Ken Samuel has described the fundraising effort by the wider football community, which ultimately saved Kettering Town from extinction, as “humbling”.
As part of an exclusive ‘The Big Interview’ in this week’s Northamptonshire Telegraph, the Poppies director has been speaking publicly for the first time about what has happened at the club over the last eight years including the arrival of Imraan Ladak, the glorious FA Cup runs, failed attempts to resolve the stadium issue, the controversial move to Nene Park and the financial problems that so nearly saw the club go under.
With things now having settled down at Latimer Park under the leadership of Ritchie Jeune, Samuel also looked back on the most recent issue that saw Kettering plunged into trouble as they faced up to a winding up order from Rushden & Diamonds (2008) Ltd over unpaid rent at Nene Park.
A rescue plan was finally sorted out after Twitter and Facebook user Footy Accumulators joined forces with the Kettering Town (Poppies) Supporters Trust to launch a Just Giving site that saw football fans from across the world donate over £20,000 to help towards court costs and paying the bill of around £70,000.
“We knew the original winding up order brought by HM Revenue & Customs was wrong because some of the money that they were owed was held up by the CVA,” Samuel said.
“That got settled but we were always running against the background of ‘what was the situation with the lease at Nene Park?’
“We didn’t really know what had been paid and what was owed so we always knew it would come up but we didn’t anticipate they would jump on the back of the winding up petition with an amount that was owed.
“But they did the right thing from their perspective, they were owed the money and anyone would have done the same. But it was a dreadful time for us.
“The response from the football community was humbling. Ritchie was away on business and we had to decide what target we were going for and, in the end, we pitched it about right.
“Obviously Ritchie had always said he had some money but because of the costs involved and the shortfall that was created, we had to move quickly.
“The Trust were brilliant and, after getting the support of Footy Accumulators on Twitter and Facebook, what followed was staggering. There were football fans out there who just wanted to save a proper football club.
“That is what it was all about. I have a bee in my bonnet about the Premier League and you ask the question of whether football is entertainment, a sport or a business? What is it now?
“It depends what level you are at but I can’t, for some reason, watch a Premier League game all the way through. It all just seems the same.
“At least at our level you get people making genuine mistakes and that makes it proper football. And I think that is why people put their fivers and tenners in to help us.
“It is very heartening. It isn’t a charity, it is a football club. And for people to do what they did in that space of time, along with the fundraising game and the sponsors we had, was massive for this club.”
Samuel also paid tribute to the efforts of Jeune, who came in and helped a club he had no ties to when their financial problems took a turn for the worse in October last year.
“I don’t think even Ritchie knows why he came in and did what he did,” Samuel added.
“I think it might be because someone asked him if he would take on the responsibility and he said yes. As an honourable guy, he carried on taking that responsibility even though it has cost him and his business a lot more than what he would have ever envisaged.
“He is a football man and maybe he has got it in his blood now. He has come this far and he is a fighter and he wants to win.
“Having got over the major hurdle, maybe he now wants to win on the field and I know he is passionate about it.
“But I go back to the need to build solid foundations. We have to try to build a club from the bottom upwards but it stems from success on the field and I am sure Ritchie, having done what he has done, wants to see the job through.”
Don’t miss the exclusive interview with Ken Samuel as he reflects on the ups and downs of Kettering Town – only in this week’s Northamptonshire Telegraph which is out now