COMMENT – A new chapter will bring interesting times on and off the pitch for Diamonds

Andy Peaks leads AFC Rushden & Diamonds into the new surroundings of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South this season
Andy Peaks leads AFC Rushden & Diamonds into the new surroundings of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South this season

Another new chapter is set to be written by AFC Rushden & Diamonds as they prepare to get the new season up and running.

This summer marks the four-year anniversary of the club forming their senior side and their progress has been well-documented in that time.

Having gone through both divisions of the United Counties League, their first campaign at Step 4 so nearly ended in yet another promotion.

They were nine minutes away from winning the Southern League Division One Central play-off final back in May, only to concede a late equaliser before being beaten 2-1 in extra-time by St Ives Town.

There had already been murmurings before that game that suggested if Diamonds did lose then a switch to the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South would be on the cards.

And so it proved. A new division, new opponents to face and new friends to make.

It all starts tomorrow (Saturday) with a trip to Newcastle Town before Chasetown come to the Dog & Duck on Tuesday night.

For manager Andy Peaks, it has been a busy few weeks.

A number of players left the club following the end of last season and left Peaks facing, as he described it, ‘a summer of recruitment’.

But there was no panic from his point of view.

He retained key players and was quick to sign up the prolific Jake Newman for his second spell with the club while there was the welcome boost of Sam Brown’s return after he departed during last season to travel the world.

From there, Peaks took his time. Slowly but surely he has added to his squad, which now looks well stacked.

So what can we expect? Well, in truth, it’s difficult to say.

It’s a new division for everyone and it won’t be until we are a few weeks in when we will truly know if there is a big difference in quality from the Southern League.

But, on paper, it looks a tough division. The likes of Stamford and Rugby Town have been busy recruiting good players for the level while it would be safe to assume the likes of Northwich Victoria and Shaw Lane will be strong.

Despite all that, I fully expect Diamonds to make an impact in their new surroundings.

There’s plenty of experience in the squad with players who have been there and done it.

And, particularly at the front end of the pitch, there looks to be goals in this squad and it is those, of course, that win you matches.

Time will tell on that front but perhaps the key issue for Diamonds this season is off the pitch.

The news that they and Wellingborough Town will have to vacate the Dog & Duck by the end of May next year was a devastating blow for everyone.

Diamonds, and the Doughboys for that matter, have done a lot of work at the ground to ensure it can stage their matches as they move up the levels.

It means that Diamonds are, for the time being, now on the hunt for another ground-sharing deal for the start of next season.

It would be easier to allow this situation to get you down. But the defiance shown by the club and, in particular, chairman Ralph Burditt is encouraging to see.

As he said, ‘it’s just another obstacle to get round’.

There are some good people at Diamonds who have the right intentions. They’ll do what they have to do to ensure this story goes on.

And let’s hope their hard work and endeavours are rewarded with even more success on the pitch.