Football: Diamond geezer strikes gold

FAN'S EYE VIEW: Rushden & Diamonds
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The Independent Online
JUST OVER six years old and life is looking pretty good for Rushden & Diamonds. Promotion twice in our short lifetime leaves us now just one step short of Football League status.

The club was formed at the end of the 1991-92 season when Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds joined forces. A local businessman, Max Griggs of Dr Martens fame, was one of the men behind the merger and he has financed the club heavily over the past few seasons. It is rare that someone can build a football club and make it such an outstanding success after inheriting two local sides with uncertain futures, but this is what Max and his fellow directors have achieved.

Nene Park stadium is often compared to a miniature Old Trafford and the facilities are not usually found outside the Second Division of the Football League. It comes complete with an electronic scoreboard and covered stands on all four sides.

The club, in its third season in the Conference, has had a chequered history in this division. In 1996-97 it was the timely appointment of Brian Talbot (formerly of Arsenal and Ipswich Town) as head coach which coincided with five straight league victories and 12th position after looking like relegation certainties for much of the campaign. Last season we started poorly again, losing the first three matches but rallying to become the main challengers to Halifax. However, due to injuries to key players we finished fourth. This season began with seven straight league victories, but we have been jinxed over the past two matches, with minutes to go.

Last Saturday, away at Doncaster, an injury-time equaliser by Hume saw two points dropped, while on Tuesday night at Leek Town, a chemical fire at a neighbouring factory resulted in the game being abandoned after 85 minutes with the score 1- 0 to Diamonds. Today sees Diamonds at home to Hereford United.

Many of the supporters have either supported Irthlingborough Diamonds for years, or have stood on the terraces cheering Rushden Town at their old Hayden Road ground. One thing is for sure, though: Diamonds are now gathering support from disillusioned League club fans and have people travelling to home games who up until recently may have have been regulars at Tottenham.

The fans are buzzing with anticipation this season and it's not unusual for more than 500 of them to travel to away games. One thing you won't find is complacency, though:after leading the Beazer Homes Premier League by 13 points in February 1996 we eventually won the championship by two points.

So what of the squad? Although most people will have heard of the evergreen Chris Whyte (ex-Arsenal and Leeds) and Colin West (ex-Sheffield Wednesday and Sunderland), there are others who deserve special praise. Darren Collins and Gary Butterworth ) are two of the best players to have graced the Conference, while Darren Bradshaw, Carel Van Der Velden, Adrian Foster, Tim Wooding and Jon Brady always put in consistent performances.

For Foster the game against Hereford today will be extra special. He used to play for them, and after the barracking he received from their supporters last season, his name on the scoresheet would be poetic justice.

Finally, the one question we are often asked: is this the season when Diamonds will make it to the Football League? The answer to that is simple - maybe!

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