AN angry Leon Knight has hit out at his former club Rushden & Diamonds after they scuppered his proposed move to Darlington by invoking a clause in the contract he signed while at Nene Park.
The deal collapsed yesterday as neither Quakers nor Knight, who was sacked by Rushden in 2008, are prepared to pay the £30,000 that their Blue Square Premier rivals are demanding.
“Rushden are doing this out of spite,” claimed Knight. The 28-year-old was sacked because of a disciplinary issue, but the club retained his playing registration for the duration of the contract.
That contract expired this summer, but Rushden were entitled to a one-year extension, which they recently triggered.
Darlington manager Mark Cooper only discovered that the Diamonds had extended Knight’s contract on Friday.
Unless that £30,000 is paid, Knight is unable to play in England until next season.
Since leaving Rushden, he was played in Scotland and Greece but was hoping for a return to English football at Darlington. He signed a contract last week, was handed squad number 22 and, despite not being available, warmed up with the team before Saturday’s draw at Bath City.
He had been expected to make his home debut this evening against promotionfavourites Luton, but after the deal fell through yesterday Knight made his stance clear by letting fly with a stream of criticisms of Rushden and making a string of startling allegations about the club on the social networking website, Twitter.
Knight told The Northern Echo: “They don’t want me to move on. They don’t like me, for some reason, and they are doing this out of spite. This is not about the money they want, they are doing this just to get at me.
“You’ve got be careful what you say in the paper but I’ve held my tongue for long enough and I’ve got to speak out.
“These people shouldn’t be in football. I didn’t know any of them before I went there.
The chairman came in one day and said you’re not getting paid. I’m not scared of them.
“I’ve started a volcano on Twitter, I’ve said a few things on there about Rushden and people who don’t agree have responded but they don’t know the truth.
“Some people wouldn’t believe what goes on behind closed doors at a football club.
“At first I didn’t want to say anything because I was worried about what might happen, but now I’ve got nothing to lose so I might as well say how I feel because Rushden are taking the mick out of me.”
Knight says he has chosen not to pay the money as a matter of principle, but admits he wanted a return to England to be closer to his family.
He said: “Rushden have said they don’t want the money from Darlington, they want it from me – I refuse to pay them out of principle. If I wanted I could raise the money and pay them but I don’t want to give them the satisfaction.
“They are ruining my life and I won’t let them get away with it. I’ve got two kids and a wife but they don’t care, they’re just trying to finish me but I won’t let them.
“I will sit it out for the next year and I will be back next season and hopefully I’ll be back in English football.”
The Northern Echo understands that Knight’s agent considered taking the matter to the law courts, believing Rushden’s stance could be considered a restriction of trade.
But the cost of such a move – £10,000 to £15,000 – meant it was not viable so Knight is left without a club and Darlington still on the lookout for a striker.
“I wish Darlington all the best for the season,” said Knight. “I want to say sorry to the fans. It’s not Mark Cooper’s fault or my agent, it’s Rushden’s.
“I respect Mark and maybe I will work with him again one day at Darlington and if not there then somewhere else because a manager as good as that I expect to move on to bigger things.”
The Northern Echo last night contacted Rushden but they declined to comment.
Fourth-placed Luton arrive at the Arena this evening having won three in a row, while Cooper remains stunned by Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Bath when his team conceded two goals in injury-time.
“We won’t have a tougher test than Luton,” admitted Cooper. “But the game should be a top-of-the-table one.
“Instead we are talking about how the players need to restore some pride and my faith in their professionalism and their ability.
“But there won’t be big changes because for 90 minutes it was a good performance on Saturday.”