When Derrick Smith founded Kesteven RFC after returning from World War II in 1947, he can’t have imagined that it would take close to 70 years to see them win the league.
The 93-year-old sole surviving founding member of the club was cheering from the sidelines as the Midlands League side overcame Boston 66-5 to secure promotion on the final day of the season.
“Derrick’s at every single match we play, he’s our most dedicated supporter,” said 1st XV captain Tom Webster. “Someone usually drives him to the game and he sits watching it from the car to stop him getting cold. After we won the league, Derrick came into the clubhouse to shake all our hands. It was a special moment.”
Derrick accepted the trophy on behalf of Kesteven with club secretary Bill Berridge at the NLD RFU annual meeting on Monday evening.
Despite losing two matches early in last season, Kesteven soon found some winning form and ended up staying unbeaten at home throughout their campaign.
“The difference this year has been a much more balanced approach to every game,” said Tom. “In previous years, we have been guilty at times of relying upon individuals, but we’ve now built a very strong foundation and that gave us confidence every time we stepped on the pitch.”
That foundation has been laid by the club’s board who have invested significantly in Kesteven’s clubhouse and facilities which has in turn helped develop their minis and juniors sections.
Ninety per cent of the team that beat Boston on the final day of the season came through the junior system at the club which Tom sees as being crucial to their success: “We’ve got a very young squad who have grown up playing alongside each other. Now that we’ve been promoted, it will continue to spur on the strength of the juniors who are the lifeblood of this club.”
The side will now play in Midlands Two East (North) next season and Tom said they have no intention of coming back down again: “Our goal is to finish in the top half of the league but we know it’s going to be tough. We have played a lot of the teams in competitions so we know the level we have to be at.”
With a tough season ahead of them, Kesteven can be sure that their biggest supporter will be right behind them, and Derrick will be hoping it’s not another 70 years before they win the league again.