AFC Rushden & Diamonds Supporter Adam Benny has produced an article comparing the season ahead in the Southern League with the similar campaigns for the original Rushden & Diamonds, as part of his college course. He interviewed Diamonds’ Manager Andy Peaks about how the forthcoming campaign might compare with his playing days at a similar level. His article is published below.

 

RISE OF THE DIAMONDS 

AFC Rushden & Diamonds secured their second promotion since their formation in 2011, winning the United Counties League Premier Division for the 2014/15 season, having only played three seasons of first team football. The Diamonds lifted the title as they finished 11 points clear of second-placed Thurnby Nirvana.

The non-league side will compete in the Southern Football League Division One Central for the 2015/16 season – the same tier of football in which the late Rushden and Diamonds started in 1992 – and they go into next season with Andy Peaks at the helm, who was in that very first Rushden and Diamonds squad 23 years ago.

Peaks, 44, played as a defender for Rushden in their first ever season, scoring one goal as the Diamonds finished third in the Beazer Homes Southern League Midland Division.

“The playing standard should be similar as it’s the same level, however that squad was brought together with the merger and in fact it was a difficult circumstance to us now as we have kept the majority of last season’s squad”, said Peaks. “Both clubs had great support, along with great backing from the board”.

Peaks made over 200 appearances for Rushden and Diamonds – the first player to do so at the club – helping Rushden to earn two promotions in just four years since forming from the merger of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds.

However, despite the similarities, Vice-chairman Jon Ward explains that it’s hard to compare AFC Rushden’s current situation to the original Rushden and Diamonds’ formation.

“It’s very difficult to compare the reformed club with the old club, we try to take what was great about the old club and have those core values run through the new one, things such as engaging the community and operating in as professional manner as possible”, explained Ward. “We wouldn’t have achieved what we have so far without the wonderful volunteers who make such a difference to the club”, he added.

It was the performances on the pitch in the United Counties League Premier Division that earned the Diamonds promotion at the second time of asking. They won the league after winning 31 games out of 40, with Tom Lorraine their top scorer, bagging 18 goals in 43 appearances.

Peaks explained the key to the club’s success; “The main reasons were hard work, lots of spirit, a never say die attitude, lots of belief in ourselves when everyone wanted us to fail. We were able to create a good team spirit within the squad and I think that showed in the games with late goals such as Holbeach away and Wisbech at home”.

Peaks then went on to outline his expectations for the new season in a higher league, and the future goals of the club.

“We have kept predominantly the same squad and brought in a couple of new faces to add some strength in depth. The aim is to get into the playoffs if we can”. Peaks explained. He added, “I think we can progress up the leagues, it must be sustainable though. We have a limited catchment area so whether we could ever get back into League One is probably doubtful, but I’d like to think we can get back to the Conference and then who knows what can happen”.

Ward echoed the manager’s thoughts of sustainability being the key for future success.

“For the future we have to ensure we continue to be sustainable, and that means working hard to bring in as much income as possible and making sure costs are kept to a minimum”. He continued, “That needs to be hand in hand with maximising the fans experience at the ground and trying to win football matches on the pitch too, so it’s always going to be a tricky one”.

Ward then added that he’d like the Diamonds to emulate the successes of other clubs, namely FC United of Manchester – who won promotion to the Conference North this season after starting out in the same tier of football as AFC Rushden just ten years ago – while also highlighting the difficulties of grass roots football.

“I would like the club to go as high up the pyramid as they can, look what FC United of Manchester have achieved recently, and that brings home the massive need for our own ground in our own area which of course must be sustainable. With 34 teams wearing AFC Rushden and Diamonds colours each week it’s unbelievable that 80% of them have to play outside our conurbation”.

AFC Rushden and Diamonds will compete in the Southern Football League Division One Central for the 2015/16 season.

 

 
 
 

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