NUNEATON Town manager Kevin Wilkin has thanked chairman Ian Neale for giving him a chance to prove his doubters wrong.
Wilkin found himself facing calls he should be sacked when the team was dumped out of the FA Cup by Nantwich Town in November last year.
Not for the first time, Neale stood by his man and the pair were rewarded with promotion to Blue Square Bet Premier on Sunday as Boro beat Gainsborough Trinity 1-0 in the play-off final.
Wilkin said: “It’s not been an easy season by any stretch. There were times when people were calling for my head and saying it’s time to go.
“Hopefully the play-off final and what we did in the second half of the season proved people wrong.
“I’ve got to thank the chairman for sticking with it in the early part of the season when we weren’t getting the results we expected.
“I’m sure I’ll need him to stick by me in the coming months. I never doubted myself though.
“I knew when we got players fit we’d be in the shake-up. As a manager you need people to back you and show that little bit of belief in you.
“I’ve had that from the board. Lots of people might have been in the chairman’s ear trying to get me down the road.
“Hopefully his faith has been vindicated by promotion.”
Wilkin admits he was not always convinced he would be celebrating a third promotion in four years. In fact he scarcely believed such progress since the club reformed in 2008 was possible.
“If you told me we’d have three promotions in four years I’d have laughed you out of town.
“We don’t have the best XI players in the league, but we are together and organised.
That’s got us a long way.
“That doesn’t just happen.
You need good people who buy into what you do.
“The likes of Noony (Mark Noon), Gaz Dean and Guy (Hadland) make it happen.
We’ve got a bunch of great lads.
“I didn’t always believe we’d make it at the start of the season. You hope it’s the case.
“When you look at it we had our backs to the wall with the points deduction (in March).
There was no scope for any error.
“The lads have been so honest. They kept trying.
“We had some mighty tough games against Guiseley (in the play-off semi-final) and I have to say Gainsborough were the better side in the final.
“We had lady luck on our side perhaps.
“We knew we couldn’t slip too much after the points deduction. We drew at Solihull and with Colwyn Bay.
“Then we went a goal down at Blyth on the last day when he had to win but we had the desire and tenacity to go and win that game.
“We had luck when we needed it but you get that when you try as hard as our players.
“There were lots of key moments through the season.
Too many to mention.
“People will say getting Andy Brown on board and yes that was a major plus but there were other players we missed out on.
“He was one of several we tried to get to strengthen us when needed it. He’s been a major part of it.
“Bringing Eddie (Nisevic) back from Brackley and seeing how he played was terrific. Noony getting over his ankle injury was important.
“We’ve been lucky that it came together at the right time. I had to make some big calls at the end there and throughout, but I had to do that,” he said.
Wilkin remains a realist and he admits the team has a lot of hard work ahead of it to survive against the non league elite next season.
“It’s going to be very difficult. A lot of hard work starts now but I’ve got great people around me.
“We’ll look at it after enjoying the moment. Clearly it’s a tough league to go into but if we stay honest and keep battling there is no reason we can’t do alright,” he said.
Neale to increase playing budget at meeting today
NUNEATON Town chairman Ian Neale will meet with manager Kevin Wilkin today as they plot a Blue Square Bet Premier survival strategy.
Boro are fresh from promotion but Neale revealed an increased budget for Wilkin is already in place, although the extra will not be fully funded by more revenue from promotion.
Neale said: “The planning has already started for next season. I’ve got a meeting booked with Kevin (today).
“We’ll move on. They’ll be contract talks and information on players staying after that.
“We’ve got some big ex-league teams to come down to Liberty Way now.
“Of course we’ll get some more gate money but the costs will increase in terms of the playing budget.
“We know where we are on that. We had that discussion a few weeks ago in case we went up.
“There was a Blue Square Bet North plan and a Blue Square Bet Premier plan.
“More money coming in will help, but it’s not enough. We’ve got to do what we’ve done every year — get new investment and sponsors.
“Hopefully the town will come and support the club and enjoy what’s to come.
“We’ve got to find money from somewhere as we won’t put the club at risk.
“We’ll see where that takes us, but the number one aim is to stay up,” he said.
Speaking on the pitch after the Blue Square North play-off final win at Gainsborough Trinity, Neale reflected on a four year roller coaster ride that saw the club come through its share of sticky patches to win three promotions in four years since Nuneaton Borough went bust in the summer of 2008.
“It’s very easy to forget how much we’ve gone through to get three promotions in four years.
“On the second of June 2008 we hadn’t hardly signed anyone before the start of the season.
“To be in Blue Square Bet Premier four years later is great. We face new challenges now.
“It’s a huge step up but we would always have taken the challenge.
“I’m used to challenges. I’ve had a difficult period personally. I’m delighted for all the fans we’ve done it, but I’m especially happy for Kevin.
“I’ve been involved with him since I came to the club in March 2008 and we’ve stuck together through difficult times.
“We are just going to enjoy this. It’s great to see everyone so happy.
“I spoke to Kevin on Saturday and said whatever happened the next day it was day one of next season.
“For it to come down to 90 minutes that define the season is massive.
“We needed to make the most of it and we did,” he said.