Kettering Town fans may be left with just memories

A mostly empty Nene Park earlier this season
A mostly empty Nene Park earlier this season

Kettering Town FC fans have had their fair share of highs and lows but the perilous position of the club revealed this week could mean all they will have left are memories.

This week has seen the club hit rock bottom – with the electricity being cut-off at Nene Park and Tuesday night’s fixture at Leamington being called off due to a lack of players.

The club’s electricty supplier EDF energy said it tried to help the Poppies on numerous occasions but the club did not take up the offer.

An EDF spokesman said: “It is unfortunate that we have to take this action as a last resort, however we felt we were left with no choice.

“The club has been using electricity without paying for it for a considerable period.

“We did offer ways they could pay off the debt over time, but none were taken up.”

Following the move to Nene Park in the summer of 2011, it came to light that players were not being paid and the Supporters Trust stepped in to help raise funds.

Over the summer it was announced the club had entered a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), was in debt of about £1.2m and would be demoted to the Evo-Stick Southern League Premier Division.

However, in recent weeks the club’s downfall has appeared to accelarate, with the Poppies’ missing payments on their CVA and players not being paid last month.

Majority shareholder Imraan Ladak insists there is “serious” interest from potential investors but time is running out.

Passionate Kettering Town fans have hit out at those running of the club as it stands on the brink of closure.

Supporters have criticised the club’s majority shareholder and Kettering Council as they feel they have both allowed the team to become a joke.

Vincent Geranio, 45, owner of Vince’s Barbers, Althorp Road, is a life-long Poppies fans has called the current situation at Nene Park a “shambles”.

He added: “I’m absolutely distraught, just like the rest of the fans.

“How have we become the laughing stock of football and the football league?”

His views were echoed by Wayne Tideswell, 42, a bank worker, from St Augustine’s Close, Kettering, and Neil Tilley, 45, a pub manager from Northumberland Close, Kettering.

Mr Tideswell said: “It’s a real shame with all the history and everything of the club, and we’re going to lose it.”

Mr Tilley added: “It is disheartening and upsetting to a lot of people that one of the biggest clubs outside of the football league is in such a mess.”

Mark Severn, chairman of Kettering Town Supporters Trust, added: “The best word to describe how I feel is gutted.

“We have been watching the club fall apart and just when you think it can’t get any worse, it happens.”

Many fans feel the club’s move out of the town from Rockingham Road to Nene Park, in Irthlingborough, was a key factor in the crisis.

Fans also said Kettering Council, and Poppies’ majority shareholder Imraan Ladak, had to take part of the blame.

Mr Geranio said: “Kettering Council have to take some of the blame for the club’s situation.

“They were not there to help us when we moved out of Rockingham Road.”

Mr Tideswell also suggested the council had been surprisingly quiet when the club needed them most.

But Mr Severn felt Poppies’ majority shareholder Imraan Ladak had to be held responsible, saying: “Most people will look at it and say that the council could have been a lot more supportive back then.

“But the council did not tell us to move to Nene Park, they didn’t incur the debts and they didn’t fail to pay the bills.

“I think you can’t look too far away from Imraan Ladak and lay these decisions at his door.”

This opinion was shared by Kettering FC chairman Mark Bulley who said: “I think there is only one person that can be held responsible and that man is Ladak.”

For now the club’s future is uncertain with Mr Ladak insisting that there is “serious” interest from a potential investor and Mr Bulley believes “anything is possible” with the majority shareholder still involved.

Nobody from the council was available to comment.

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding the Poppies’ future there is hope that a new supporters’ club could rise from the ashes.

Phoenix clubs such as FC United of Manchester and AFC Wimbledon have enjoyed great success over the past few seasons with Wimbledon celebrating five promotions in the nine seasons since its creation.

One example closer to home though is that of AFC Rushden and Diamonds – who were formed in July 2011 by supporters after Rushden and Diamonds were kicked out of the football conference and subsequently liquated.

AFC Rushden and Diamonds are now playing in the United Counties League Division One and their vice-chairman Jon Ward believes that there could be some light at the end of the tunnel for Poppies fans.

He said: “It is really sad to see and from my point of view, it’s been a very difficult couple of months for us.

“Hopefully if Kettering fans do something similar to AFC Rushden and Diamonds, pull together over one common goal, and create something they may just start enjoy watching their football again.”

A club called Kettering FC was formed by a number of Poppies fans this year and chairman Mark Bulley says it’s unthinkable for the town to be without a team.

He added: “One of the things we said from the start and keep saying is that we want to be sustainable.

“We want the club to be run for the community and even though we have just started, we have every intention of paying our bills.”

The club was set up in 2012 and plays in the Northants Senior Youth Football League, playing the home games in Raunds but would eventually like to find premises in Kettering – with Mr Bulley saying Poppies fans are more than welcome to attend their games.