LAST Saturday’s home game against Newcastle Town marked the end of assistant manager Lee Wilkinson’s seven year stay at Rainworth MW.
‘Dagger’, as he is popularly known, was Rudy Funk’s first signing when the now Scarborough Athletic boss took over at Kirklington Road in the summer of 2005, and has been with the club through its rise from the Central Midlands League, through the NCEL, to the current Evo-Stik NPL Division One South status, serving as player, captain, assistant and joint manager.
But business and family reasons have forced the popular and respected Wilkinson to take a step back from football.
When current boss Kevin Gee took over at Rainworth in November he immediately asked Wilkinson, who had been joint boss with Billy Millar, to stay on as his assistant.
Gee paid tribute to his friend and colleagues, saying: “I had no hesitation in asking Lee to remain with us, and as an assistant manager he has been top drawer.
“But the reality is that his business comes first, as a businessman he’s very successful in his own right, and as a result of this he’s been given the opportunity to progress, and while I’m sorry to lose him I have to respect his priorities and he has made the right decision.”
Wilkinson himself leaves with mixed feelings. He said: “When a chance like this comes along I have to take it, but of course I’m sad to be leaving.
“I’ll miss the banter and camaraderie with the lads. I was asked last year to help keep the club in this division, and was asked again this year, and we’ve done that.
“I’ve always held Rainworth in the highest regard, but I’m a dad now and run my own business. My family life has had to take a back seat throughout my football career, but now certain opportunities have come up which I’ve got to take.
“But I won’t be a stranger, and will be back whenever I can to give Kev and the lads a bit of stick. Rainworth is a great club, and I hope and trust they will do well next season with a fresh start under Kev.”
Gee reflects on anti-climax
Rainworth manager Kevin Gee was in reflective mood after seeing his side put in a disappointing ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ performance against Newcastle Town on Saturday.
The Wrens were not even a pale shadow of the side which had beaten promotion-chasing Carlton Town on Easter Monday, and a 2-0 defeat ended a four-match unbeaten run which Gee had hoped to carry through to the end of the season.
Gee described it as ‘a game too far’ for everyone, and said: “We put in a really flat performance with expectations high after the win against Carlton, and we never got going.
“But I can’t be too critical, the lads here have been terrific on the whole and have put in some very good displays.
“And if this game was flat in terms of what we expected, it shows only how much expectations have risen within the club.
“We still have one game to go, at Stamford on Saturday, and it will be a difficult place to visit, but we have to go there and give it our best shot.
“My tactics didn’t work against Newcastle, so I take the responsibility, but I have to thank the players for what they have achieved, and their overall form and record since I arrived has been at least mid-table.
“We have preserved our place in this league, we have won more points than last season and we will finish higher in the table than last season, and these were my targets when I arrived in November.
“Stamford’s manager Tommy Brookbanks is a good friend of mine, and we’ll have a laugh and a joke, but we are going there to win the game and finish the season with a bit of style.”
Rainworth will be looking for a league double over the South Lincolnshire club, having turned in one of their best performances of the season to beat the Daniels 3-0 at Kirklington Road in December.