On the Road with Michael Walker: Stimson”s suffering Kettering are facing a Real test
Here’s a question no-one was asking this El Clasico weekend: what could possibly connect Real Madrid to Kettering Town
The facetious answer is that they both played on Saturday and both lost.
Bearing in mind that Real’s latest annual turnover was €480.2million, while last week one Kettering player chose to take a labouring job in Scotland rather than continue with the Midlands club, sarcasm would not be unjustified.
But the Kettering faithful, of whom as many as 10 made the 550-mile round-trip to Gateshead on Saturday, could enlighten us.
They have a certain Jaime Navarro in their team.
Bemused: Kettering”s Jaime Navarro did not understand why his wages were stopped
BY THE WAY…
Plymouth are off the bottom of League Two. Argyle won a point at third-bottom Bradford on Saturday and host fourth- bottom Hereford this weekend. Looking up.
Navarro joined Kettering in August from Real Madrid C. He is 20 and speaks beginner’s English. It must have been particularly unsettling therefore when Navarro had it explained to him why, four months into his two-year contract, his wages had stopped.
He may have thought he’d left a scorching recession behind in Spain, though he probably took the news better than Cristiano Ronaldo would have.
Kettering manager Mark Stimson said of Navarro: ‘He’s bemused by all of it. He doesn’t know what’s going on really. He was shocked when we told him about the money situation, he’s not experienced it.’
Tough position: Poppies boss Mark Stimson is trying to guide the club through this difficult time
Few have. Even in a time of this hardness, when we hear of the travails of Plymouth Argyle and so on, not many managers have had the kind of season Stimson is experiencing.
Kettering Town are the club who appointed Paul Gascoigne as manager six years ago. Their ground was called Rockingham Road and Gascoigne’s presence — all 35 days of it — meant the world rocked up to see what was going on.
Imraan Ladak was the new chairman then, the man behind the enterprise. It was the combined imagination of Ladak and Navarro’s agent that got the player to Kettering.
Ladak is still chairman, but Rockingham Road is no more.
They are a Blue Square Premier club and theoretically have the same Football League ambition as Wrexham, Luton Town and the rest of the division. The reality is that Kettering’s ambition is to make it into next week.
The club formed in Kettering in 1872 are now based eight miles away in Irthlingborough. The ground is Nene Park, which is where Rushden & Diamonds played.
Difficult times: Chairman Imraan Ladak at the club”s former ground Rockingham Road
They are Kettering’s rivals. That should be were, because Rushden, who had five seasons from 2001 in the Football League, were expelled from the Conference last season and are no more. Who noticed
Kettering, the Poppies, could go just as easily. The front page of the local paper on Friday carried the headline: ‘We Can’t Afford To Lose Poppies,’ based on a comment from the Kettering council leader.
A lifetime ago: Former England star Paul Gascoigne was manager of Kettering for just 35 days in 2005
The failure to pay players has led to an embargo on recruiting. Economics meant that on deadline day Stimson lost five, including the top three goalscorers. That trend continues and led to doubts as to whether the Poppies could fulfil their fixture against Darlington last Tuesday.
Kettering are a professional club with 14 players on contract but in training last Monday, Stimson had four in front of him.
The 43-year-old Londoner, who started at Tottenham and played for Newcastle, Portsmouth and Southend, managed (literally) to assemble a team that drew 0-0.
The previous game had been a 7-0 home defeat by York City. That sounded like an alarm bell.
‘It made people notice us,’ Stimson said, ‘but since then they might have noticed why it happened and just what has been going on behind the scenes.
‘It has been a difficult week, it has been a difficult couple of weeks.
‘When someone comes to you and says, “I can’t afford to stay because I’m in rented accommodation and I owe money. I can go and earn some money with my dad labouring” — what do you say It’s hard.’
There is hope, there always is in football, that a consortium will step in to relieve Ladak. Stimson, meanwhile, goes on. Eleven of the 16 on Saturday were 20 or under.
Stimson mused aloud about ‘whether the club has to go part-time. At every level now it’s about finance.’
With that he got on the bus, off to watch El Clasico with Jaime Navarro.
Coventry beyond our Ken
Spare a thought for the fans of Coventry City. Not only are Coventry bottom of the Championship, having lost 1-0 at home on Saturday to Hull, manager Andy Thorn was joined on the bench by the man who owns the club in the material sense.
Bench warmer: Coventry owner and self-appointed head of football operations sat on the bench for Saturday”s game
Ken Dulieu — or Ken Deluded as he is known to the dis-affected — resigned as chairman 10 days ago only to quickly appoint himself head of football operations.
He then appeared alongside Thorn, who looked flabbergasted afterwards. It would all appear destined to end in tears — fans’ tears.