In a nutshell
Excitement of achieving league status has worn off. Fans secretly wish for relegation, so they can have the excitement of achieving it all over again.
Their finest hour
Kiddy fans have got over The Smiths splitting up pretty much as well as most people, but mention of 1987 is sure to bring a lump to the throat; for this is the typical effect of your team's first visit to Wembley. A goalless FA Trophy final draw with Burton Albion was followed by a replay (remember them?) at the Hawthorns, which Harriers won 2-1. Two more visits to the Twin Towers followed before Town got anywhere near them, but these Trophy finals were both lost, again by two goals to one, though they and Wycombe filled a tremendous 34,842 of those now-demolished seats in 1991.
The 1993–94 FA Cup run ranks highly, featuring, as it did, a 2-1 giant-killing just up the A456 at Birmingham, the humbling of proud Preston and finally a narrow defeat by West Ham as 8,000 squeezed their asses into Aggborough. Kiddy won the Conference the same season but were denied promotion by those absolutely stupid ground regulations; and so their finest hour came only in 2000, as it required the advent of two gigantic things to propel them finally into the League: the turn of the millennium, and Jan Molby.
It's complicated. Rivalries divide into past and present: not so long ago Kiddy competed on roughly equal terms with very near neighbours Bromsgrove Rovers and Worcester City, who peeled off downwards from Conference level as Harriers clambered up. Today's hostilities then fall under the headings of financial – Rushden & Diamonds continue to be reviled by fans with recent non-League history for "buying their way into the League" – and geographical.
These current-day local rivalries, in turn, subdivide into the mutually respectful (Shrewsbury) and the somewhat more ill-tempered. This means Cheltenham, whose provocative proximity is compounded by an alleged long-ball style, a drain of playing and coaching talent from Aggborough to Whaddon Road in the late 90s, and, as one Kiddy fan puts it, "their annoying childish attempts at trying to start up a 'firm', which now resides at the bus stop outside their ground shouting 'Kiddy are gay' every time we visit."
For fierceness, intensity and busted heads, however, even this antipathy towards the horsey Gloucestershire types will not match the Old Firm, East Lancashire or even Town v Boston any time soon. Kidderminster folk are more interested in keeping the hospital in their town than duffing up people from the next. Healing the sick, not making war. Groovy.
It's probably fair to say that any club recently touched by the presence of Mickael Antoine-Curier – and boy have there been a few – has been experiencing what football writers would call "a transitional phase" and what fans might be more inclined to term "absolute complete and utter chaos". Sounding familiar? Monsieur le Flash, whose playing career with Kidderminster Harriers lasted 27 minutes, was one of a swarm of loanees and short-termists to descend upon this neck of the Worcestershire woods last season. As many different players donned the red and white of KHFC (real soul football) in 2003-04, in fact, as slipped into and out of the Mariners' black and white – though to slightly greater effect.
Back-to-back wins as the season began proved cruelly misleading when the side picked up only one point from a possible 18 in September. The following month saw the dismissal of Ian Britton and the return of the Molb – respected and distrusted in equal measure by fans (see also: Buckley, Alan) since his pissing-off to Hull in 2002, where the patient and far-sighted leadership one has come to expect at the KC Stadium saw him last exactly 17 games. Back at Aggborough the man with the Scandi-Scouse accent piloted a successful if occasionally nerve-racking emergency landing, his side finally easing to a bumpy but safe stop in 16th place. The highlight was a thunderous third-round FA Cup derby against a ropey Wolves side that equalised in only the 89th minute. It was that sod Alex Rae, an'all.
Who's the Dadi?
Darren Mansaram will be repeatedly dispossessed by player of the year and towering rock of the back four Mr Wayne Hatswell: signed from Chester last October, he is now credited by some fans with having preserved Kiddy's league status more or less single-handedly.
On paper Adam Murray and Dean Keates look capable of forging a formidable partnership in central midfield next term. Released by Derby after a battle with the bottle, Murray seems to have sorted his life out since joining Harriers; while the bright star Keates became a victim of squad inflation at Hull (why bother coaching the players you have when you can just buy new ones?) and was shrewdly snapped up by Molby in February. He was bloody good in my Hednesford Town team on Championship Manager 3 as well, and we all know that counts for a lot.
Longish-serving midfielder Dean Bennett, who has just done the pen-on-paper thing again, is another respected name (when he isn't being called Forrest Gump), but with those swingeing budget cuts, eyes are turning to the young 'uns. Next season may or may not be the hour of 22-year-old striker Scott Rickards, brought across from Tamworth last December but yet to impress; while highly promising young keeper John Danby displaced the experienced Stuart Brock in the first team towards the end of the 2003–04 campaign and has now signed up for two more years.
I like this club. I was bored one day in the mid-90s and got on the train to Kidderminster to watch an FA Trophy semi-final or something against Hyde United. It was ace.
But it's hard to see them improving much on last season. Nine players have been released, including experienced midfielders Mark Yates and Sean Parrish, and youngster Graham Ward (despite becoming Harriers' first ever full international in an Ireland u21 game). Some claim Molby has less money to spend than every other manager in the League. The manager himself has said: "The board knows that the budget I have got to work with only guarantees relegation," which is cunningly calculated to make him look good when Kiddy finish 16th again.
Beyond that, there'll be no cash to fund a promotion push until the dead rise from their graves to feed on the living, scaring the local populace into seeking safety in numbers at Aggborough instead of spending their Saturdays pottering around Bewdley and Molineux and watching white lions at the West Midlands Safari Park. "We have our own railway," says one fan, referring to the steam train that chugs up and down the Severn valley. "It gets bigger crowds than us."
The food at Aggborough is legendary in the lower leagues, especially the soup; but given the scorched dishcloths that passed for pies at QPR last season, such matters are anything but trivial. Kidderminster were the first side to stage an FA Cup tie under floodlights – against Brierley Hill, some time in the 1950s. That's quite trivial. And my bedroom carpet was bought in Kidderminster. That's definitely trivial; no-one said it had to be interesting.
With so many football websites just slung haphazardly together, bereft of love and care and everything nice, it is a happy thing to chance upon Harriers-Online, a literate, wide-ranging and easily navigable repository of all things Kiddyish. St@tto's Kidderminster Harriers Site is also worth a look and boasts a mighty database of former players (did you know Shaun Cunnington played for them?). No sign of Lee Hughes, though; I guess he had to be in court that day.
Thanks to: Simon, Lee Birch, Jono Smith, Phil Lench, Moo, DaveF, Ed Dursley. Save me some Minestrone.
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