Special feature – Loyal Ken the obvious choice as Poppies president

New Kettering Town club president Ken Samuel
New Kettering Town club president Ken Samuel

When I first heard rumours that Kettering Town were set to appoint a new club president, one name immediately sprang to mind.

The role became vacant after the legendary Sid Chapman sadly passed away earlier this year following a long illness.

And when one such iconic figure, as far as the Poppies are concerned, needs to be replaced, it only seems sensible to do it with someone who is on track to become just as important to the club.

Ken Samuel was the obvious and, it seems, only choice.

A lifelong fan of the club, Samuel has already written his name into the Poppies’ history books for his efforts behind the scenes.

He has been a director at the club for a number of years and was one of the key figures in helping to ensure Kettering survived when their year-long financial crisis between October 2012 and October 2013 threatened to send them into oblivion.

The Poppies are now reaping the benefits of a stable financial situation, sitting top of the Evo-Stik Southern League Division One Central and looking well placed to earn automatic promotion.

Samuel is the perfect example of a loyal fan who has gone that extra mile to help his club.

The board recognised the fact by unanimously voting him into the prestigious position at a meeting earlier this month.

In his typical softly-spoken and modest manner, Samuel says he accepted the role “reluctantly but gracefully”.

He joked: “We had a board meeting and I was out-voted!

“I did say that there are people who have been at the club longer than I have but I was in a minority of one.

“I accepted it reluctantly but gracefully and filling Sid’s boots is quite a thing to do. He is a legend here and I hope I can go some way towards doing what he did for the club.

“The reaction has been lovely and I have had lots of good wishes with people ringing me up and texting me. It’s been quite a shock for me.

“But it’s nice to know that you are held in good light and it’s just nice to see the team winning because that is what is keeping people happy.

“If the truth be known, what I do, I do for the fans.

“There are a lot people who have come to me recently and I have just said to them that it’s nice to have an honour but we wouldn’t have a football club without the supporters.

“The time, effort and money I put in is for the fans more than anybody.

“As a supporter myself, I know how they all feel but there are lots of people who put time and effort in at the club who go unpaid and unnoticed.

“And perhaps I can give a tribute to them during my presidency.”

One area that has been a big focus for Samuel in recent years is the long-running saga of trying to find the Poppies a permanent home.

There’s no need to cover old ground, everyone knows what has happened in the past.

They are currently settled at Latimer Park but still hold a desire to get back into their home town, which was confirmed with recent bids to try to buy their old Rockingham Road stadium as well as a piece of land behind the old Avondale School.

It has remained a constant thorn in the club’s side but still remains a big priority.

“You can only try,” he said.

“We have two bids in and we are okay at Latimer Park for the moment.

“I hope, one day, we can come to the fans and say ‘yes, this is our home for the foreseeable future’ That has got to be our priority.

“The financial situation is stable and it was reported at our recent board meeting that all known debts have been cleared and the CVA has seven months to run, which is another £10,500 being covered by supporters. We expect to see that one through without any difficulty now.

“It all gives us a solid foundation towards trying to find a permanent home.”

There have been fewer concerns on the pitch of late.

Samuel, like most Poppies fans, is used to watching his club in the higher echelons of the non-League pyramid.

But they are where they are, on a long road to get back to where many feel they belong.

Having missed out in the play-offs last season, joint-managers Scott Machin and Thomas Baillie and a strong squad of players are on course to earn automatic promotion this time around.

And while many believe the Poppies will be up come next April, Samuel is remaining cautious.

“On the pitch, I think we have done pretty well particularly in the last few weeks against the top teams,” he said.

“No league is ever won by Christmas and Kettering have been in this position before and thrown it away.

“I would like to think that we have a squad and a management team who can hold things together and keep it going for us.

“When it comes to the end of April, hopefully we will be in the right place. I think we have the ability this year to do it.”

A return to Conference football is what the Kettering fans crave but that is a long way off at the moment.

And Samuel insists the priority on the pitch is simply for the Poppies to find the right place in the game.

He added: “The club has to find its own level. If that is the level we are at, the one above it or the one above that then it’s got to find it.

“Whether we will ever be Conference Premier again or more, I don’t know.

“I would just like to see the club stable, debts covered, players and supporters being happy and I would like to see us playing at the highest level we possibly can.”

Kettering’s recent history has been more traumatic than triumphant but the winds of change are beginning to blow.

And with people like Samuel guiding them in the right direction, the future certainly looks brighter than it did a short time ago.