It’s all change in every way at Rainworth MW this season ... new league, new management, an almost entirely new squad and, if the managers have their way, a new brand of eye-catching passing football.
Certainly the Kirklington Road faithful deserve to see some success after five very difficult years of punching well above their weight in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League. But, if others are tempted to point the finger, they can only reply with the adage ‘Better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all.’
Although they finished in a relegation position in Division One South last season, a reprieve was Rainworth’s for the taking, but after swallowing a stiff dose of the medicine of financial reality the Wrens reluctantly but proudly elected to step down one level. They did so with heads held high, having earned the enormous respect and friendship of the league’s bigger clubs during their five years rubbing shoulders with the likes of Kings Lynn, Stafford Rangers and Leek Town.
So now it’s back to the Premier Division of the Northern Counties East League, a division in which they have only previously contested one season prior to their promotion. Previous managers Ian Robinson and John Knapper, despite their disappointment at the decision and their initial reaction of tendering their resignation, offered to stay on, but found the cut in the budget for the new level too hard to swallow, and departed.
In their place have come the former management team from Shirebrook Town, of Julian Watts and Ady Smith. Watts, a former professional with Luton Town, Leicester City and Sheffield Wednesday, has his own views on how the game should be played, a view shared by Smith who led the Wrens’ reserve side to their league title the season before last, before it was axed as an economy measure.
The pair had taken over at Shirebrook some six weeks into last season and, if the Reds’ points per game record under them had been there for the whole season they would have been promoted, so local football was in shock when the club appeared ambivalent about their continuing in the role.
Rainworth will simply say that Shirebrook’s loss is their gain, and this is borne out by the quality of some of the football seen during the pre-season build-up. Almost all of last season’s squad have gone, while many of that reserve side of two years ago are back, with an extra season’s experience behind them, and the managers have added judiciously to those lads.
It’s impossible to highlight all the new players, but the Wrens will certainly be strong at the back, with former reserves Jordan Harris and Jobe Shaw being joined by Matt Plant who has followed the managers from Langwith Road. Fans have seen some quality goals scored too, especially by another of the former reserves Max Curzon, while Lewis Chambers and Liam Morris are also expected to weigh in with their share of goals.
In midfield Ricky Hanson and Jack Andrews are back along with Sam Dockwray who has matured out of all recognition during his year away from the club and looks to have the potential to become a fans’ favourite.
Watts is on record as highlighting a strong team spirit as a key part of his plans, and the players he has gathered have certainly not been motivated by money. But there are a few high-budget clubs in the division with Worksop Town, Tadcaster Albion, Handsworth Parramore and others reputed to be splashing the cash, so it will be interesting to see how the new look Wrens will sit alongside such as these.