Griggs leading Diamonds with honour

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The Independent Online
NON-LEAGUE NOTEBOOK It has been a good week for Max Griggs, the chairman of the Beazer Homes League's most ambitious club, Rushden and Diamonds.

Awarded a CBE in the new year's honours list in recognition of his achievements in the business world (he runs the company that produces Dr Martens footwear), on Monday Griggs watched his team gain a 3-1 win over Chelmsford City, watched by almost 3,000 at their luxurious Nene Park stadium, to climb to third place in the Beazer Premier Division.

Formed in 1992 after a merger between Irthlingborough Diamonds of the United Counties League and Rushden Town, a struggling Beazer Homes League outfit, the new club's rise has been rapid. They won the Beazer Midland Division last season, and are well placed for immediate further promotion.

"Our target was to reach the Conference within five years of the merger," Griggs said yesterday. "Now we could do it in three." He has provided the funds for the team manager, Roger Ashby, to assemble a strong and experienced squad, in which key performers include two England semi-professional internationals: the midfielder Paul Richardson and the former Enfield forward, Darren Collins; Ian King, the former VS Rugby midfield player just released by Stoke City, and the experienced ex-Boston United striker Mickey Nuttell. Recent defensive problems have been eased by the arrival of Martin Davies, a Welsh Under-21 international goalkeeper, on loan for the season from Coventry.

Off-field developments have been just as impressive. Nene Park, Irthlingborough's old stadium, has been redeveloped at a cost of over £6m. As well as a ground that would grace the Football League, the site also includes the Diamond Centre, a conference and exhibition centre that recently hosted a European snooker tournament.

"We're not trying to become Manchester United overnight," Griggs said, "but we're enjoying ourselves. There's no pressure on us, if we don't go up this year it won't be a disaster."

n At least two non-League clubs will join Rangers and Celtic in the draw for the Tennents Scottish Cup third round. Tomorrow's second-round ties include an all-Highland League affair, Keith against Huntly (whose squad includes the former Chelsea and Aberdeen stopper, Doug Rougvie) plus, in Fife, Burntisland Shipyard Amateur against St Cuthbert Wanderers, who lost 11-0 at Ross County last season.