AFC Rushden & Diamonds are celebrating their 10-year anniversary.
And vice-chairman Jon Ward believes everyone involved at the club can reflect on a successful first decade in existence.
It was 10 years ago today (Thursday) that a group of Rushden & Diamonds fans organised a public meeting at the Pemberton Centre in Rushden to discuss the possibility of forming a fans-owned club in the wake of the sudden and painful demise of the old club.
Nearly 200 people turned up that night and AFC Rushden & Diamonds was born, initially as an under-18 team playing in the Northants Senior Youth League and at Kiln Park in Raunds.
The adult club was launched a year later, playing home matches at the Dog & Duck in Wellingborough before eventually securing a return to their spiritual home of Hayden Road in Rushden where they still play now.
On the pitch, first Mark Starmer and then Andy Peaks delivered success with three promotions to steer the club from the United Counties League to Step 3 and the Southern League.
And off it, a real sense of togetherness has developed with many playing a role in helping to get the club going and keep it going.
It’s that team effort that has made it all possible, according to Ward.
“There was a group of us who were trying to raise money to save the old club and when it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen we looked at what AFC Wimbledon done and we just said ‘let’s call a public meeting and see if there is any interest’,” he recalled of that day 10 years ago.
“We set the meeting up at the Pemberton Centre, we had a good turnout and there was enough on that night to tell us it would be worth doing and then it was just a case of seeing where we could take it from there.
“I would like to think the first 10 years could be deemed a success.
“On that night, if you had told us that within 10 years we would have reformed as an adult club, got three promotions, got up to Step 3 in the pyramid and we would be back playing in Rushden, I think we would have taken that.
“When you look at it like that, I think it’s been successful so far.
“It’s been a monumental effort to run it as a volunteer club. I would have to say it has been massively rewarding. It hasn’t been easy, it’s been hard work but all of it is made easier with the effort that every volunteer, supporter, board member, player has put in.
“Whether you are paying your gate money or whether you are putting 30 hours of volunteer work in a week, everyone is doing their bit and one couldn’t be done without the other.
“We are like a tree with lots of roots. Everyone does their little bit and it all adds up to get us to where we are.
“We don’t have a benefactor and everyone involved in the club has their own day jobs.
“So to have got to where we are just shows that our initial thoughts 10 years ago that we felt it was worthwhile doing it have been proven right.”
Diamonds are currently preparing for another season in the Southern League Premier Central after two curtailed campaigns due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Off the field, Ward acknowledges that there are more challenges ahead with a key one being to try to move into their own ground after a the club agreed a heads of terms with the Duchy of Lancaster to lease 11.6 acres of land adjacent to the B645 Chelveston Road in November, 2018.
“There is a target to get our own ground, that is still ongoing and, like a lot of things, it has been put on hold for the last 18 months,” Ward added.
“That will be the big challenge for the club.
“But the club needs to move into a different sort of level. It needs to establish itself at Step 3, look for its new home and establish its roots for the player pathway so we can bring good local players through.
“There are lots of different challenges that we face but I feel the club is in a good place to be able to go on and achieve all those.
“We just hope that everyone who has done their bit over the last 10 years will continue to do so because we have shown what we can achieve when we all work together.”