The away day. The game can go one of three ways. We either get a great start and an early goal, which sadly does nothing to lessen the anxiety. Supporters of teams that go one goal up always see the precariousness of their position. It cannot last. Or we get a terrible start, and our star player is sent off in the second minute, as happened to us at Barwell a while back. Supporters of teams whose star player gets sent off in the second minute assume that they are in for an impossibly torrid 88 minutes. All hope is already lost. Or, thirdly, things settle down into a finely balanced (i.e. dull) midfield game of few chances and little goalmouth action. Supporters of teams that settle down into a dull (finely balanced) midfield stalemate are always acutely aware that it would only take one breakaway by the opposition, or a defensive error by our team, and all will be lost. In reality, Kettering have only lost one third of the away games I've seen over the years, and they have won considerably more than they've lost. However, we are required to be pessimists. Being a pessimist is a large part of the enjoyment.
With optimism in such short supply, why do you bother, my friend the Liverpool sofa-fan might ask? Why put yourselves through such torment? Well, as they say, it’s not the pain that kills you. It’s the hope. There is always that small chance that today will be the day when, despite all the odds, we’ll score the goal, we’ll win the game, we’ll upset the odds, we’ll win the league. We might even get through to the first round of the FA Cup. The last time that happened we drew Hartlepool away, a very long journey up north from my home in Ipswich. But worth it, you must surely agree with me. It doesn’t get much bigger than Hartlepool away.
While our friend the virtual Liverpool fan is in Asda’s, stocking up on cans for his convenient 17.15 televised kick-off, us real fans are anticipating the second half at The (rickety) Arthur ‘Plummy’ Plumb the Plumber Stadium. The rain has stopped, and although the low autumn sun had briefly popped out from behind the clouds, blinding our view of the last few minutes of the first half, all too soon it has dipped below the horizon. Rapidly it becomes distinctly chilly. Even a red and black Kettering scarf won’t keep the cold out for long.
As each minute goes by, and the score remains 0-0, I’m checking my watch more frequently. I might have got up super early this morning to get here but, right now, I just want it to end. “We’ll take a 0-0 draw,” I say to no-one in particular. My fellow away fans agree. Others have just gone quiet, intently watching every move, and willing us not to lose. We’re actually doing quite well, and a few even dare to imagine us sneaking a winner. The minutes tick away. Then suddenly we break away, the travelling Kettering fans urging our lone forward on. He stumbles, but recovers his balance enough to scuff in a miscued shot from 15-yards. Inexplicably their goalkeeper is unable to reach the ball, which dribbles into an empty net. The whistle goes and that’s it. We’ve won with the final kick of the match. On a good day we have, anyway.
...watched Ipswich Town home and away until moving to Kettering in 1983, since when I have followed Kettering Town. If I'm not watching KTFC, I tend to seek out a game on a ground I have not previously visited.
...featured in the Kettering Town match-day programmes in the 2021-22 season.
Kettering; verb. The present continuous tense of the verb 'to ketter', as in "I know I am, I'm sure I am, I'm Kettering till I die". Or, as our fans sang once on a rain-soaked open terrace in Charlton, "I'm Kettering till I dry".
We are required to be pessimists. Being a pessimist is a large part of the enjoyment.