Saturday 29th April, 2017, just about 57 years to the day after my first match watching Kingstonian play, I went to Kingsmeadow to watch their last game at the ground they’ve known as home for the last 28 years. Now, I don’t claim to have been a great supporter of Ks, just a long-standing one – and to be honest Kingsmeadow holds few memories for me. Being based now in Northampton, its an effort to go to games to be frank – and I was a Richmond Road boy at the time that I was a fanatic, between the ages of eight and thirteen.
Growing up in Norbiton, the journey to the Thorpe Road entrance could be a decent walk or a bus ride on the 282 or 283. As an aside, have you noticed how final destinations on a bus route can seem so glamorous until you actually go there? The 283, as I remember it, went to ‘The Bittoms.’ Wow – a leafy glade with a small pond, perhaps? No, just a characterless bit of Kingston alongside the Crown Court as it turns out.
I digress; Isthmian League matches in the 60s were largely on Saturdays and not always at 3pm. Before floodlights were installed in those early 60s, the games started earlier during the depths of winter. It mattered little because, at my most enthusiastic, I always arrived at least an hour before kick off to catch the players arriving so that autographs could go into the programme. Denis Montague always fascinated me as he often arrived looking as if he’d just finished a shift of hod-carrying. Dave Richards, what we now call a holding midfielder and no 4 (I think Nobby Stiles based his game on Dave’s), signed his autographs as he played, with the smile of a baby-faced assassin; Johnny McCormack was cool – of course; Hugh Lindsay, straight from teaching Saturday morning’s lessons always looked appropriately cerebral but often late and harassed. Brian Wakefield, too, kept goal in the way that he walked in, somewhat unkempt but with a professorial air. Tony Slade’s rolling gate always made me think of him as an erstwhile member of the Royal Navy.
Thorpe Road always got me into the main stand area, a bit more expensive but well worth it for the proximity to players that a ten year old demands. Cups of tea and jam doughnuts accompanied the watching of the match and I remember then, as I noticed yesterday, that in amongst the usual banter there’s always someone with an uncouth turn of phrase who brings about an awkward silence from those around him. Always undaunted though!
Of course, the stalwart supporter for the Ks then, and for so many years after, was Jack Goodchild. I remember Jack being immaculately smart, with the charisma to draw a crowd around him, and at several appropriate times in the game to shout aloud with the slow delivery of a Spurs chant, “Come…on…you…Ks.” I failed to maintain my physical support for Ks after my mid-teens so I don’t know Jack’s story from the late 60s onwards but when a road’s named after you, as of course it is after Jack outside Kingsmeadow, you must have left your mark.
So, J, K, L and M… J is for Janus the two-headed Roman God who looked back and looked forward. Ks will always have that great capacity to look back with pride at their history: back to 1933, winning the FA Amateur Cup, 1960 FA Amateur Cup runners-up (my first game), 1999 and 2000 as FA Trophy winners – a history that few clubs can match. AFC Wimbledon has shown how, with determination and dedication, and some financial help, even the worst situations can be overcome. So, we must look forward with all of those attributes and with the hope of the sort of financial help that’s needed.
K stands for the Ks of course, and for what lies ahead? Next season sees a ground-share with L for Leatherhead – an understandable fall-back position but hardly the long-term way forward for the Royal Borough’s prime football team. In my fanatical youth I dreamed of my rich adult self taking Ks forward to a life in the old First Division. Sadly, as an adult I lack the financial clout to even offer to buy the match ball for a game – and yet I think to myself, the Royal Borough of Kingston must have its Elton John equivalent – someone who can do for Ks what Elton did for Watford. But, for now, its M for Mystery!
Certainly my recent visits to the games against Leatherhead, Merstham and Havant & Waterlooville give me the feeling that a great spirit is abroad. A new character has emerged in the shape of Craig Edwards. He has the look of someone who can conjure up the magic which may be needed – and perhaps Kingstonian can be the new AFC Wimbledon (I know, whisper it though, as I can remember just how deadly that Isthmian League rivalry between the two clubs used to be).
Almost in the immortal words of ‘Delia Smith,’ erstwhile national cooking guide and Norwich football guru, “Let’s be ‘aving you. Ks need your support and they need it now.”