DEFIANT manager Tommy Brookbanks has issued an upbeat message ahead of the most nervewracking Easter weekend in the history of Hucknall Town.
However Brookbanks also confesses he has endured “the season from hell” and warns that Town “face a long, hard summer” whether they stay up or go down.
The Yellows clambered out of the Evo-Stik League, Premier Division relegation-zone with a 2-2 draw against Matlock Town at Watnall Road on Saturday April 16.
But other results conspired against them and they still face a desperate scramble to avoid the drop as four teams fight to shun the remaining two relegation places.
All four have only two games left — one on Saturday (April 23) and the other on Easter Monday (April 25).
Town entertain third-placed Colwyn Bay at Watnall Road before travelling to meet local-derby rivals Worksop Town 48 hours later.
The Welsh club are trying to hold on to their place in the promotion play-offs, while The Tigers are bidding to squeeze into the play-offs.
But Brookbanks declared: “I think we need three points and I think we will get them.
“We will give it a right good go against Colwyn Bay, who lost 4-3 at home last Saturday. We will try and nail it by ten to five on Saturday night.
“It has been a tough year but I want the fans to come and get behind us and sing their hearts out.
“We all want the same aims. We would all like to be top of the table but sometimes that is just not possible.”
Brookbanks admits that Town’s relegation scrap is “totally unexpected” — after they were challenging for the play-offs themselves.
A run of 13 league games and 130 days without a win hurtled them down the table. But he refuses to blame his young squad.
“If someone had told me at Christmas we would be in this position, I wouldn’t have believed them,” he said.
“But it is not the players’ fault. They have given me everything, especially in the last ten games or so.
“Many young sides would have wilted in this relegation battle. But we are still in there fighting and I believe we will get out of it.
“Whatever happens, the players have not let me down. They showed a lot of bottle against Matlock, having just got hammered 6-0 at Bradford.
“I have said all season that three or four more experienced players could have made all the difference to us.
“But the truth is we have not replaced the likes of Paul Smith, Paul Robinson and Gary Ricketts.
“It was my decision not to replace them because I am not prepared to pay wages the club can’t afford. It would have embarrassed the club financially.”
Town have been strapped for cash all season, which is one reason why Brookbanks says “a lot of things must be sorted out in the summer — more off the field than anything.”
He says the club “are not in a position to pay contracted players” but admits that the pay-as-you-play policy adopted this term has been “a nightmare”, forcing him to juggle his squad to keep players happy.
“It has been the season from hell,” Brookbanks adds. “I have never been involved in a relegation battle before and if we do go down, it will be the worst moment of my career.
“It has taken its toll on me and everyone at the club, both mentally and physically. But it will make me a better, stronger manager. You can’t keep having success after success.”
Once the season is over, Brookbanks plans critical talks with club chairman Dave Gamble — and top of the agenda will be his own future.
“I am on a three-year contract and I am willing to come off it if it might help the club,” said the 48-year-old milkman.
“The chairman would like me to stay on. I would like to sit down and discuss where we go from here. Hopefully we can take the club forward.”
Brookbanks has already been linked with other jobs, including that at Belper Town where a businessman friend of his, Vaughan Williams, has just taken over as chairman.
But he refutes all rumours and stresses that, for now, he is concentrating on saving Hucknall from the drop and planning the club’s future.
“I hope to sort things out with Dave Gamble over the next couple of weeks, with a view to carrying on at Hucknall Town next season,” Brookbanks concluded.