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The state of Northants football


Football in Northamptonshire is in a bad way.  Northampton Town, who enjoyed a brief spell in the top flight, are threatened with relegation to the Conference.   Rushden and Diamonds, the product of one man's vision, are no more (apart from a phoenix club) having reached League 1.   Their Nene Park stadium lies quietly rusting, perhaps to be eventually replaced by housing.  Kettering Town, who came close to being elected to the Football League in 1974, are in the fourth tier of non-league football and are playing at Burton Latimer, having been unable to continue to afford their lease of Nene Park.

Northamptonshire is a prosperous county, particularly Northampton itself, although some of the small industrial towns in the east of the county have never fully recovered from the decline of the boot and shoe industry.   There are some attractive villages, as attractive as those in the Cotswolds with which they share the use of honey coloured stone, but they are a less fashionable location despite good access to the motorway network.

The Cardoza family have owned Northampton Town for eleven years.   They came from London and they picked the Cobblers because they saw an underachieving club with a decent stadium and a catchment area that had potential.   With council help, they are now putting in a hotel and conference centre and adding the first corporate boxes.   Coventry City are currently playing their home games there.

In eleven years, they have been through as many managers and spent an estimated £8m.   Chairman David Cardoza told the Financial Times, 'We used to be in finance.  Now it's the reverse.  It goes against everything you think is right because the economics of the game are barking mad.  Income and expenditure don't match.'

Northampton's most successful sports club is its rugby club, but that doesn't explain the relative lack of sucess of the football team.    Perhaps once again it shows that the relationship between the economic condition of a locality and football success is an uncertain one.  Burnley offer an example in the opposite direction.

Football in Northants

I came to this article with hope - it is after all a subject that has been developed many times over the years on Untold Arsenal - not least because the publisher and several contributors live in the county.

But, oh, why just cover a little bit.   Rushden, Kettering, Northampton, yes fine, although no mention of the history - of the fact that at the start of the 20th century Rushdon were hacking it with Arsenal in the United League and elsewhere, and that Arsenal often came to Kettering to play.

And also no mention of Wellingborough and Corby.  Corby Town has a new stadium, and although the club is in dispute with its council partners, has really picked itself up in terms of presentation.   Wellingborough and Kettering ground share which adds to the fun.

And then there's the Scottish bit - which helps explain something else.  Right by Corby Town's ground for years was the Rangers supporters club, and each friday night you could watch the coaches leave the town heading north.   That the club went bust a couple of years back is a reflection of life up north - but you still hear the Scottish accents at Corby's games.

There is a sub-plot and sub-text in Northants, and you've not really got into it.  Maybe ten minutes on Kettering and Northampton stations two to three hours before Arsenal kick off at home, will tell you what's going on.   North Northants is an area of massive expansion, with thousands arriving from London.  The train back to the city takes an hour into St Pancras - you just jump straight onto the Victoria or Picadilly, and you are there for Arsenal.

It is a complex and bemusing county, and there is so much more to this issue than you have touched upon.

Tony Attwood