On 6th March 1897, a group of school teachers gathered at the Princess Royal Inn on Wellingborough Road with local solicitor AJ ‘Pat’ Darnell to form Northampton Town Football Club. It’s up to the imagination to think of what sort of conversations were had that night but I’m taking a punt that most of it was about the town not having a professional club and how it needed one. Players were rounded up, plans were made and the town (teyn) was given something that it could treasure and hold on to as their own, something to unite communities and make the everyday man, woman and child dream vicariously through a bunch of blokes on a field.
THAT is football. What’s happening on this darkest of days some 118 years later is not.
That meeting in 1897 set the wheels in motion for what would become years of battling, a season in the sun, a rise and decline that could only happen to us, a decapitated but beloved ground (greynd), new horizons, a centenary Wembley moment for the ages, promotions and subsequent yo-yoing between the bottom two divisions and stand out victories against the odds, not just at Anfield.
Once again – THAT is the sort of thing those founders would have envisioned. What we now have is the actions of a few people who a) have got themselves in a complete financial mess and b) continued to put out messages along the lines of “ah, it’ll be alright by next week/two weeks’ time/next month” threatening to destroy 118 years of history thanks to mismanagement of what has sadly become a business. When I saw this morning’s latest revelation that HMRC have launched a winding up petition against the club for unpaid taxes, it felt like not just my own heart being ripped out but the heart of our football club being grabbed and tossed over the shoulders of men in increasingly sweaty suits.
I’ve followed this club since around 1990-1991 so came into things at a difficult time yet fell in love with the football, knowing little of what was going on behind the scenes. I was lucky enough to be born in good time to witness the two Wembley finals and all that followed. I was drawn to local heroes like Andy Woodman, Ian Sampson, Ray Warburton, Sean Parrish and the one and only Neil Grayson. It makes this year around 25 years of following the club.
That’s a small chunk of its existence and everyone reading this will have their own special memories and histories. That also means that there’s generations and generations before them who have watched their own memories unfold. Children who despaired at George Best running riot grew up to take their children to see the glorious 1987 Division Four winning side and then those children took their own wide eyed young ones to witness Scott McGleish head us into League One in 2006.
Is any of this going through the minds of the people making the big decisions at this very moment? Mr Cardoza – are you waking up every day trying everything you can to save the club that have brought all of this to the people of this town and beyond? Or are you waking up thinking about your own future?
This might seem overly dramatic but we’re in serious territory now, if we weren’t deep in it before. The moment you see the letters HMRC you know something is seriously up. This is very different to dealing with a local council who can be talked around. They most certainly won’t hesitate in taking us to the cleaners. And I’m sorry Mr Chairman, but spinning things out for another week where you can have breathing space isn’t good enough.
It’s interesting to note that Cardoza continues to release statements AFTER news has been revealed by a third party like the council or HMRC. Had his hand not been forced, would we all have been left to find this out by ourselves? He’s got himself into one heck of a hole no matter how comparatively small the amount we owe HMRC is. The council will now have no choice but to up their own efforts in recovering the £10.25 million that was due to be paid back by today.
Once again some of the most loyal and passionate supporters, who pay into the club week in and week out in numerous forms, are left to play a waiting game and to get strung along for another week while behind very closed doors the future of a football club created by people who just wanted to give the town a club to call their own is hanging by the tightest of threads.
What has to be said in the middle of all of this is that the players and staff have been nothing short of heroic. As all around them collapses the Cobblers somehow won 3-2 at Wycombe, genuine League Two title contenders, and then again at home against Hartlepool to make it six unbeaten in the league. Chris Wilder and the players who are producing incredible results with this backdrop deserve so much more credit and coverage (I know this is ironic being at the bottom of this particular blog entry!).
We’re currently – and stress the word currently with the real possibility of docked points – sit just two points off a place in the top three of the division with a squad that has come together and put everything else out of their minds. It seems to have had a unifying effect and long may that continue because if we do come through this they’ll be ready for whatever’s next.
Somehow, we must find joy in following the battle on the pitch – it’s the only thing that can suspend our worries for ninety minutes at a time.