Wally Akers

Wally Akers

Kettering Town manager from May 1961 to September 1963.

Shortly after ex-Steelman Wally Akers took charge of Kettering Town, the club entered a new era with the installation of Floodlights at Rockingham Road, used for the first time during a celebratory match against First Division champions elect, Ipswich Town.

Sir Stanely Rous, then head of FIFA, was invited to Kettering to switch on the floodlights marking the special occasion and on Monday 9th October 196, the Poppies first home match under floolights took place. Kettering did well to hold their illustrious visitors to a 2-2 draw in fromt 5,400 spectators. The home side took a 2-0 lead through John Ritchie and Hughie Morrow, but Ray Crawford scored twice for Ipswich to level the scoreline at the final whistle.

A few weeks after the floodlights were installed, Kettering entertained Third Division Swindon Town in an FA Cup First Round replay, having held the Robins to a 2-2 draw in the first tie. Swindon boasted a side containing youngsters Ernie Hunt and Mike Summerbee and led 2-0 before a late comeback, started by Norman Gouldings goal and capped by a dramatic last gasp Terry Curran penalty earned Kettering a replay.

The replay at Rockingham Road saw the home side match the Robins in every department and deservedly Kettering took the lead when Terry Curran repeated his prowess from the spot on 61 minutes. Curran scored again to put the Poppies in the driving seat and John Ritchie sealed the victory in the 82nd minute to make it 3-0.

Ironically, the gate for the Swindon match was uncharacteristically lower than expected, with 8,500 and apart from the cup run, Kettering’s results hadn’t being going too well for them in the bread and butter matches of the Southern League campaign.

The next round saw Kettering drawn away to old rivals Northampton Town and the Second Round tie promised to be a huge attraction, with the Poppies side also containing Jack Froggatt, Johnny Morris and goalkeeping hero, Ted Smethurst.

The travelling Poppies supporters swelled the crowd at the County Ground to 18,825 and all seemed set for a cracking cup tie. Unfortunately for Kettering, ex-Arsenal striker Cliff Holborn was in impressive form for the Cobblers and his hat-trick ensured the home side went into the next round comfortable 3-0 winners.

Kettering finished a creditable 7th in the Southern League Premier Division, but couldn’t match their FA Cup exploits and were well-off the pace set by eventual Champions Oxford Utd.

The following season went well for Wally Akers’ side and by the half-way stage of the 1962-63 campaign the Championship was firmly within their sights, until the freezing weather decided to take a hand and force the Poppies into a nightmare fixture congestion. The final 29 days saw Kettering playing 12 league matches, losing consistency, (and spectators into the bargain), finally ending up in 4th spot, 5pts adrift of Champions Cambridge City.

The end of the 1962-63 season also marked the end of Jack Froggatt’s playing career, the ex-Portsmouth and England legend finally hung up his boots with a testamonial match against Portsmouth. Inexplicably, a very disappointing crowd of just 1,800 turned up to pay homage to an inspirational leader who always gave everything at the heart of the Poppies’ defence. With typical determination, Froggatt layed on one goal and scored another himself as the visitors ran out narrow winners, 4-3.

The 1963-64 league season was a disastrous one for Kettering Town, and shortly after the new campaign had gotten underway, badly failing attendances and equally poor results meant Wally Akers was forced to resign.

A month later ex-Poppies manager Tommy Lawton was brouhgt in as care-taker manager, but despite a good cup run, the ex-Notts County and England legend couldn’t repeat his previous success and Kettering were relegated into the Southern League First Divsion.