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Answering the Call: Why Supporters Still Matter

The worst nightmare of a supporter is to see their club go away.  But great joy can be found again by bringing that club back to life.

Photo Credit: Malcolm Swinden Photography – Mal Swinden

Sports betting sites are a great way to enjoy international football, especially matches in England.

Ralph Burditt knows this firsthand as the first Chairman of AFC Rushden & Diamonds, a phoenix club created out of the ashes of a well-known English club called Rushden & Diamonds.

Like many clubs, R&D suffered greatly during the football recession and swiftly disappeared.  Supporters were left without their hometown club and had a big decision to make: try to save the existing club or start from scratch. The huge debts made it difficult to keep the original club alive so they decided to start over, creating an entirely new organization in the process. It is a proven method, considering the meteoric rise of AFC Wimbledon into the Football League.

“AFC Wimbledon is a very inspirational club,” Burditt declared. ”The supporters were dealt a great wrong by the football community and the FA. There were a lot of people needed to make things right. They have had outlandish success.”

Wimbledon expects promotion every other year, a lofty goal that has been met so far, but many obstacles lay ahead.  AFC R&D have goals of their own, none higher than sustainability. The club, which is focused on the community, has 26 teams (including men’s and women’s squads) already in place. The purpose is to develop local players to play in their first team and beyond.

Burditt also hopes the club will eventually have a ground to call their own as they currently share a ground over 5 miles away.

“We hope to give rise to the construction of a facility that will provide much-needed sporting facilities in the area,” Burditt continued.

The strength of support in the Rushden and Irthlingborough area was noted by a recent match that drew 1157 fans, a bright spot in AFC R&D’s inaugural season.

That season has been a success by all accounts, considering they currently sit at third place in the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League Division One table.

Photo Credit: Malcolm Swinden Photography – Mal Swinden

Developing young players has been a priority and it has been a job well done so far. Alfie Taylor and Joe Merrill are the first names that come to mind when discussing players that have the ability to progress up the pyramid.  Louis Smith, Ashley Foulger, Sam Brown, and Elliot Dent are other young players with lots of talent.

Simply put, the future of AFC Rushden & Diamonds is bright.  Maybe, just maybe the club can relive the biggest successes of their former selves.  For Burditt, the best memory was Duane Darby scoring 2 against Kettering Town in 2001.  This time around maybe it will be one of AFC R&D’s young stars that will score an iconic goal.

English Non-League Football Preview with Andrew Raeburn

Andrew Raeburn is a freelance sports journalist and broadcaster who specializes in English football, particularly the non-league game. He’s commentated on matches from leagues as diverse as China, Chile, and Israel and writes for a number of websites, as well as editing the Sussex Soccer site. Raeburn can be found on Twitter @andrew_raeburn or you can visit

1. How do you expect the Blue Square Premier clubs to finish at the end of the season?

There are probably more ex-Football League clubs in non-league’s top flight this season than ever before – and bar a few who are still firefighting financially, they all expect to get back up into the League as instantly as possible. The trouble is only two can – and most of the promoted sides in recent years have actually been Football League virgins (Crawley, Fleetwood, Stevenage, Burton) rather than relegated sides bouncing back. This time though, with no non-leaguers throwing cash around, the odds are in favour of the ex-League clubs who can rake it in through higher attendances. Wrexham and Luton remain the biggest clubs in the division and both will want to exorcise recent pain. Wrexham were incredibly unfortunate to amass 98 points and still not go up, finishing second behind the dominant Fleetwood losing in the playoffs to Luton. The Hatters themselves then went on to lose their second successive Wembley final, but boss Paul Buckle, appointed towards the end of last season, is a canny operator at this level having taken Torquay up previously. If they can avoid silly dropped points against lowly opposition raising their games, both teams should be in title contention. I expect Mansfield to also be up there and this could be the season Grimsby and Stockport finally adapt to life in non-league after their recent relegations. Gateshead and Forest Green Rovers both have some financial muscle to flex but this may be a season too soon for the latter of the two to challenge, while last season’s Football League dropouts Hereford and Macclesfield have had to regroup and aren’t likely to mount a sustained promotion bid. The champions of Blue Square Bet South and North, Woking and Hyde, should do well, but playoff winners Dartford and Nuneaton may be in a relegation scrap, alongside the likes of Telford, Alfreton and Braintree. My predictions – Champions: Wrexham. Playoff positions: Luton, Mansfield, Grimsby, Stockport. Pos 6-13: Kidderminster, Macclesfield, Gateshead, Newport, Forest Green, Cambridge, Lincoln, Ebbsfleet. Pos 14-20: Woking, Hereford, Southport, Dartford, Barrow, Hyde, Tamworth. Relegated: Nuneaton, Telford, Alfreton, Braintree.

