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.
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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.
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.