odd defeat mixed in there. 

    And I appreciate that may come as a shock to some people.

    Tuesday, 20 August 2013

    Nervous? You bet!

    I'm feeling nervous before tonight's game for the first time in years.  The past couple of seasons have been more a case of managing our decline and merely fulfilling fixtures.  Results have often been secondary to getting (up to) 11 fit men on the field of play.

    Now we've reached a level where we should start fighting back.  We've got a settled ownership and management structure in place.  We're back in the Borough.  If we haven't yet hit rock bottom, I'm not sure I can get my head around what that state might be!  The fightback has to start here.

    But what if it doesn't.  What if we're still not good enough?  Will the few stay-awayers who dip their toe back into Poppyland tonight find the shock of not being good anymore too distressing?  Do we have a good enough team to compete, even at this level?  Will we all manage to get parked at the ground?  Will we be looking at attendances of 150 as we suffered last year during those bitter Corby evenings?

    At this stage of the season there shouldn't be many "must win" games, but I fear this will be one of them.  We may only get a single chance to convince enough of our former and floating fans to give the Poppies a go again.  And that chance is tonight.

    Is it too much of a stretch to say this is our most important game since being ousted from Rockingham Road?

    Sunday, 18 August 2013

    Willey the Conqueror

    Anyone with even a passing interest in Northamptonshire’s county cricket team woke up this morning feeling unusually happy. Over 20 years without a major trophy ended yesterday at T20 Finals Day as the boys in maroon went ballistic in Birmingham.   As the commentators never stopped reminding us, Northants were outsiders, they had no big names, they’d barely won a game in this competition in the previous two seasons – and to be fair they did have a point. Northants have been rubbish at limited over cricket for so long it just seemed the natural order of things, like the nights drawing in and leaves falling from the trees. But some canny recruitment and the emergence of a major local talent have changed all that.

    For how long – who knows? This IS Northamptonshire after all. But it was great viewing, enriched by the Sky boys choking on their predictions. Nasser Hussain was in the saddle as the semi final started to come to the boil.  Every Essex dot ball or diving stop was greeted with glee and you sensed he was just a key wicket away from running on to the pitch to join in the celebrations.  “Northants need a big over!!” he declared. Northants came up with about three in a row, scattering the spectators whose fancy dress costumes didn’t render them immobile. Essex then conceded 8 off a single ball and the bowler looked like he was about to weep. “The wheels have come off!!” was the final contribution from Nass before being led away.     

    That was good but the final was even better and surely the highlight was the contest between David Willey and Jade Dernbach, which Willey won about 36-0.  For the uninitiated, Jade is actually a boy and as if to prove it is lavishly inked in warrior style tattoos. He gave Willey some lip each time another awry offering was smashed for six, when a period of silent reflection might have been more appropriate. Perhaps he was saying, huh, at least it didn’t go for 8. Up in the commentary box, they struggled to find positives to describe Dernbach’s spell of 4-0-55-0, though good old Athers had a go, praising the “good comeback” as the decidedly ex international ended with a delivery that (a) hit the cut strip and (b) didn’t go to the ropes.

    In contrast Willey’s career prospects look a lot rosier after he followed his turbo innings with a hat trick to finish the game. If he played for Surrey he’d already be an international (exhibit A: Dernbach) and the worry now has to be that they or someone equally wealthy will tempt him away. Winning £200k yesterday might help Northants to compete for his services. And maybe ensure that this trophy isn’t a glorious fluke and we don’t have to wait another 20 years.


    Saturday, 17 August 2013

    Poppies At The Gates Of (Another New) Dawn

    As you can’t fail to have noticed, from the national poster advertising and breathless daily countdown on Sky Sports, the new season begins today. And if you keep drilling down, through the divisions and using a particularly powerful electron microscope, you will find our new home – the Calor League Central, located on the outer fringes of the results that appear in really small print in some newspapers.

    Still, beggars can’t be choosers, and at least as names go it could be worse. We’re not playing in a league sponsored by a betting company or a banking organisation, and have thankfully avoided having to participate in the Skrill Premier – surely the most ridiculous sponsor’s name to date. A mixture of scream and kill, it sounds like something you’d put down the toilet or use to treat a skin problem.  

    But we still face something of a culture shock. Back in the days when the team was chosen solely by a committee of ex players, an England cricket captain is reported to have wailed “My God, look what they’ve sent me”.  On reviewing the fixture list ahead, my reaction was similar: My God, look where they’re sending us.

    If last year’s itinery wasn’t exactly laced with evocative names, get a load of this one. Egham, North Greenford United, Ashford Town (Mid) – just in case anyone was tempted to go to Kent instead, Beaconsfield SYCOB (what?), Chalfont St Peter and other soccer hotbeds in the western home counties commuter belt.  Looking around for anyone we’ve ever competitively played before, you maybe have to go way back to the likes of Dunstable if excluding clubs that are offshoots or reformed versions.   

