Rainworth Miners’ Welfare’s new chairman-elect Mark Hawkins breezed into Kirklington Road on Saturday vowing to inject a new lease of life into the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League club, and proclaiming that he can’t wait to get started.
Hawkins relinquished his position on the board of Mansfield Town just days after the Stags had clinched a return to League Two last week, and says that, while a Mansfield fan through and through, he has no regrets about stepping down in order to take up the reins of their lower-ranked neighbours.
Having read with dismay of the Wrens’ recent decision to take a voluntary drop from Division One South of the NPL to step 5 of the National Leagues System, Hawkins made contact with the club to offer his services and help them not only to retain their current status but, in the longer term, to take them forward to new levels.
The league and the FA allowed the Wrens to rescind their resignation, which had looked set to reprieve bottom club Hucknall Town from the drop, and Rainworth will continue in Division One South next season.
Wrens’ current chairman Kim Wright will stand down from that post but will remain heavily involved with the club over which his father Alan presided for so many years during their glory days of the 1970s and 80s. And he is delighted to welcome his successor to the post on board.
Hawkins admitted that resigning as a director of the Stags, especially at this time, was a wrench, and said that the last two years at the One Call Stadium had been the best of his life.
He enthused: “What has happened at Mansfield has all been a bit surreal, and it’s wonderful for the club, the town, and the chairman and his wife.
“But my involvement there was a little bit limited, and I was ready for a new challenge. I love this level of football, and when the chance came to take on Rainworth I thought about it for less than an hour before taking it up.
“It’s not as if they are cash strapped or hard-up, but their initial decision to resign from the Evo-Stik League rather than go into debt to sustain that level of football confirmed to me what I already knew, that they are a well-run and sensible club with some great people at the helm. They are highly respected in the world of non-League football, and so I’m really thrilled to be getting involved with them.
“I followed Rainworth to Wembley with my father back in 1982, and also knew Brian Phillips (the manager at that time) very well, so I already had an affinity with the club.
“Now I hope my move to Rainworth will help to build on their already strong relationship that exists with the Stags, and I would like to call on Mansfield fans to adopt Rainworth as their second club next season and come along to support them when Stags are away if they are not travelling.
“My personal relationship with Mansfield remains strong – I was best man at John and Carolyn Radford’s wedding and we are still the best of friends. And I’m sure that with the parallel relationship between the two clubs we will be hgh on Paul Cox’s radar when looking to send good players out on loan.
“Eighteen months ago, when Mansfield’s very future at their ground was in jeopardy, Rainworth were the first to come and offer help, which made a big difference in regaining the ground from Keith Haslam, and things like that do not get forgotten.
“So a fortnight ago, when Rainworth looked set to take a voluntary drop, I had a meeting with their secretary and chairman and reached an agreement, which we needed to keep under wraps for a little while because of all that has been happening at Mansfield. That was hard for me because as soon as I knew I was coming on board I couldn’t wait to get started.
“This club is very special because it is the highest-placed miners’ welfare football club in the country. I come from a mining family, so I’m proud that we continue to maintain that link with the area’s traditional industry.
“After the Stags, Rainworth are the highest ranked club in the Mansfield area. So we are not here to stand still, we are looking forward to a sustainable level of continuing progression and, without making any rash predictions, I have my eyes already set on seeing Rainworth challenging for promotion to the Premier Division next season.”
Meanwhile, Wrens’ neighbours Hucknall Town have emphasised that they have no hard feelings towards Rainworth that the change of heart meant they would be relegated after all.
Yellows manager Darren Kelk, who spent a year as coach at Rainworth, said: “We finished bottom and deserve to go down, Rainworth finished mid-table and deserve to stay up – that’s how football works, so there are no hard feelings towards them from us.”
Stags’ chairman John Radford said: “Rainworth are the highest ranked local non-League team in our area following our promotion to the League and Mark has helped them massively by becoming their new owner, meaning they will be saved from demotion.
“We will maintain our good links with Rainworth and I would like to place on record my thanks to Mark for his efforts whilst on the board at One Call Stadium. I wish him well in his new venture.”