Kingstonian to groundshare at Tooting and Mitcham: What does this mean for the club?

Kingstonian will play their football at Tooting and Mitcham’s Imperial Fields from next season, both clubs announced on 28 December.

On the face of it, this could appear like a backwards step – Imperial Fields is just over double the distance from Kingston as is their current ‘home’ in Tolworth.

Significantly, it also lies outside the Royal Borough of Kingston which was slowly becoming central to their identity, whether some fans liked it or not.

Writer for The Athletic and Kingstonian fan Michael Cox said: “I don’t think Tooting is ideal by any means.

“As a Kingston resident it just feels a completely different place, a different part of London.”

Fans like Cox will have to take a combination of buses, trains and trams to reach Mitcham, with journey times of 40 minutes to one hour reminiscent of their season in Leatherhead five years ago.

Attendances will no doubt drop, perhaps even to the levels of the Leatherhead season when a fan coach was arranged courtesy of chairman Mark Anderson.

But this time there will be no such coach.

FIT FOR A KING: Kingstonian’s former home Kingsmeadow. Credit: Adrian Brown CC

Conversely, the announcement also represents progress, not least because the situation with their present landlords has deteriorated to the point of no return.

K’s fan Taimour Lay said: “What makes it bizarre is Corinthian-Casuals have increased outgoings as a Step 3 club but are turning away a revenue stream.

“We even paid money to improve their ground.

Taimour notes that K’s were in fact Casuals’ landlords from 1925-1939 at Richmond Road and the clubs always got on.

He said: “I don’t think history will look kindly on their decision in 2021.”

The move also ensures Kingstonian wouldn’t need to pay for the necessary improvements to Casuals’ King George’s Field should they be promoted.

But most importantly of all, the long-mooted plans for a stadium of their own in the borough seem to be edging ever closer.

Chairman Anderson and manager Hayden Bird appeared optimistic when they revealed the plans for the purchase of an undisclosed plot of land would go before the Kingston Council Corporate and Resources Committee on 17 February.

Anderson told KTV: “It will be the making of this club. I cannot tell you how exciting this could be.”

“I am holding our supporters by the hand again and saying, ‘jump off this cliff, it will be fine.’

“And how many times have we done that since 2002? I’m asking you for another leap of faith.”

And Bird said: “The plans absolutely blew me away. A new stadium that will be the envy of non-league football.”

Anderson reported that the plans involve having the stadium, training facilities and youth academy on the same site, creating a sports hub in an area that desperately needs one.

But fans remain cautious and understandably so, given the number of false dawns they’ve experienced over the last five years.

Lay said: “So much, including the planning process, remains out of our hands.

“We need the council to see K’s as an asset rather than a liability.”

Cox added: “Without any certainty about the future, there’s a danger we’re just floating around between various grounds with no sign of coming home, which was our worst fear when we left Kingsmeadow.”

In the short term, Lay and Cox can look forward to a warm reception from Tooting and Mitcham who house an excellent bar and Caribbean food stall: The Shak.

Tooting and Mitcham chairman Steve Adkins personally recommends the jerk chicken and delivered this message to fans.

He said: “It’s a big welcome to Kingstonian and the intention is to work together and improve everything we can.

“I hope in the future you find somewhere in the Royal Borough of Kingston for your own ground and anything we can do to help, we will.”

Featured image credit: Martin Addison CC

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