Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Rise and Fall of Rushden & Diamonds


In recent times there has been a worrying trend of Semi Professional and Non-League clubs entering administration and the death knoll of a club that is Liquidation. AFC Aldershot  and Accrington Stanley have recovered from such perils whilst at the other end of the spectrum Bradford Park Avenue have been unable to claw their way back to the hallowed land of the Football League. Over the past few months Rushden & Diamonds, a lower league staple, have been wound up by the powers that be and administration was confirmed on the 7th of July.   
On April 21st 1992 Max Griggs, president of the R Griggs Group and owner of Doc Martens, forayed into the footballing universe with his purchase of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds. Through a merger of the two clubs Rushden and Diamonds FC was born. In their formative years the club enjoyed a meteoric rise that even the Mighty Ducks would be envious of. 2 promotions in 4 years had led the Northamptonshire outfit to the highest echelon of Non-League football. The 5 years Rushden spent in the Conference are deceptive. There was no consolidation as you would expect, just the will and desire of a collective of the board, staff, players and fans to make Diamonds something special. In the first season in top tier of they came 12th, respectable you might say, a “disappointment” said the board! The following campaigns saw them finish 4th twice before ultimately gaining promotion to the hallowed land of the Football League with a 2nd place finish in the 2000/2001 season.
The Diamonds were still not done. This amazing team reached the Division 3 play-off final in their first season in the 4th tier of league football losing 3-1 to Cheltenham Town at the Millennium Stadium. Second time around did appear lucky though as RDFC won Division 3. However, promotion turned out to be a poison chalice for the Nene Park outfit. Though the season started well, manager of seven years Brian Talbot left halfway through the season and star players left for pastures new. Soon after came a downward spiral. Relegation back to Division 3 was inevitable. The Diamonds stayed in the football league by the skin of their teeth in the 04/05 season. In the summer Griggs handed control of the club over to the Supporter’s Trust for £1 to try and solve the club’s troubles. But they could not repeat the feat a second time around in the newly named Coca Cola League 2. Despite Billy Sharp’s goals 9 goals in 16 games, Rushden were relegated back to the Conference for the first time in 5 years. In the 5 years that have passes since there has only ever been one chance to reclaim promotion but a play-off semi defeat to Oxford in 2009 proved fruitless. Sadly a tragedy then hit the club. Goalkeeper Dale Roberts committed suicide hours before a match against Eastwood Town.  
And it got worse…Chairman Keith Cousins and Vice Chairman Helen Thompson resigned from their positions. Gary Calder and Liam Beasant came in to steady the ship, but Calder left after 3 months. And there’s more, the club were put under a transfer embargo due to unpaid wages and then Leon Knight had a rant at the club on Twitter for not paying his wage and not allowing him to play for another club in England. The club were expelled from the Blue Square Premier on the 11th June 2011 because of poor finances meaning they would not be able to complete all fixtures next season. 2 days later HMRC came calling with a winding order because of debts of debts £750,000. The Irthlingborough club were then denied the chance to play in the Evo-Stik Southern League Premier Division next season as they could not meet League requirements after being kicked out of their spiritual home of Nene Park. The final nail in the coffin was administration.
Yet there is news of a ‘phoenix’ team being set up by fans, an AFC Rushden & Diamonds rising from the ashes. Fans decided on entering a team in to the Northants Senior Youth League in 2011/12 and build a senior team for the start of the 12/13 Season. If the AFC club can emulate what their predecessors did, then they won’t be in the 11th tier of English football for long.

The club is dead, long live the club!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

...Exciting EPL Prospects, Part 2.

Carrying on from part 1 I'm looking at the young, academy players that will be looking to break through on to everyone's radar:

Newcastle United:

Kazenga LuaLua - Brother of former Toon Army favourite Lomana, Kazenga performed excellently whilst on loan at Brighton, scoring goals and creating a fair few for his team-mates. His progress may have been hampered by a broken ankle he picked up in November, but he is still an incredibly exciting talent who's name Newcastle fans will be singing for some time to come. (Unless he joins Brighton Permanently)

Plays like: Ashley Young; he's got a lot of tools in his locker; good pace, eye for goal, free kick specialist and two good feet.


Tom Adeyemi - An incredibly intelligent youngster who turned down a chance to study at Cambridge University to pursue a career in football. Adeyemi spent last season on loan at Bradford where he played 35 times scoring 5 goals. A very athletic player who stands at 6"1, he is very highly rated by the staff at Norwich and could surprise a few people with Premiership newcomers Norwich.

Plays like: Patrick Vieira, very well built but has good technique to match his stocky frame.


Troy Hewitt - Signing a player from the Non-League is always a risk, and Rangers have taken that risk in signing the 20 year old from Harrow Borough. Hewitt scored 20 goals in 30 matches for the Ryman League outfit. The move has come about due to the two clubs close links and a good word from QPR scouts means Hewitt's gone straight to the Big League.

