Kettering Town were originally formed in 1872, turning professional in 1891. The club graduated through twelve different leagues from 1892 until they became founder members of the Football Alliance in 1979. The club has maintained its status in the top flight of semi-professional football throughout the Gola and Vauxhall sponsorships.
Many honours have found their way to Rockingham Road, winning the Midlands League title in 1896 and 1900. The Southern League Championship was won on three occasions, in 1928 and 1957 under Tommy Lawton and in 1973 under the guidance of Ron Atkinson. In the 1930’s the club won the East Midlands League and in 1948 the Poppies became Birmingham League Champions.
The Football Conference has so far eluded Kettering, who have finished runners-up in 1981, 1989, 1994 and 1998. The club has finished in the top six for seven of the last twelve seasons. The GMAC Cup, now known as the Endsleigh Brokers Challenge Trophy was won in 1987 and runners-up in 1995. Local competitions have been won regularly by Kettering Town, with the Northants Senior Cup won on 28 occasions and the Maunsell Cup on thirteen.
The FA Cup has brought success and publicity to Rockingham Road with the first round proper being reached on 41 occasions. In 1901 the club reached the last sixteen and in more modern times the Poppies reached the fourth round proper in the 1988/89 season and also the third round in 1991/92 only to lose to Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers. During the 1994/95 season the club made their debut live on Sky TV in a first round tie against Plymouth Argyle, soon followed by another appearance against Wrexham at Rockingham Road.
Wembley has been reached on two occasions before. The Poppies lost 2-0 to Stafford Rangers in the 1979 FA Trophy Final. More recently of course, the FA Trophy Final in 2000 saw the Poppies lose a closely fought final with Kingstonian 3-2. Most recently, the club were narrowly relegated on the last day of the 2000/01 season which ended 30 years in the top flight of non-league football. The Poppies made a quick return to the Conference in the 2001/02 season winning the Southern Premier League with a last-day victory at Tiverton Town under Carl Shutt – his first full season in charge.
The following season was a major disappointment and the club, rarely out of the bottom three, were again demoted – this time to the Ryman League. Carl Shutt left the club in April 2003 and Dominic Genovese, after a short period as acting manager, took over the reins.
After a poor run of home results and a disappointing defeat to Boreham Wood in the FA Cup Dominic Genovese was replaced by former Northampton Town Manager, Kevin Wilson. Changes to the team were made and the club finished the season on a 12 game unbeaten run. Ninth place was enough for the club to return to the Conference albeit in one of the two new feeder leagues – the Nationwide Conference North.
Wilson nearly led his charges to promotion in the first season of the new North division. A late spurt saw the Poppies into the play-offs, but an own goal from club legend Martin Matthews meant that Altrincham prevailed 3-2 in the regional final.
Season 2005-06 was to be one of massive change at Rockingham Road, and would make Kettering Town one of the most publicised teams in world football. In October 2005 it was announced that long-serving chairman Peter Mallinger was to hand over the reins to a consortium consisting of Imraan Ladak, Mick Leech and England legend Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne was installed as manager, replacing Kevin Wilson, and ex-Arsenal stalwart Paul Davis was recruited as assistant manager.
The eyes of the world were on Gascoigne and the Poppies, and media interest was massive. However, for a variety of reasons, Gascoigne was only to remain in the job for thirty-nine days. Kevin Wilson was given his old job back, but only held onto it for two months as a run of one win in twelve games saw the Poppies slump into the bottom half of Nationwide North.
In February 2006, Morell Maison was appointed Kettering Town manager, and led the team to 6th place in Nationwide North, after a run of seven wins in the last eight games. An announcement was made in May 2006 that the playing staff for 2006-07 would be full-time, and that six new signings had been made. The ambition is there for all to see, and Kettering will be looking to deliver the Nationwide North title to their fans in 2006-07.
Official Kettering Town Site