SHELLSHOCKED Hucknall Town are facing up to the prospect of life outside the top three tiers of non-league football for the first time in 14 seasons.
And they might have to do it with yet another new manager after Tommy Brookbanks admitted his future as the club was far from clear.
Town were relegated from the Evo-Stik League’s Premier Division after losing each of their last do-or-die games over the Easter weekend — 1-0 at home to Colwyn Bay and 2-0 away to Worksop Town.
Their three relegation rivals fared little better but draws gained by Frickley Athletic and Nantwich Town last Saturday were enough to condemn The Yellows to the drop by ONE POINT.
Now they fall into the Evo-Stik League, Division One South — their lowest level since they won the Northern Counties East League championship in 1998 under John Ramshaw.
Brookbanks still has two years remaining on his three-year contract, which is believed to be worth £300 a week. Town want him to carry on. And because of their acute financial problem, they cannot afford to sack him.
But the 44-year-old milkman confessed he is distraught by the relegation. He may opt to remove himself from his contract, to save the club money, or he may yet choose to walk away altogether.
“It was my dream to turn Hucknall round and make people feel good about the club again,” he said. “I am absolutely gutted that the dream has ended like this.
“The league table doesn’t lie. We are third from bottom because we deserve to be.
“It is all down to me, not my assistant Gary Stones, not my coach Jamie Brough, nor anyone else. I signed the players and I picked the players.
“I really care about this club, so I am so disappointed. My future is unsure. I can’t say what it will be. There has been interest from other clubs but after the season I have had, it’s all up in the air until I have spoken to the relevant people.”
It is Town’s second relegation in three seasons and the FOURTH season on the trot they have finished in the bottom four.
Brookbanks is the club’s 12th manager in ten years. He joined the club last May on a wave of optimism after 14 wonderful seasons at Carlton Town whom he guided to seven promotions, steering them from the old Notts Alliance to the division The Yellows go down to next term.
He made such an encouraging start at Watnall Road that, by mid-November, Town sat as high as sixth in the table. But after the long break caused by the wintry weather, they lost the plot completely.
In their last 23 games, of which they lost 15, they took only 14 points.
“It has been a big learning curve for me,” Brookbanks admitted. “Maybe if I can be critical, we haven’t had enough strong characters, mentally, in the dressing room. We have had too many good footballers.
“Their ability has been second to none. But we have needed people who can close games out, keep clean sheets and put a foot in.
“When the pitches got rough after Christmas and the bad weather, opposing teams adapted to us and we had no response.
“We threw away too many silly points. But I have no complaints. You can be lucky to win a cup but you are not unlucky to finish third from bottom of the league.”
Brookbanks admits that his budget for players’ wages, believed to have been £1,200 a week, was not as high as he had hoped. And it is sure to be slashed next term.
But he refused to use that as an excuse. “Ideally, if we had had more money, we wouldn’t have gone down. But that’s life. Other clubs are in the same position.
“In the short term, relegation might not be a bad thing because we can just about cope in Division One South on such a wage bill but we wouldn’t have coped in the Premier.”
Chairman Dave Gamble also pointed out that the club had to “cut its cloth and shed players” when potentially money-spinning runs in the FA Cup and FA Trophy came to nothing. In fact, Brookbanks’s team fell at the first hurdle in both competitions.
“The gates haven’t been there, the social side is not as buoyant as it was and the sponsors aren’t there,” said Gamble.
“We have to do things within our means. We have tried to turn out a competitive side and we have done that. None of our players are relegation fodder.
“We want the team to play at the highest level possible. But we have reached a stage now where we can‘t afford to do that.
“The budget for next season will be reduced because gates will probably be reduced.
“We gave Tommy a three-year contract because we wanted to steady the ship after so many managers in recent seasons. Unfortunatrly, the wheels have come off.”