Rushden & Diamonds is one place we’ve been – but won’t be going back; the club collapsing in 2011 after a rollercoaster ride. Nene Park was once an imperious bricks-and-mortar representation of a Diamonds side in their pomp. Now, it’s the forlorn reminder of an equally rapid fall; half demolished and about to become little more than a stitch or three in the rich tapestry of English football. The club lasted just 19 years from formation to disintegration.
Life was a rollercoaster. They were the result of a merger between Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds; both former opponents of ours in their own right. That was in 1992. Nine years later, they reached the Football League. Such a rise couldn’t be possible without the support of business tycoon Max Griggs; the man behind the birth and rapid rise of the Diamonds between 1992 and 1996.
After pushing higher at the top end of the Conference, promotion to the Football League was theirs – though not before we’d had a laugh at their apparent struggle to do the job. By 2003, the Diamonds were at their peak; Division Three champions and heading into the third tier (or League One as it now is). But the rise couldn’t last. The bubble began to burst. The Diamonds lasted one season in the third tier – and then finished 22nd in the 2004-5 season.
That summer, Griggs handed control of the club to a fans’ trust. On the pitch, however, things got worse and they were relegated again in 2006. After returning to non-league football, crowds fell and cash worries rose. It felt stable enough until the 2010-1 season; a campaign where the Diamonds went through tragedy, drama and boardroom movements. The Football Conference kicked ’em out in summer 2011 as the club didn’t have the cash to complete the new season.
A last-gasp bid to join the Southern League also fell through. Administration and closure followed, as did the formation of a new club now looking to get back up.