2. Who is the favorite for Player of the Year in the Blue Square Premier?

As usual, the leading marksmen will grab most of the attention. Wrexham have signed the 35-year-old Brett Ormerod, who was playing in the Premier League with Blackpool just two seasons ago, and should grab a few goals if he stays fit. Jake Speight, who netted 21 times for Wrexham last term, has now signed for Mansfield to play closer to his home, so expect him to be among the top scorers. Luton’s new strike partnership of Jon Shaw and Scott Rendell, plus Macclesfield’s Matthew Barnes-Homer and Forest Green’s Magno Silva Vieira, who all have track records in this division, are also likely contenders for the golden boot. Outside of the strikers, Ronnie Henry – who led Stevenage out of the Conference and to back-to-back promotions – is looking to do it all over again with Luton and will be among the best centre-backs in the division.

3. Who is the favorite for Manager of the Year in the Blue Square Premier?

Andy Morrell, player-boss of Wrexham, and Luton’s Buckle are both under pressure to deliver promotion – but if Mansfield achieve it, Paul Cox will thoroughly deserve the honor. Kidderminster’s Steve Burr consistently overachieves given his budget.

4. Who is the favorite for Newcomer of the Year in the Blue Square Premier?

The newly-promoted sides tend to take the more established clubs by surprise – perhaps down to the occasional complacency of the full-timers when pitched against enthusiastic part-timers. This gives scope for some of the part-time clubs’ less-heralded stars to make a name for themselves. Dartford’s captain Elliot Bradbrook, one of the top performers in the Blue Square Bet South, is one to watch, while Braintree have picked up 20-year-old Josh Dawkin, following his release from Norwich. The winger is not completely new to the division, having played 17 games in loan spells with Kettering and Cambridge, but with a permanent home he could now display his potential under the tutelage of former West Ham midfielder Alan Devonshire.

5. What non-league player has the best chance of making an impact in the Football League or beyond?

Luton Town’s young defender Alex Lacey impressed during a loan spell in Blue Square Bet South with Eastbourne Borough last season and has attracted Football League interest. A strong presence in the air, Lacey reads the game extremely well for someone of his age – and I expect him to eventually flourish in the Football League in the same ex-Lewes and Tonbridge defender Leon Legge has at Brentford.

6. What is the quality of play like in non-league football? Is it improving or on the decline?

As clubs further up the pyramid import players from abroad and/or cut playing staff numbers due to financial pressures, good players often find themselves dropping down the divisions, through necessity more than anything else. Just as with every level, there are good games and bad games, but the stereotype of neanderthals playing the long ball game doesn’t quite ring true. There will be some very good footballing sides in the Blue Square Bet Premier this year – Luton, Macclesfield and Kidderminster will all try and play it on the ground – and others will be out to stop them through any means. As you go further down the pyramid, the quality varies considerably.

7. What challenges face non-league football on a daily basis?

As usual, it’s money. The challenges of keeping pace with those splashing the cash mean that many are living beyond their means – the number of Conference and other non-league clubs who have been the subject of winding-up threats from the UK tax office seems to grow each season. Some don’t survive – even when the money needed to save them represents a week’s wage for a top Premier League player. And therein lies the problem – the trickle-down effect of the money engorging the top division. When clubs like Portsmouth – FA Cup finalists twice in the last five years – and Rangers – teeter on the brink of liquidation, it lays bare the the mismanagement of some football clubs. Many do prosper, even on borrowed money, but if the situation isn’t managed right, the whole thing ends in tears.

