Town ‘staggered’ by support over cash crisis

WE WILL SURVIVE! That's the message from Town's leading three officials (from left), vice-chairman and football secretary Tony Knowles, chairman Dave Gamble and president and acting secretary Brian Holmes, cheered on by young fans (from left), Lewis Toop, Jenson Purdy and Morgan Purdy
WE WILL SURVIVE! That's the message from Town's leading three officials (from left), vice-chairman and football secretary Tony Knowles, chairman Dave Gamble and president and acting secretary Brian Holmes, cheered on by young fans (from left), Lewis Toop, Jenson Purdy and Morgan Purdy

HAPPY Hucknall Town have been bowled over by pledges of support in their fight to stave off a financial crisis that threatens the future of the club.

And it now looks certain that manager Tommy Brookbanks will stay at Watnall Road, despite relegation from the Evo-Stik League, Premier Division.

As exclusively reported in the Dispatch, Town have been landed with a VAT bill of up to £75,000, which must be paid during the summer.

But at an open meeting, the club received so many offers of help that they are now confident the debt can be wiped out.

“It was a fantastic, positive meeting,” said chairman Dave Gamble. “There was a great turnout and I now think we will reach our target quickly.

“I was absolutely staggered by the offers of help and financial assistance.”

Town’s rescue plan, hatched by president Brian Holmes, still revolves around HM Revenue and Customs accepting the club’s “fair and equitable offer” of £50,000.

Holmes expects to hear an answer after he returns from holiday in Barbados next week.

If the offer is accepted, Town’s ground-landlords, Welbeck Estates, have agreed to give them a loan to pay the debt.

Town would then convert themselves into a limited company, whereby shares would be sold for £1 each. Money raised from these shares would be used to repay the loan over the next four years.

The open meeting heard many fans and members of the public pledging to buy shares. Holmes himself promised £15,000 worth, while Brookbanks pledged £2,000 worth.

Other offers were smaller but it is believed that more than £40,000 has already been guaranteed.

Pledges are still coming in and anyone interested in becoming a shareholder should ring the club on 0115 9630206 and leave their details. Club officials John Coleman or Tony Knowles will then ring them back. Shares can be bought up front or over a period of time, by direct debit.

An appeal for new committee members also got an encouraging response, while Brookbanks said he was “shocked and surprised” by the support he received as manager.

“I was overwhelmed,” he said. “Gary Stones (assistant) and myself got a lot of handshakes and pats on the back. There was no animosity at all. Fans were just pleased to see us.

“I think people can see there has been more going off at the club than results.

“The amount of money that has been pledged shows the club does mean something to people.

“Hucknall needs its football club. It has to be saved.”

Brookbanks indicated that he will be staying at Watnall Road after a further meeting on Tuesday night — this time of the club’s management committee.

He demanded assurances that Town can move forward — “with a plan that will last years, not just a short-term fix”.

“One thing is for sure — we cannot have a season like this one,” he said. “We don’t want to be knocking our heads against a brick wall again.”

Brookbanks was not happy to hear that his playing budget will be reduced to £500 per week next season — from £1,200 this term.

But he hopes to launch a summer wave of fundraising initiatives to boost the budget to a level where Town can compete realistically in Division One South of the Evo-Stik League.

And he has urged volunteers to come forward, maybe to work on commission, to help with the project that will also include “the sprucing-up” of Town’s Watnall Road ground, which is looking increasingly ramshackle.