Plays like: DJ Campbell, both have dropped down and come back from the Non-league's and both have similar pace, movement and vision.

Stoke City

Ben Marshall - A former youth player at Manchester United and Crewe Alexandra, Marshall arrived at Stoke in a double deal with Matt Lund. The tall Winger/Striker won praise from Greg Abbott after a successful loan spell with Carlisle. If he can recover adequately from a very bad injury sustained in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy i reckon he could fit well in to Tony Pulis' style of hoof-ball.

Plays like: Connor Wickham, a tall striker that can also play out on the wing.


David Meyler - If it wasn't for injuries Meyler's season would surely have mirrored that of former team-mate Jordan Henderson (some fans rate Meyler more). Instead the Irishman's has gone to America for a month of rehabilitation following a second knee ligament injury. However, there is no doubting his talent which coupled with the incredible commitment he has already shown he could become a big player.

Plays like: A big, physical player with a touch of class. A bit like Dietmar Hamman.

Swansea City:

Jazz Richards - A midfielder who has represented Wales at U-17, 19 & 21's. Jazz, real name Ashley, played a few games at right back during a Swans injury and impressed and looks set to challenge for that spot permanently. Made 8 appearances last season for the play-off winners.

Plays like: A pacy and energetic midfielder that can also play in defence, the only real comparison is Emmanuel Eboue, obviously.

Tottenham Hotspur:

Jake Livermore - Now considered a part of 'Arry's first team squad plans after loan spells at Ipswich and Leeds last season, interspersed by his League and Cup debuts for Spurs against Stoke and Arsenal respectively. A loan to another Premiership club would do wonders for his confidence and experience.

Plays like: A strong combative midfielder in the style of current Spurs team mate Wilson Palacios.

West Brom:

Luke Daniels - With Scott Carson leaving Albion for Bursaspor, and the inconsistent Boaz Myhill being the only other recognised 1st team goalkeeper at the club, Daniels has a good chance of making his Baggies debut this season. After loan spells at Shrewsbury, Tranmere, Bristol ROvers and Rochdale the 22 year old has experience of lower leagues and of being a club's No.1.

Plays like: An immense presence between the sticks, Daniels has an heir of Petr Cech with a confidence that belies his age.

Wigan Athletic:

Daniel Redmond - The technically gifted midfielder made his First Team debut earlier this season when Latics defeated Hull City in the FA Cup, reward for his superb performances at Reserve Team level this campaign and last. A real playmaker on the ball Redmond's strength and resilience has seen him fill in comfortably at full-back in the past and is currently Reserve Team captain.
Plays like: Stewart Downing, not the quickest winger but has very good technique and crossing ability. Could be Charles Insomnia's replacement


Danny Batth - With elder statesman Jody Craddock hobbling toward retirement and the general awfulness of Wolves defence, Mick McCarthy may be looking for a new CB for the start of the season. He won't have to look far. Batth has enjoyed fruitful loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Colchester United over the past 2 seasons and will certainly be knocking at Mick's door.

Plays like: His gaffer McCarthy, a big presence on and off the pitch who doesn't stand for any nonsense.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Exciting EPL Prospects part 1.

With all the talk of who's going where, i thought it would be a good time to look a bit closer to home and find where the next Beckham, Gerrard and Cherno Samba are coming from.


Ryo Miyachi - The Japanese youngster joined Arsenal coming straight from high school. A tall winger with incredible speed, (he matched Theo Walcott in a sprint test) Miyachi spent the end of last season on loan at Feyenoord where he made 12 appearnances and scored 3 goals, and became a firm fans favourite and was given the nickname 'Ryodinho'.
Plays like: Thierry Henry before he became a striker.

Aston Villa:

Gary Gardner - Widely tipped to join the first team under Alex McCleish this season, the midfielder has had a bit of trouble with injuries already in his short career to date. However the Villa fan is an extremely talented ball player, who was linked with Real Madrid in the tabloids.
Plays like: Paul Scholes, good long and short range passing with an eye for goal.

Blackburn Rovers:

Grant Hanley - A graduate of the Rovers academy, Hanley will find himself getting a lot more game time following the departure of fellow centre-half Phil Jones to Man United. The strong Scot has also impressed national boss Craig Levein enough to hand the 18 year old 2 full international caps.

Plays like: Ryan Nelson, no nonsense defender who relishes aerial tusssles more than surging runs.

Bolton Wanderers:

Tom Eaves - The tall striker was signed by Owen Coyle after scoring a hat-trick against Bolton in a pre-season friendly last summer. The former Oldham youngster reached double figures for the reserves last season despite only playing 15 games for John Henry's reserves. Eaves seems to have all the components to make it; height, speed & finishing ability. Fortunate that Coyle's the 1st team manager and not Allardyce otherwise he'd be another Kevin Davies

Plays like: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a big man that is very comfortable with a ball at his feet and can score from range.