    However, having switched off from football for a while I was cheered immensely on checking the squad on the club’s website. Seems that the new management duo have been busy and are really going for promotion at the first attempt. Sure, there’s bound to be some pruning of the initial squad, but among the 60 names listed are some real gems and hats off to TB and DT for luring back the likes of Westcarr, Andre, Big X and JP  - plus it will be great to see Roy Clayton back in red again and looking to add to his record career tally.

    I also gather that we’ve moved again. Following the Poppies these days is like trying to track a student in digs – a new address every few months.  Latimer Park in Burton.  Can’t say I’ve ever been there before, unless you count a firework display many years ago. From what I can see there has been intensive work over the summer to upgrade it from a Z rating to something that satisfies the Calor League criteria, which is a tribute to those involved but is still going to require some adjustment to anyone who last saw the Poppies at Steel Park, let alone Nene Park. They say you can get used to anything – guess we’re about to find out. Come on you reds. 

    Friday, 16 August 2013

    Poppies cleared to join in with the minnows

    The news has come through today that the Herculean efforts of a handful of volunteers has raised the standard of Latimer Park to a level where we are going to be allowed to start the new season there rather than at Steal Park.  This is great news and hats off to the guys who have made this possible.  It is another example of how a handful of Poppies fans continue to strive to give the rest of us a club to continue to support.

    Speaking as someone whose entire contribution to the rebirth of the Poppies within the Borough consisted of a few drinks at the recent Beer Festival I'm not afraid to admit to being slightly shamed to benefit so much from the great efforts of others.

    All we need now is a good start to the season, some decent numbers turning up to our games and someone in our midfield to feed Lewis Wilson!

    Sorry boys, you'll have to find somewhere else 
    for the next several months!

    Friday, 9 August 2013

    More Massive Updates from the World of Football!

    Just over a week ago we exclusively reported these earth-shattering footballing stories!

  • Gareth Bale may or may not move to Real Madrid.
  • Wayne Rooney may or may not move to Chelsea.
  • Luis Suarez may or may not move to Arsenal.
  • Cesc Fabregas may or may not move to Manchester United
  • Any number of other exotically named footballers may or may not move between clubs across Europe

  • Now we can report the following amazing developments!

  • Gareth Bale may or may not move to Real Madrid.
  • Wayne Rooney may or may not move to Chelsea.
  • Luis Suarez may or may not move to Arsenal.
  • Cesc Fabregas may or may not move to Manchester United
  • Any number of other exotically named footballers may or may not move between clubs across Europe

  • We can only wonder what incredible developments are waiting to be reported in our next mind-blowing instalment from Planet Premiership!

    Saturday, 3 August 2013

    Is there a continued point to KFC?

    It would appear that, looking on the Kettering Football Club website, that it is all systems go for another season of youth team, Thursday night football at Raunds.  Another season of kids being watched by a few ex Poppy fans.

    Not to be too harsh, but, what is the point?

    12 months ago you could perhaps see KFC as a possible replacement should KTFC cease to be, albeit set up far too early.  It was always going to be difficult to sell us the idea of a "phoenix club" when the original one was still going.  Sure, the Poppies were on life-support, the priest had been called for, and the local undertaker was reaching for his tape measure.  But the club was still alive. 

    Attempting to ape the success of AFC Scum, KFC entered the same league, playing at the same ground, no doubt hoping to follow their footsteps towards adult football at UCL level.  However, where the Scum had successfully carried several hundred of their supporters with them, and managed to establish themselves very quickly as a club at senior level, KFC have effectively trodden water, seemingly run for the benefit of a handful of officials and players' parents.

    Close, but no cigar
    Without knowing the exact details, it also looks as though the floodlights and other footballing equipment KFC had acquired in an attempt to move back to Kettering appear to have been installed at Latimer Park ahead of the Poppies forthcoming season.  If these have been given or even loaned to the Poppies this is a nice gesture, even though they might only have been given because KFC have nowhere to put them.  Just where can you store a floodlight pylon?

    KFC's break with the Poppies has always been supposed to have happened because the people behind the club had had enough of Imraan, and leaving the Borough.  Now that Imraan has nothing more to do with Kettering, other than an occasional contributor to this blog, and we will be back in the Borough of Kettering this season, the question has to be asked - what is KFC for?

    Given that supporter numbers are very much limited these days, it seems insane to split this finite group between two different clubs.  Having lost hundreds of "supporters" who have voted with their feet and won't attend any Kettering football any more (or not until we're good again), we can hardly afford to divide the few hundred bodies left between Raunds and Burton.

    I hope that both clubs can come together under the Poppies banner - let's not forget, KFC fans were Poppies fans of many years standing before being forced out.  Surely it is time to get all our boats back in line?  How else do we expect to start the fight back up to a level of football which could comfortably be called "Mickey Mouse?"