NEW owners and a new manager have breezed into Watnall Road, promising happy days ahead for much-troubled Hucknall Town.
As reported on the Dispatch websit, Town have been taken over by a partnership comprising successful businessman Steve Greaves and former Notts County defender Michael Johnson.
And the pair have installed ex-Nottingham Forest defender Des Lyttle as the club’s new manager.
Declared Greaves: “We want the cloud that has been hanging over the club to be lifted and the feelgood factor to return.”
The new men at the helm have already returned Town to their semi-professional status, pumping in fresh money and restoring players’ wages.
And Greaves has also spoken of his intention to “return Hucknall Town to the fans and turn it into a community club”.
The dramatic takeover follows the resignations of previous managers Tommy Brookbanks and Gary Stones after a power struggle with club guru Brian Holmes.
But it also follows a spectacular decline in The Yellows’ fortunes since they reached the FA Trophy final at Villa Park in 2005.
On the field, they have finished in the bottom four for the last four seasons and suffered two relegations. Whereas 5,000 fans followed them to Villa Park, the gate for their last home match was 134.
Off the field, progress has stalled badly because of delays to move to a new stadium. And earlier this year, the club were saddled with a VAT debt of more than £80,000, which forced them to operate on a shoestring and switch to amateur status.
But now Greaves is determined to halt the decline. “I can’t promise miracles overnight,” he said. “But I am certain there is a rosy future for this football club. I don’t get involved in things that fail.”
Under the new set-up, Greaves will be chairman, with Johnson vice-chairman and also director of football, working alongside Lyttle.
The takeover marks the end of the Brian Holmes Era at Watnall Road.
Former Derby County director and ex-millionaire property developer Holmes brought the glory days to the club after arriving as chairman in 2001 and poured in more than £500,000 of his own money over the years.
He stepped down as chairman three years ago but remained as president and has continued to pull influential strings behind the scenes.
Although he does not own the club, he is the biggest creditor and owns a lot of the assets at Town. Consequently he is the man Johnson and Greaves have agreed the buy-out deal with.
However he will now sever most ties with the club, although he will remain as president.
Says Greaves: “Brian has put a lot of money in over the years and kept the club going. He has now been charged with the task of overseeing the development of the new ground but he will no longer be involved in any of the day-to-day decision-making of the club.”
As for the rest of the club’s off-the-field organisation, an annual general meeting is to be called soon, with a view to electing a board of directors.
The scheme to turn Town from a members’ club into a limited company, which has the backing of more than £50,000 worth of promised investment, is likely to press ahead in the coming months.
The whole takeover has been engineered by chief executive Liz Morley, who will remain in her post.
Morley has worked with Johnson on business projects in the past and is sure the new set-up “will be great for Hucknall Town”.
“I am sad the way it worked out for Tommy and Gary,” said Morley. “Any transformation like this is always difficult.
“But we now have a good, solid team at the helm, which is what the club need to provide stability. I am now excited about the future.”
The fresh regime is keen to bring in new signings and push for immediate promotion from Division One South of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League where they currently sit sixth in the table.
The new public-relations spokesman for the club, Jamie Swift, said:
“We are in a decent position on the field and there are players lined up to join, with the aim of helping win promotion this season.
“Off the field, we want to get the club on a more sound financial footing. There are still debts that need to be dealt with but money has been set aside for wages.”
Lyttle (39), who made 185 appearances for Forest between 1993 and 1999, also played for West Bromwich Albion, Watford, Swansea City and Northampton Town in a professional career that spanned 14 seasons.
Since 2004, he has been involved in non-league football and, last season, he managed Tamworth in the Blue Square Bet Premier.
Lyttle says: “I’m delighted to be back in football management and to be given this chance.
“I came here because of the name, Hucknall Town, who have been a big force in the Conference North in the past.
“I know the club have fallen on hard times in the last few seasons and dropped one or two leagues. But there is great potential here.”
Lyttle, who was a big favourite with supporters at the City Ground, added: “It is well documented that we have lost a lot of fans.
“But I want to put a smile on people’s faces by playing good, winning football and, hopefully, that will bring the fans back. I have played here (for Worcester City) in front of 600 or 700 people.”
Lyttle says he had no hesitation in joining Town, even though he will only be employed part-time, lives a 90-minute drive away in Staffordshire and admits he knows “nothing about this league”.
“I wouldn’t have gone just anywhere,” he said. “But I have known Michael a long time and I worked with Steve when he was a director at Tamworth.
“They are two good people who will drive the club forward. With their backing, I hope we can bring the successful times back and get Hucknall Town to where they belong.
“It is going to take time but I want us to be in and around the promotion places come the end of the season.”