Kingstonian were driven out of their cherished town centre home in 2017, and five years on the K’s are still wandering nomads set to be evicted once again.
Victims of an asset-stripping owner, AFC Wimbledon’s revival and the inevitable rise of women’s football, doors have continued to shut on the Isthmian Premier Division side since leaving Kingsmeadow.
And a fractious relationship with their current landlords, local rivals Corinthian-Casuals, may lead to a third change of stadium in five seasons.
Meanwhile, the board are hopeful that fresh talks with the council over a vacant plot of land will spell an end to a homeless existence that could prove fatal the longer it continues.
K’s director Mark Anderson, who became joint owner in 2006, traces current problems back to administration in 2001, a couple of years before ex-owner Rajesh Khosla sold Kingsmeadow to AFC Wimbledon for £2 million personal profit.
Anderson said: “The demise of Kingstonian at Kingsmeadow after winning the FA trophy in 1999 and 2000 was the biggest own goal you can imagine.
“They overstretched and got themselves into financial difficulty.
“None of that was the fault of the current board because we weren’t around at the time, and some 20 years later we’re still paying for the sins of the past.”
The true price of those sins was eventually realised in 2016 when AFC Wimbledon agreed to sell the ground to Chelsea for their women’s side to use.
According to Anderson, an agreement to groundshare with Chelsea didn’t materialise and so K’s fans bade an emotional farewell to their home for 28 years on 22nd April 2017 in a 0-0 draw against Havant and Waterlooville.
The next season at Leatherhead, while amicable, saw a sharp drop in attendances with the stadium over a half-hour drive away.
Since then, the K’s have been based in Tolworth, sharing with Corinthian-Casuals, and while attendances have stabilised, Anderson claims the situation is far from amicable, including allegations from fans of sign stealing.
Anderson said: “We hoped it would have been a perfect marriage.
“We could have jointly developed King George’s Field and created a super stadium out of the facility that exists there already.
“However, after about six months, it became clear on both sides that there was a significant amount of animosity between the two sets of supporters, and plans ran out of gas pretty soon after.
“Our negotiations with the Casuals are not looking favourable for next season.
“They have intimated that they don’t feel that we’re likely to get a new ground share lease from next season because they have their own plans for it.”
K’s plans to build a new stadium from scratch at Chessington golf centre andat another undisclosed location in the borough fell through in the last three years.
Fan of over 20 years, Taimour Lay, expressed concern that the club need to find a permanent solution sooner rather than later.
He said: “Do I think I will be taking my eight-month-old daughter to K’s in 10 years from now? I’m not sure. We could go bust. This is the story of how clubs go bust. It happens in slow motion.
“Having said that, in two, three years, it could all work out.
“We could get a site somewhere in the borough, good public transport links, Football Foundation grant comes in and we build something and suddenly everything’s looking rosy.”
Anderson is also fully aware of the dangers of an extended homeless status.
He said: “You cannot have a non-league club and expect it to prosper when you have a nomadic existence.
“That will entail the end of the club. That will entail no more Kingstonian.
“Simple gate receipts, a bit of sponsorship and a few advertising boards around the pitch is not enough.”
Despite the trepidation, Anderson is optimistic that he has at last found an answer.
He said: “We’ve finally managed to get some assistance again from Kingston Council and we’re speaking to the right people.
“We’re hopeful and it’s very early stages yet, but we’ve identified a piece of vacant land within the borough that the council own and we’re hopeful that we might be able to develop that.
“The huge frustration for us in particular, is the fact that we’re not asking anybody for money. We have a significant war chest ready to use.
“The council itself is falling down badly in terms of what it needs to provide to the Borough of Kingston in terms of sports facilities. We could be part of their solution.”
Unfortunately, for fans like Kingston Borough councillor Jon Tolley, it is likely the plot of land in question will not be located close to the town centre, posing uncomfortable questions about the identity of the club.
He said: “I didn’t start supporting Chessington Town FC or Tolworth Town FC. I supported Kingston Town FC.
“I just think it’s our identity. The songs are about Kingston town and the town centre.
“I don’t feel that same affinity for a piece of grass on the edge of the borough. I just don’t, but other people do.”
Lay added: “It won’t be the same K’s. It’s still red and white hoops and it’s called Kingstonian, but it’s going to be somewhere else in the borough.
“And maybe that’s what they mean by being a borough team. Our identity slightly changes.
“As long as the transport links are okay, I think K’s fans would live with it because in the end, if we don’t have a ground, we’ll go bust.
“So, if it’s that or death? I’d take the borough.”
In spite of the gloom, both Lay and Tolley have unwavering faith in Anderson and the board’s ability to pull the club out the other side, while head coach Hayden Bird is delivering on the pitch too, with the team one point off the playoffs with a game in hand.
Lay said: “He’s not just the manager of the club. He’s kind of the face of it. And that’s why I think a lot of fans are coming back.
“But it’s a mixed, contradictory feeling at the moment.
“We’re being quite hopeful, because we trust the board, we are actually investing in the team and we are actually going somewhere.
“But is that an illusion given that we are homeless?”