8. What do you think of AFC Rushden & Diamonds’ prospects moving forward?

It was sad to see Rushden fold last summer – for the fans’ sake, more than anything. Eight years previous, they’d been a club on the up – in League One after back-to-back promotions and with plenty of cash to burn. But that pot of money dwindled quickly, the club regularly posting a loss until eventually they needed to raise £750,000 in two weeks. The inevitable followed. All ‘phoenix’ clubs are tinged with an element of sadness, that it should come down to the fans to reform a club which couldn’t see the woods for the trees, but at least they should learn the lessons from history. Last season, AFCR&D were entered only into a youth league, while the foundations were laid for a return to senior football. They have lost their Nene Park home to Kettering but supporters will be relieved when their inaugural match takes place on Saturday (August 18th). Eight years ago, Rushden & Diamonds were hosting the likes of QPR and Blackpool – this weekend’s opener is against Thrapston Town in United Counties League Division One. A lesson learned?

The Pelé Sports Fan Ambassador Club – March 2012

An American helping rebuild a legendary English club is a special story. Bruce Greenberg is the subject of that story as he does his part in bringing phoenix club AFC Rushden & Diamonds to life and future prominence.

Fans gather to see AFC Rushden & Diamonds in action against Wellingborough Town XI (Photo Credit: Mal Swinden).

Greenberg arrived in 2006 at a time when Rushden & Diamonds was at the top levels of non-league football.  He chose to support R&D even though he had other local options like Northampton Town and Kettering Town.  He began following the team, helping out with their radio station and media work.

Greenberg was quite a novelty, an American broadcasting for an English club, and had to carefully avoid using American terminology like “soccer” and “out of bounds”.  The novelty quickly wore off as he was quickly accepted by all of those involved with R&D.

But the storm clouds quickly rose over Rushden as the team experienced 2 relegations in 3 seasons amidst some serious financial concerns. Supporters knew the club was in trouble, but no one knew how bad the damage was.

The team was 500,000 pounds in debt with no savior on the horizon.  Supporters were only able to raise 50,000 pounds so the idea of a supporter-owned team seemed to be little more than a pipe dream.

“It was a gut-wrenching experience, a blow to the cranium,” Greenberg commented.

The team folded and Chairman Keith Cousions did the unthinkable, allowing hated rival Kettering Town to occupy Nene Park, R&D’s former home.

“Kettering Town was a team we loved to hate,” Greenberg declared.

The move, which Greenberg called a “double whammy,” added insult to injury.  Kettering left Rockingham Road to set up shop at the larger Nene Park. Obviously this caused quite a controversy among R&D, who quickly moved to set up a club of their own.  Some fans even developed conspiracy theories at how Cousins might have worked a backdoor deal with Kettering Chairman Imraan Ladak.

Supporters show their support during a match against Irchester United XI (Photo Credit: Mal Swinden).

Within a matter of months, AFC Rushden & Diamonds was born  with a youth side taking to the pitch.  The club now hopes to join the United Counties League with their first team in 2012/2013, along with adding more youth teams and a woman’s side.

Those involved with this season’s youth team hope that several of the younger lads will graduate to the first team.

Greenberg is high on keeper Ashley Foulger and midfielders Ashley Meeks and Louis Smith. Foulger claimed a 120 minute clean sheet against Rothwell Corinthians, while Ashley Meeks landed the shot of the season against Northampton ON Chenecks. Smith tallied the game winner in the 1-0 victory against Rothwell.

Greenberg has been there from the start and will be there to help the team prepare for the debut of the senior team next season.  His good work has not gone unnoticed.

“He has been fantastic this year getting involved with AFCRDTV and showing us how a professional does things,” AFC Rushden & Diamonds Vice Chairman Jon Ward remarked. “We are all delighted to have him on board and he is a real asset to the club.”

