If ever you needed a remainder of just how precarious the business of professional football is then the events of last week at two conference clubs have shown us.
Darlington have grabbed all the headlines thanks largely thanks to the dramatic nature of their rescue by two fans right as the deadline to stop them falling into extinction. The money will grant them a three week stay of execution and everyone at Football Business wishes them all the best.
However it isn’t just Darlo that are right on the brink. Kettering Town have had a tempestuous last few years and that came to a head in the last few weeks with a very odd chain of events.
First, Manager Mark Stimson who had only joined in September (himself the third boss in a matter of months) but left after the club was placed under a transfer embargo. He was replaced by Mark Cooper, a man who had much success at the club in his first spell (and ironically had left Darlington in October).
That was on January 4th but just three days later Cooper was already “considering his position” at Nene Park. It turned out that when he was appointed he was promised funds would be forthcoming and the embargo would be lifted. This did not happen.
The players meanwhile hadn’t been paid for a three months. Cooper showed his displeasure at this and said: "There's only so long they [the players] can keep [playing while not getting paid in full], to keep putting your neck on the block when you have got bills to pay and children to feed and I have sympathy for them.
"Kettering, in non-league terms, is a big club. It's gone backwards. It needs help quickly. Things need to change or there isn't going to be a club."
If that is not bad enough, it was to get a lot worse. Last week Cooper announced his role as Manager was “on hold” as he and the players had “had enough” of the situation as it was.
On Thursday the club faced a potentially key day. There was a hearing at which the club faced a charge of “failing to pay football creditors.” They were fined £3000 and were deducted three points (although this was suspended until Feb 28th on condition that the club has paid all its debts by then.
Chairman Imran Ladak – a man who appointed Ron Atkinson as Director of Football and Paul Gascoigne as Manager in the past lets not forget – is confident that the club can have a future: “I do believe this result means the club is in better shape. And, like I said, there were certain people waiting on the outcome of this hearing.”
And it is to be hoped that these “certain people” can take the club forward in a way that they have not been for a while.
The Chairman of the Kettering Supporters Trust, Mark Severn isn’t quite so sure, saying to Ladak in an email that: “"This is perhaps as deep as it [the club] can get into crisis before extinction.”
While Severn thanked Ladak for his efforts on the club’s behalf, others are not so sure. A “Show Ladak the red card” campaign has been running – one of the posters for this has been seen in the dressing room at club’s ground, which tells you all you need to know.
In the meantime experienced defender Ashley Westwood took charge after Cooper refused and although his (possibly temporary) reign began with a defeat against Wrexham, they did win a game this week – their first for a while, by beating Gateshead.
What the future holds in store for either Darlington or Kettering remains largely unclear, but it is certain that the fans of those clubs – just like countless others before them – are going to be ones that are hardest hit by this.
The players too have much to ponder, whilst it is sometimes difficult to feel any sympathy for the highly-paid millionaires of the Premier League who go off an a sulk (Carlos, I thinking of you here) and indeed when we think of footballers we often think of them as all earning thousands a week, but that is not the case at this level. These are normal blokes, under the same pressure as the rest of us.
And the servants of Darlington and Kettering deserve better.