Matlock Town Reserves’ home defeat by Mickleover on Thursday confirmed Hucknall were champions, which they marked in style with a celebratory 7-0 thrashing of visiting Ashland Rovers on Saturday.
“It was a bit of a relief and a bit of an anti-climax to be honest as we already knew we’d won it on Thursday. That took a bit of the edge off it,” smiled Graves.
“We’ve not celebrated fully yet as we have two more league games and we want to set some more club records plus we’ve got a cup final to play, which is going to be tough against Pinxton.
“Not one club in this division has rolled over, even when we’ve won by a few goals.
“We have had to work hard to break teams down which is a credit to the clubs in one of the toughest step seven leagues in the country.”
The promotion is a confirmation of the progress of what was a debt-ridden club and Graves said: “We have had a fantastic season. We have been gradually building up to it.
“Everybody laughed at the five-year plan.
“But we have got rid of £100,000 worth of debt, finished in the top four five years on the bounce, won the championship, promotion, and won a League Cup with another League Cup on its way.
“All those clubs who ran away from all their debts should come here and have a look at the blueprint.
“This is justification for all the hard work the committee and everybody has done at this football club. We get bashed all the time about money and ‘big time’, but they don’t know the half of it.”
Graves said he and assistants Paul Stevenson and Phil Henry would be forever grateful to former chief executive Liz Morley for giving them the chance.
“Liz had the foresight to put me, Stevo and Phil in charge when the club was virtually on its knees which was a brave decision,” he said.
“We had been running the kids’ teams and other people were in line to take over and run the club but, for whatever reason, they declined at the last minute.
“Thanks to her for giving me the opportunity as I’m not under any illusion that we would have got anywhere near running the club.
“Fate dictated in a way as I don’t think any other management team would have got the club where it it now. “Taking on what we took on. We must have been absolutely brainless to have done it. But with the help of the committee and loyal support we have done it and it’s great for those people.
“I have tried to bring professionalism to the club. The biggest benefit to me was being around the club from the glory days down and seeing things go wrong which helped me knowing what to do if we ever got a chance to make the wrongs right.”
He added: “It’s been a journey. This has probably been our easiest season to be honest with there not being so many distractions off the field.
“People say you threw money at it, but the club has progressed as quickly as it financially could have done. We had horrendous debts and unseen things that had been left by previous regimes. The sad thing is those people ran away from it. But we didn’t.
“We have had no grants or help from the local council as other clubs have had when they have gone bust – it’s all been done off our own backs.”
Graves said his side’s clinical finishing was a big part of this season’s success.
“The biggest thing is we’ve just smashed the goalscoring record for the club since it became Hucknall Town,” he said.
“That’s been the key this season – we have been taking the chances.
“We created a lot last season but this season we have been putting them in the back of the net. Goals win you games.”
He added: “You can tell the club is getting back on its feet as we’ve got the vultures circling round already.
“We must be doing well as other managers are throwing their hats in thinking they can do a better job than me which I find very funny. They would not last five minutes.”
With two league games to go, the first at home to Swanwick Pentrich Road on Saturday, and a cup final to come, Graves warned there may be more tough times to come next season.
“We have to thank HMRC for their help. We have done what we can do as quickly as we’ve been able since we took over,” he said.
“I am not saying we are totally straight but are a lot more financially stable than we’ve been for seven or eight years. The club is on a good footing.
“But it will cost us more to run in the next league and we will have to rent our new ground when its ready, we won;t own it. We also need to spend money to maintain the current ground which we didn’t anticipate.
“So I need to calm everybody down as the next couple of seasons won’t be easy. I don’t want anyone to get carried away.”
Hucknall are running two coaches to the League Cup final against Pinxton at Alfreton Town’s Impact Arena on Sunday, 5th May (3pm).
Seats cost £5 with U14s free – contact the club to book a place.