Leamington fans reeling from the loss of leading goalscorer and club captain Danny Newton have been given some brighter news with the return of Ben Mackey.
Manager Paul Holleran confirmed this morning that the 28-year-old would be linking up with Brakes in pre-season after Mackey had leaked out the news on Facebook.
Work commitments and niggling injuries mean Mackey has been out of action since January, but Holleran is convinced the striker’s third spell at the New Windmill will be a success.
“His life is a lot more stable and he wants to play for Leamington,” said Holleran.
“There’s a real desire on Ben’s part to do well for Leamington.
“He’s held in high esteem at the club and he’s really desperate to get back.”
Mackey scored 57 goals in two seasons at Leamington to help the club climb out of the Midland Alliance, but a second spell at the club in 2011 was cut short.
However, Holleran says a fully-fit Mackey will be a different proposition to the player who started that campaign.
“Ben was coming back from a double fracture and it took him six to eight months to get back to his best.
“To be fair to him, he went away and did ever so well at St Neots and Hemel.
“Hopefully, he’ll be a big part of what we do this season.”
But as one fans’ favourite returns, another one is leaving, with Newton joining Conference North side Tamworth.
Holleran was hoping to persuade the players’ player of the year to stay on and spearhead Brakes’ bid for an instant return to the Conference alongside Mackey.
However, he admitted he was unable to compete with the lure of Conference North football.
“It’s a major disappointment,” said Holleran. “We did everything we could on and off the pitch.
“But Danny felt that having worked so hard to establish himself as a Conference North player he wanted to continue playing at that level.
“I was hoping that as captain he would be a big part of what we do but I can see his reasons.
“You can never criticise a player for wanting to improve himself.
“He was a pleasure to work with and I hope he does well at Tamworth, though I say that with a heavy heart.”
Newton, whose final act as a Leamington player was to pick up three awards at the club’s annual presentation evening, issued a statement following his departure in which he praised both Holleran and the club’s supporters and outlined his motivation for leaving.
He said: “If it was a decision playing for the club or a decision playing for the fans or a decision playing for financial gain I would stay at Leamington.
“Paul Holleran has looked after me from day one and has been the best manager and friend to me.
“He’s tried everything possible to keep me at the club but this is purely a football decision and my need to prove myself at the highest level possible.
He went on to say: “It’s not been nice for me making the decision but I genuinely do hope the club gets back to where it should be.
“It’s been my most enjoyable time in football whilst being at the club and I’ll never forget it.
“I wish the club, the fans and everyone involved all the best for the future and I hope to be a Brake again one day.”
Despite the setback, Holleran is continuing to work behind the scenes shaping his squad for the Southern Premier League campaign.
But he says he is willing to remain patient, with the early part of the off-season stacked in the players’ favour.
“The players enjoy May with the managers pleading for their services,” he said.
“We’re not in a position like one or two clubs in the area where we can offer one or two-year deals on £450 and £500 a week.
“We have to be more prudent and wait until more realism comes into the market.”
Tony Breeden last week put pen to paper on a one-year contract to usher in a third spell at the New Windmill Ground.
“It is great that he has shown his commitment to us in dropping down a level to sign a deal as we begin to build for a push back towards the Conference,” said Holleran of the player he first brought to the club in 2009.
“He has been a popular figure in his previous time at the club and will provide the stability in goal that we were unfortunately unable to sustain last season.”
Danny Newton was named supporters’ player of the year and players’ player of the year at the club’s awards night at the New Windmill last Friday.
Lee Moore received Paul Holleran’s vote for manager’s player of the year.
Barry Reeve was presented with the clubman of the year award, while the junior clubman of the year went to the group of supporters affectionately known as Baby Brakes.
Mick Justice was awarded the Don Hartwell Trophy in recognition of his immense contribution during the past year, particularly with regards to ground improvements.