When Poppies lived the dream

Fans get in the mood for the side's FA Trophy final game at Wembley in 2000.
Fans get in the mood for the side's FA Trophy final game at Wembley in 2000.

FA Cup glory, heartbreaking relegation and champagne–toasting promotion – it’s a real rollercoaster ride supporting Kettering Town.

Rewind six years and fans were full of hope when a consortium consisting of Imraan Ladak, Mick Leech and England legend Paul Gascoigne took over the club.

Today, Gascoigne is long-gone and while Mr Ladak still holds the keys to the club most supporters want him out as off-the-field issues surrounding finances dominate.

This week’s Retro covers the recent success of the club at a time fans are fighting for its very survival.

Who was there at Wembley in 2000 when cup fever took over the town and saw thousands travel down the M1 to see their team lose narrowly to Kingstonian?

A total of 50 supporters’ coaches decorated with flags and banners took to the road and watched as the Poppies pegged the London side back to equalise with a goal from Vowden before taking the lead through Norman.

Kingstonian struck back, however, and took the lead only six minutes later before seeing off the game.

That did not dent the pride of the town though.

On their return the team was treated to a victory-style parade.

From the ups to the downs, just a year later the team was relegated on the last day of the season, ending 30 years at the conference level.

But this was followed a year later by the Dr Martins Premier League championship under the guidance of Carl Shutt.

A last-day victory against Tiverton Town clinched it with a crowd of 1,996 watching, most were Kettering fans.

Relegation was to follow a year later, then, following a restructuring of the league, the Poppies were placed in the Conference North.

In came Mr Ladak, and although Gascoigne did not last long, Mark Cooper eventually took the side back up to the Conference in 2008 with a record points tally of 96 points.

We should also not forget the FA Cup.

Kettering has scored more goals in the cup competition than any other team!

And they have done well for drama too.

Two recent games against Fulham and Leeds proved great entertainment for the fans.

Kettering MP Phillip Hollobone said: “Kettering has a long, proud and distinguished history.

“In the world of football the club is very well known as a conference side, they have been in some historic games both in the league and the cups.

“The fans of the club deserve special praise in recent times, they have stuck with the club through thick and thin.

“Right now is a difficult time, but they are still there supporting the players at every step of the way.

“I really hope there is a future for this great club.”

Fan Martin Lemay said: “My favourite times were when Mark Cooper was first around, the buzz was fantastic.

“I can only hope we return again to those good old days.”