THESE are troubled times for Kingstonian, one of Non-League football’s most famous names. They will become homeless in a month, playing miles away in Leatherhead from August and the team is teetering dangerously on the brink of relegation.
The 1999 and 2000 FA Trophy winners are facing up to the most pivotal period in their history. Kingsmeadow, their long-term home, was sold by crafty former owner Rajesh Khosla over a decade ago. Bought by AFC Wimbledon with rumours of house-building in the air, the Dons took over the leasehold and it secured both clubs’ short-term future.
But that short-term fix is over. It was only ever a matter of time before landlords AFC Wimbledon wanted to go home to Plough Lane and complete their story.
Kingstonian are an unwanted subplot to that great tale, but chairman Mark Anderson is desperate to make the best of a bad situation. He doesn’t hold grudges; he knows his club have had it good for quite some time.
Paying next to nothing to use a stadium for many years and made to feel welcome despite the awkwardness.
Considering their previous treatment, Wimbledon always had a moral obligation to ensure Ks were looked after and a cheque for £1m for their tenants to get themselves going should be applauded, whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation. It’s one they didn’t actually have to write.
I wish things were different. I don’t buy into the argument of some that Kingstonian should be grateful for having to pay a peppercorn rent since the Dons took over.
They have been good landlords, and for many years that cash came from a friendly between the two clubs, but at no point were Wimbledon going to take advantage of the situation. But I do wish something could have been done to keep them there when Chelsea – who purchased Kingsmeadow last year to house their youth and ladies team – move in.
I’m not privileged to any information, but if only a sale could have been agreed which would have seen Ks use the ground for their league and FA Cup games. They could have just knocked £1m off the asking price, but word on the street is that Chelsea weren’t having any of it.
Wimbledon wouldn’t be able to return to SW19 without the sale, so suggestions that they should refuse a deal because of the Premier League champions-in-waiting’s attitude to having a sitting tenant is unrealistic.
I was sat next to Ks chairman Anderson at the Ryman League Christmas dinner and the news of his efforts to help his club’s fans came as no surprise to me. The owner of Anderson Coaches is going the extra mile to make sure disruption is kept to a minimum.
He is putting on buses and picking up every fan, taking them to Leatherhead and home again. For every game – and for free.
With an approach like that, Ks fans should be thankful they have a man such as him in charge of getting the great club back on track again.