On a grey and non-descript November day I watch history being unmade.
Bulldozers bully the snooker-table ﬂat pitch into new contours of mounded earth as a couple of other heavy-duty beasts unceremoniously demolish a stand where I watched Kettering’s youthful Poppies nearly pull off an FA Cup third round shock against then Premier League Fulham a decade ago.
These mechanical dinosaurs make light work of head-butting sheets of corrugated steel to collapse so that it appears as pliant as cardboard you might fold and pop into a recycling bin. Efﬁcient they are!
This is the demise of Kettering Town Football Club’s stadium, a feat achieved in super-quick time after four years of stasis during which time fans marched and lobbied and protested to save the ground.
All to no avail.
Even the mobilisation of hundreds of supporters to prevail upon a council meeting and present a strong case to regard the club and its premises as a community asset cut no ice.
That night, a single glance along the ranks of stony-faced local councillors signalled we’d make no impression.
Articulate and informed arguments they were, but we spoke a different language in our pleas.
No acknowledgement from our elected ofﬁcials that a football club could evolve to become an institution, become the glue that bound the town, the team that put Kettering on the national map, the central feature of community identity, the embodiment of continuity embedded in generations of families over the past century.
What purchase – what price – do sociological, cultural and historical perspectives have when compared with land acquired for redevelopment?
It starts to rain as a nudge from one hydraulic arm knocks down a concrete structure and takes with it grafﬁti messages and name tags.
The plaintive “I’m just lonely”, daubed on a perimeter wall is spared – for the moment.
Its sentiment might speak for the ground as much as its author.
A couple of dads with knee-high kids stand and watch from the pavement.
Bemusement and curiosity combine on their faces until they decide to take photos and record the demolition.
And there’s me, who lives a chant away and who stops, during a shopping errand, to pay his respects.
Like folks attending an elderly relative’s funeral, we are few in number, marking a signiﬁcant passing as the world around goes about its daily business, unaffected.
But this event is also on sacred – or at least hallowed – ground. The ashes of fans have been spread on that bright green turf and now they are being disturbed.
This is more than the demise of a lower-league stadium, its demolition, its destruction: it is desecration.
It is D-Day for a provincial club with a proud history achieved on a single site.
Rockingham Road stadium RIP.