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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Diamonds want sparkle to return
By Pete Oliver

Rushden celebrate better times under former chairman Max Griggs
Rushden enjoyed good times under former chairman Max Griggs
For a club once dubbed the 'Manchester United of the Conference' the current league table does not make pretty reading for Rushden and Diamonds.

Back in the Conference following five seasons as a Football League club, the Diamonds are just one point and a handful of places above the drop zone, having won just four of their first 16 games.

Paul Hart, hired in the summer as only Rushden's fifth manager but third in the last two years, paid the price by losing his job.

Hart was appointed after relegation in May cost Barry Hunter his job but the former Nottingham Forest boss was unable to stop the rot.

Chairman Helen Thompson told BBC Sport: "With a person like him we expected to be in a play-off position.

"He had a budget which was not the highest in the Conference by any means but was certainly at the higher end and he got some good players.

"We were therefore disappointed after Saturday to find ourselves 17th in the league and we did not think that was sustainable going forward.

Former Rushden & Diamonds boss Paul Hart
Paul Hart paid the price for Rushden's poor start

"We were really sorry to part with him. He worked very hard and was a gentleman but it did not work out for us."

Hart's dismissal is the latest episode in Rushden's three-year downward spiral.

Under Brian Talbot the club, formed in 1992 following the amalgamation of Rushden Town and Irthlingborough Diamonds, followed up their Conference title success of 2001 by winning League Two two years later.

But relegation followed immediately and after Talbot left, two seasons of struggle culminated with last season's slump to the bottom of the League.

Against that backdrop Rushden have won battles off the pitch in handling the transition from a bankrolled club to a self-supporting one.

We want to see the Diamonds sparkle again

Rushden chairman Helen Thompson

Max Griggs' wealth from his Dr Martens footwear firm powered Rushden's rise but in June 2005 he handed over the keys of Nene Park to a Supporters Trust.

With the help of a couple more years of financial help from the Griggs family, Diamonds had to stand on their own two feet.

The club have had to reduce an operational deficit of 1.3m down to 300,000 - and come next summer the Diamonds hope to break even.

With no bank loans to service and up to 200 volunteers working for the club at every level to keep costs down, Rushden are better off than many.

But Thompson does not regard being solvent at the lower end of the Conference as an option.

Former Rushden manager Brian Talbot
Brian Talbot took the Diamonds into the Football League

The hunt for Hart's replacement has begun and according to the chairman, Rushden have been "inundated with people of a very high calibre looking to be his successor."

A return to the Football League remains the target and Thompson believes League football is sustainable without the Griggs family's contribution.

Thompson said: "We have to be realistic. Lots of football clubs are finding it hard going.

"The establishment of the Premiership had made football at this level a lot more difficult and with the Bosman ruling there are not the transfer fees around.

"But we have got a good brand name and fantastic facilities, and we want to see the Diamonds sparkle again."

SEE ALSO
Godden handed caretaker boss role
17 Oct 06 |  Rushden and Diamonds
Diamonds part company with Hart
16 Oct 06 |  Rushden and Diamonds
Hart stresses Diamonds commitment
11 Oct 06 |  Rushden and Diamonds
Hart takes over as Rushden boss
23 May 06 |  Rushden and Diamonds
Faded Diamonds must rebuild
09 May 04 |  Rushden and Diamonds


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