Josh McEachran - There's been a lot of hype around the 18 year old, most of it deserved. With the impending financial restrictions set in place by UEFA the academy graduate will become a key player for The Blues in the next 5 years. His career has seemed to mirror that of Jack Wilshere; a young left footed midfielder and i expect him to do play in a deep position just like the Arsenal man did last season.

Plays like: Liam Brady according to Ray Wilkins. And who am i to disagree with 'Butch'.


Jose Baxter - Baxter has been the "New Rooney" ever since he made his debut aged 16, in 2008. This is definately a make or break season for the Bootle boy, if he can get a prolonged run in the
first XI then he's in, but, if he can't force his way into David Moyes' plans a loan or transfer will be on the cards. Will be looking to build on his few substitute appearances and his Reserve Team Player of The Year Award.

Plays like: He reminds me of Jose Antonio Reyes, he's quick, a good dribbler and a good finisher. Lets just hope he doesn't suffer from homesickness.


Lauri Dalla Valle - The young Fin was part of the deal that took Paul Konchesky to Liverpool. God knows why Liverpool allowed him to go in exchange for a player who spent the season on loan at Forest. A natural goalscorer, Dalla Valle was Liverpool's best player in the FA Youth Cup final defeat to Arsenal 2 years ago. He did well in a short loan spell at Bournemouth for the final months of last season.

Plays like: A predator in the box, he can finish from any angle much like Ruud Van Nistelrooy.


Jonjo Shelvey - Completely bald already, the Attilo Lombardo lookalike has a big future ahead of him. Going from orchestrating Charlton's midfield while going through puberty, to playing in 15 games in his debut  season for 'The Reds' he has the potential to be an England player before the 2014 World Cup. However, standing in his way is Kenny Dalglish's sordid fantasy with central midfielders following the signing of Messrs Henderson and Adam.

Plays like: A fellow baldy, Zinedine Zidane. Both players share a presence on the ball that eminates confidence. This doesn't mean i think he'll be as good as Zizou, (long way to go) but their charactersitics are strikingly similar.

Manchester City:

Vladimir Weiss - The Slovak had an excellent loan spell at Rangers last season making 35 apps and scoring 5 goals. Also a regular for his country, Weiss will have a nations hopes on his shoulders for a good 10 years to come. His club game however may not be as pressured. Undoubtedly a fringe player at City, he will be lucky to make 5 starts in the Premiership this season. A move away seems the only viable option if the 21 year old wants to taste first team action this season.

Plays like: Ryan Giggs, a winger that likes to do everything at 100 mile per hour.

Manchester United:

Tom Cleverly - Spent last season on loan at Wigan which has given him vital Premier League experience, the midfielder has seen what this league's all about and was a big factor in The Latics staying up. Cleverly is an immensely talented midfielder and he will be around for a long time. If given a chance he could fill Utd's Central Midfield berth.

Plays like: Juan Carlos Valeron, a typical No.10 working just behind the striker.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Aura Of Eboue

My favourite footballer of the last 5 years has been Emmanuel Eboue. He's not one of Arsenal's best players, heck he's not even the best right back at the club. He doesn't play many games, nor does he score many goals coming off the bench. And a lot of people don't rate him at all.

But there's something about him. In the split-second after he mis-places a pass, or blasts a cross out for a goal kick, when you try to have a go at him....It's impossible. As the expletives form in your mouth, an image of his beaming face appears in your mind and one remembers the truly magnificent stories which will surely go down in folklore:

- When the Arsenal squad met the Queen at Buckingham Palace, instead of conversing with Her Majesty and Prince Phillip our hero decided to roll around on the floor playing with the Corgi's.

You may be wondering "That's not the behaviuor of a proffessional footballer" and you'd be right. Eboue's much more than just a footballer. He's a clown, a joker, a peacekeeper, a toughamn , a help, a hindrance and a lover. Well maybe not that last one.

Another moment for the legends is his famous 'Tiger Suit Incedence'. At an end of season, black tie event for the sponsors, Eboue seemed to delibaretely ignore his invitation requirements and do his own thing. He decided to arrive go dressed in a Tiger Suit. We're not talking a fur coat, this is a full on fancy dress costume! Was Eboue done? The hell he was! Not content with just his attire the Ivorian took it upon himself to provide yet more LULZ. Crouching down beside the door, he had spotted his victim, the unsuspecting Emmanuel Adebayor, as Adebayor approached the entrance to the hotel Eboue struck. Leaping out from behind a plant with a fearsome roar Eboue grabbed the Togo international and wrestled him to the ground. Eboue had won, Eboue always wins.

Now with this in mind, think. The next time he misses a tackle or gives the ball away under pressure, remember. Remember that Eboue is the beating heart of the squad, the bringer of banter. Without him the dressing room would be drearier than a museum tour by Gordon Brown.

Why else is the Emirates packed week in, week out. They only come to see Eboue!