Improving Hucknall Town winning back their pride

HAPPY DAYS -- left, Town manager Andy Graves; and right, Town on their way to victory over local-derby rivals, Linby Colliery Welfare, earlier this season.
HAPPY DAYS -- left, Town manager Andy Graves; and right, Town on their way to victory over local-derby rivals, Linby Colliery Welfare, earlier this season.

Happy manager Andy Graves is sure Hucknall Town are on course to consign several years of misery to the dustbin of history.

After a period of debt, decline and demotion, Town find themselves back in the Central Midlands League, where their journey to non-league fame began back in the late 1980s.

Off the field, acting chief executive Liz Morley continues to grapple with the debts that are holding the club back.

But on the field, Graves is quietly restoring The Yellows’ credibility and pride with a young, unpaid team that can only keep improving.

Last season, when operating as the club’s reserve-side, they mustered only 14 points, and three wins, from 30 games in the CML’s South Division.

But this time, they already have 18 points, and five wins, from 12 games and they sit only eight points off second place in the table.

“We are absolutely spot-on where I expected us to be,” said Graves (49) this week. “Obviously, we are much further ahead than we were last season and because we have one of the youngest squads in the league, I expect us to keep getting better. I always said this was a season of consolidation, with the main aim for the club to pay off its debts.

“We aren’t talking about winning things. We will have a go at that next season.

“Progress is the priority and apart from one match when we were awful and lost 4-0 at home to Allenton United, we have been really competitive.

“The only irritating thing is that we’d almost be in the top five but for two 1-1 draws at home against Swanwick and Holbrook.”

Since that Allenton setback, Town have beaten local-derby rivals, Linby Colliery Welfare, and suffered only two defeats in ten games.

And although he identifies November as “a crunch month with a tough set of fixtures”, Graves is sure his squad can cope, especially if he’s able to land a new striker.

“We are a bit lightweight up front,” he admitted. “If we had a 20-goals-per-season man, we’d be flying. I might have a new one in for this Saturday. But unfortunately, they are at a premium and we can’t afford most of them.”

However, Town’s inability to pay wages or expenses to players is not proving to be a hindrance, Graves insists.

“Everyone is told, straight from day one, that there is no money,” he explained.

“But we tell them they are in the shop window, by virtue of Hucknall Town’s name, and that we will look after them.

“So far, so good. The players have bought into that philosophy. We have some quality players who could play at a higher level. But they are happy where they are because they are appreciated for what they are doing. Also, our facilities are better than many clubs at a higher level, and our crowds are bigger too.”

Crowds are averaging around the 100 mark, and Graves is full of admiration for the fans backing Town in their hours of need.

“People who haven’t been for two or three seasons are watching us again,” he said. “We also have a good following to away games. Supporters say they realise we are back where we started. But at least they now know the direction where we are going. We are playing entertaining football, which the fans are enjoying.”