FORMER Nottingham Forest defender Des Lyttle has been confirmed as the new manager of Hucknall Town.
And the club’s new owners have been announced as ex-Notts County defender Michael Johnson and successful Nottingham-based businessman Steve Greaves.
What’s more, the new men at the helm have safeguarded the future of the cash-strapped club by declaring their intention to return Town to their semi-professional status, pumping in fresh money and restoring a playing budget
The dramatic takeover follows the resignations of managers Tommy Brookbanks and Gary Stones earlier this week in a row about fresh investment in the club.
Lyttle (39) made 185 appearances for Forest between 1993 and 1999 and also played for West Bromwich Albion, Watford, Swansea City and Northampton Town in a professional career that spanned 14 seasons.
Since 2004, he has been involved in the non-league football and, last season, he managed Tamworth in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
In recent months, he has been working with the youth-set up at his home-town club, Premier League Wolves.
Lyttle has been charged with reviving the fortunes of Town, who have been sliding downhill since their appearance in the FA Trophy final at Villa Park in 2005.
He says: “I’m delighted to be back in football management and to be given this chance.
“Hucknall have been a big name in the Conference North in the past. Hopefully there are better times ahead.”
Lyttle, who was a big favourite with fans at the City Ground, was installed as Town boss by Johnson and Greaves, who agreed a deal on Wednesday night to take over the club.
Johnson (38) enjoyed a terrific professional career, making 561 appearances, including 262 at Birmingham City, whom he helped win promotion to the Premier League in 2002.
He started at Meadow Lane, where he made his debut as an 18-year-old in the 1991/92 season. Birmingham bought him for £230,000 at the end of the 1994/95 campaign when Notts were relegated to Division Two.
Johnson was hugely popular at St Andrew’s, where he was nicknamed ‘Magic’ after the American basketball player.
He joined Derby County on a free transfer in 2003 and was made captain of The Rams, for whom he played 138 times until returning to Notts County in 2008.
After the sacking of Ian McParland, Johnson had a brief spell as caretaker manager before the farcical reign of Sven Goran Eriksson, Hans Backe and Munto Finance almost brought the club to its knees.
Johnson is believed to have shown an interest in investing at Eastwood Town before they were bought for just £1 in the summer by former Yellows coach Jamie Brough.
However, despite Hucknall’s similarly precarious financial position, he is excited by the potential at Watnall Road, particularly with the move to a new stadium in the offing.
Johnson’s official position at Watnall Road will be director of football and acting vice-chairman, while Greaves will become acting chairman, to replace Dave Gamble.
Gamble announced his intention to resign during the summer, at the height of Town’s cash crisis, when it was disclosed that they had run up more than £80,000 in debt to the VAT man.
Greaves is the boss of the burgeoning family-owned bus and coach company, Premiere Travel.
Formed in 2002 with just two vehicles, Premiere has grown to such an extent that it bought out the hire-coach operation of Dunn-Line earlier this year.
The firm now has a fleet of dozens of buses and runs 46 routes across the county, including in Hucknall and Bulwell.
It is understood that Johnson and Greaves intend to pour much-needed investment into The Yellows, which will mean that the players are paid again.
The team have been operating on a shoestring since the start of the season and, under Brookbanks, they have done remarkably well to climb to as high as fifth in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South table after suffering relegation last season.
Now Johnson, Greaves and Little are determined to bring in new signings and push for immediate promotion.
The spokesman for the new set-up, Jamie Swift, said: “The club are in a decent position on the field and there are players lined up to join, with the aim of helping win promotion this season.
“Off the field, we want to get the club on a more sound financial footing.
“There are still debts that need to be dealt with but money has been set aside for wages.”
Greaves is a former vice-president at Town and was also involved at Tamworth last term, alongside Lyttle. He said: “There is commitment from all of us. We want to move the club forward.
“The club is a secret success within Hucknall. It’s come from the local colliery team and has been the focal point of the community, so we’ve got to try and reinstate that.
“Our aim is to bring the folk of Hucknall back into their club. We’re just the costodians. It’s their club and every fan has an important stake.
“We will be completely transparent with the fans but that is a two-way process and we need the community to take part.”
Town have been ripe for a takeover since details of their financial woes surfaced at the end of last season.
And this move marks the end of the Brian Holmes Era at Watnall Road.
Former Derby County director and ex-millionaire property developer Holmes brought the glory days to the club after arriving as chairman in 2001 and has pumped in more than £500,000 of his own money over the years.
He stepped down as chairman three years ago but remained as president and has continued to pull influential strings behind the scenes.
Although he does not own the club, he is the biggest creditor and owns a lot of the assets at Town. Consequently he is the man Johnson and Greaves have agreed the buy-out deal with.
However he will now sever most ties with the club, although he is the mastermind behind the project to move to a new ground and is likely to be keen to see it through.
Greaves explained that Holmes will remain as Town president and has been charged with the task of “overseeing the development of the new ground”. However Holmes would no longer be involved in any of the day-to-day decision-making of the club.
As for the rest of the club’s off-the-field organisation, an annual general meeting is to be called soon, with a view to electing a brand new management commitee,
The scheme to turn Town from a members’ club into a limited company, which has the backing of more than £50,000 worth of promised investment, is likely to press ahead in the coming months.
The whole takeover has been engineered by chief executive Liz Morley, who will remain in her post.
Morley has worked with Johnson on business projects in the past and is sure the new set-up “will be great for Hucknall Town”.
“I am sad the way it worked out for Tommy and Gary. Any transformation like this is always difficult.
“But we now have a good, solid team at the helm, which is what the club need to provide stability. I am now excited about the future.”
Morley also dismissed claims that Brookbanks and Stones were forced into resigning by the arrival of the new owners.
“Michael and Steve would have been more than happy to give Tommy a chance,” she said.