Adventures in Football #59: Hayden Road (AFC Rushden & Diamonds)
July 30, 2022
AFC RUSHDEN & DIAMONDS vs. LUTON TOWN (Pre-Season Friendly)
The Rushden & Diamonds story should serve as a warning to any nouveau riche non-league outfit about their potential future. Rushden & Diamonds was the merger of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds in 1992. The club had substantial backing and won the National League in 2001 and hit the dizzying heights of League 1 football by winning League 2 in 2003. By 2011 the club had been liquidated. Nene Park, their former ground, was extensively renovated during the 1990s but was closed in 2012 and despite costing £30M was demolished in 2017.
All of this, the ascent, the descent and destruction were overseen by Max Griggs who sold the club for £1 in 2005. He died during the Covid pandemic at the age of 82. Griggs made his fortune by manufacturing Dr Martens boots. The notoriously fashionable yet uncomfortable footwear popular in the 80s and 90s. Despite everything Griggs seems to be fondly remembered by the club. A phoenix club replaced them in 2011-12 season, which is fully fan owned.
The new club started in the United Counties League but quickly won promotion to the Southern League and were promoted to the Premier League Central in 2018. Covid hit after that and left two of the following three seasons abandoned. They finished sixth last year in a tough division and have a shot at promotion this time around. As a Bromsgrove man, I never really cared for the rich lads of Rushden but as a phoenix club they have a lot more to like.
Hayden Road is a tiny ground, boxed in by residential housing and on one side by an enormous hedge made entirely of tall trees. Normally this is the one where I go to my camera roll and pull up a picture of said ground so you can see what it looks like. One small problem…this game was on the night after my pub crawl column about Northampton. So, Mike picked me up from Northampton around 6.15-6.30pm and I was smashed. We then drove over to Rushden for a 7pm kick off. It was a bit touch and go but we made it for around kick off time. Time to take some pictures right?
So, I may have had a few. What do I actually remember? I remember getting to the ground and paying to go in. Luton were already 1-0 up because I went for a piss and missed a goal. We got grub from the Food Barn. I also remember spending the entire second half trying to convince the goalkeeper for Rushden to stop hoofing it long as it kept coming back and more often than not resulting in a goal. I went into full on Football Manager mode. The keeper refused to cooperate saying the defenders were all shit so that’s why he didn’t pass to them. That legitimately happened. I also remember there being an enormous mound in front of his goal in the second half.
Pictures are courtesy of Mike Kilby who was driving and therefore sober.
You can see the massive line of trees on the far side. Also the somewhat unorthodox stands. That little off-centre one was very confusing.
Shout out to Chris Ruff.
Someone’s house burned down second half. We spent the half behind the Rushden goal shouting at the keeper, which livened up proceedings for all concerned and allowed the keeper to experience real high league levels of banter.
Final Score: AFC Rushden & Diamonds 0 Luton Town U23s 6
(should have stopped belting it long, keeper)
Ok, so that’s all I can remember so here are the scores!
Legitimately just me yelling at the keeper. The fact no noise was heard when Luton scored, at all, should be telling. Every one of their goals was met with silence. *
It was £9, which is maybe a touch high for the level but we are dealing with a London price bump so I’ll allow it. ***
Rushden & Diamonds were dreadful, which is the level, and Luton’s kids played some tidy clinical football and battered them. **
EASE OF ACCESS:
We parked right outside the ground. It was a piece of piss. However, public transport is a lot harder. I would need to get a train to Northampton and then a couple of buses through Wellingborough. I was a bit shocked to learn how far north it is. It was about an hour drive north from Luton. ***
We had some food. They did skin on chips, which were great. There was a bizarre mound in front of the goal, which surely you shouldn’t have at this level. They’d also tarped off an entire stand for some reason. **½
It’s the worst score of the season so far for AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Maybe if the goalkeeper had played it short at least once I could have given them a bump on the score but here we are. It’s a decent little ground and I didn’t hate it. I gave it the same score I gave Wolves Women and that was a fun little ground. I can only apologise for the lack of details but this suffered so that the Northampton Crawling column could live.