Greenberg shows us what it means to be a real supporter, someone who gives their all to see their club grow, flourish, and in R&D’s case to live another day.

Pelé is unquestionably the world’s greatest soccer ambassador, spreading his love of the Beautiful Revolution wherever he goes. He has become the game’s strongest supporter and has been the source of inspiration for millions around the globe. From the streets of New York to the fields of South Africa, Pelé Sports is a name synonymous with passion, creativity and innovating the game the way it should be played. A world without Pelé would be a world without soccer with millions missing out on the joy and the Beautiful Revolution we all love in this game.

Today’s supporters carry on the prestigious legacy of Pelé, growing and promoting the game in their own communities and passing the torch to a new generation of footballers. Mainstream media outlets have failed to give a face to these fans, people who do extraordinary things everyday and have stories that deserve to be told. Whether it is an Iraqi War veteran who is a passionate supporter of his favorite MLS side or a student making an impact on the college game, the concept of ambassadorship is alive and well here in North America. Today’s supporters are not hooligans or fanatics or even überfans, but rather gatekeepers to the true spirit of the beautiful game.

International Soccer Network, in conjunction with Pelé Sports, plans to celebrate the contributions of North American soccer fans every month with a new series of feature articles. 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds Announce Youth Setup for 2012-2013

AFC Rushden & Diamonds are delighted to announce a football for all youth team setup from next season 2012-2013 after developing a partnership with South Rushden Junior Football Club.

Local players will be able to have a clear progression all the way through the age groups to the senior team.

In total there will be 22 youth teams, including girls teams and multi-disability teams.

Acting Chairman Ralph Burditt believes that the deal is vital for the future of football in the local area, “I am delighted that we have been given the opportunity to join together with South Rushden Junior Football Club, a club which is universally well thought of for the high standard of coaching that they provide. From day one, AFC Rushden & Diamonds has stated its commitment to providing football opportunities for local young people and this is the first and most vital step down the road to building a club which serves its community rather than the other way around. As a result of this deal, local youngsters will have a clear road set out before them, down which they can progress from a young age to Under 18s and beyond to senior football – all within the same club. We will be offering football for all abilities as well as all ages, providing a challenging and rewarding development for those who want it, without alienating those who simply wish to play for fun. We will also be able to provide the currently-existing teams with extra volunteers and indeed any other help which they need to support their footballing activities.”

South Rushden Juniors Football Club have been offering football for all within the local community for 10 years and feel the amalgamation fits with their  long-term aims and aspirations.

South Rushden Juniors’ David Cockings says “As a club we are committed to offering the children of Rushden and the surrounding area  somewhere they can play football at a reasonable cost and benefit from quality coaching.  The FA have recognized this and we have been a Charter Standard Club since 2007.  Our meetings with AFC Rushden & Diamonds have been very positive and we have so many aims in common that amalgamating the two club’s talents and abilities is the right thing to do.”

AFC Rushden & Diamonds are Now a Community Benefit Society

It’s official!  AFC Rushden & Diamonds are now a community benefit society. The club’s constitution has now been accredited by the Financial Services Authority and they are now one of the first football clubs in England to be set up as a community benefit society. The constitution not only ensures that any profits made by the club must be reinvested, but protects the club by safeguarding the club from any future asset stripping.

With now over 300 members AFC Rushden & Diamonds are going from strength to strength and will be announcing a members-only forum to be held in the new year to vote on a number of important issues.

Acting Chairman Ralph Burditt announced the news exclusively on the BBC Non League show after the 1-0 victory over Daventry on Monday night.

All members as of  December 31, 2011 will be entered into a draw to win a FREE season ticket for the senior team 2012-2013, the season ticket will also be number No. 1.

Membership for 2011-2012 is £15 for adults and £5 for under 16s. You can become a member online at or by post: Write to AFC Rushden & Diamonds, C/O Kiln Park, Raunds NN9 6EQ.

Don’t forget the Christmas party is being held on Friday 9th December at Kiln Park Raunds, £2 in advance or £3 at the door, under 12s are FREE.