Belper Town managing director Dave Laughlin believes the Nailers can look forward to the 2018/19 campaign with renewed optimism following a summer of changes at Christchurch Meadow.
A turbulent end to the previous campaign both on and off the pitch brought about a handful of departures in key positions at the club including chairman, two directors, director of football, ground safety officer and kit managers.
Then chairman Alan Benfield and fellow directors and benefactors, Chris Balls and Paul Waldron, all resigned from the board at the end of April after an attempt to sell the major shareholding in the club to a foreign investor fell through.
The team finished the 2017/18 season with six consecutive defeats, conceding 26 goals in the process, which led to the sackings of manager Aaron Webster and assistant Lee Williamson from their roles in Benfield’s last act as chairman.
Grant Black has since been appointed first team manager, brought in several new players and overseen the pre-season schedule. Laughlin believes the club has “a fantastic up-and-coming manager” at the helm.
“Grant and his assistant Mick Norbury have recruited a group of talented players with plenty of experience of playing with the Evo-Stik League and higher,” said Laughlin.
“Pre-season displays have brought a great deal of optimism that the team will more than hold their own in the new season.
“That combined with a new wave of optimism off the field, and the future suddenly looks bright for the Nailers after all of the upheaval at the end of previous season.”
Laughlin was asked by the remaining board members to return as managing director “in order to try to lift the club out of the doldrums” following Benfield’s and the respective directors’ decisions to step down.
“The first job was to try to restore some additional strength to the boardroom and we therefore appointed two local businessmen as new directors of the club,” he said. “Joining the boardroom were Ian Woodward and Guy Wimhurst. Ian runs a local property maintenance company whilst Guy is a regional manager for the Co-op.
“The boardroom clearly needed an urgent injection of experience and knowhow, so we were delighted that Ian and Guy both agreed to come on board.
“Guy is the club’s new finance director whilst Ian’s brief is to modernise the stadium and bring our facilities up to scratch.
“Both men are passionate about football and are keen supporters of the club so they were aware of size of the rebuilding job needed.
“We also expect to announce two further directors over the next couple of weeks, to give added strength to our boardroom team. The new directors have been joined by two other key off-field appointments.
“Steve Hunt was appointed as stadium manager and is responsible for all aspects of stadium management and safety.
“Along with Ian Woodward, Steve has embarked on a comprehensive stadium development and maintenance programme and is also working on a scheme to replace the spectator barriers around the pitch.
“A new public address system has been also been installed to improve the quality of entertainment for supporters.
“We were also delighted when Andy Hunt (no relation) joined the club to develop new marketing and publicity initiatives, including a complete rebranding of the club. Andy has redesigned all of the club’s marketing and publicity materials, including a brand new matchday programme design for next season.
“Our function room and conferencing facilities have been rebranded with customers also now able to self cater for their private parties and business events.
“We have recently secured a new stadium naming sponsorship deal and new first team shirt sponsors and all will be revealed at a launch event when we play our final pre-season friendly match against Matlock Town on Saturday 11th August.
“Added to which we have also negotiated further kit and tracksuit sponsorship deals and also sponsorship of the newly furbished sponsors’ lounge and dugouts.”
The Nailers finish their pre-season schedule at home to Matlock Town on Saturday and start their 2018/19 Evo-Stik League East Division season seven days later with a home match against Morpeth Town (18th August).
Laughlin added: “I would urge local football people to come along to Christchurch Meadow and see just how much we have been able to turn things around and to feel the buzz around the club. I know they won’t be disappointed.”