Rawden revels in Welfare’s flying start

Kimberley (in red) are still unbeaten.
Kimberley (in red) are still unbeaten.

Paul Rawden highlighted his desire to keep Kimberley Miners Welfare in the higher echelons of the East Midlands Counties League this week after two more wins moved his side up to second spot.

Welfare, competing at step six for the first time in their history, remain unbeaten after eight games and are two points behind leaders South Normanton Athletic with a game in hand.

And although manager Rawden acknowledges it is still early days, he is confident his strong squad can remain promotion contenders.

He said: “I’ve stated before that our start is probably more of a surprise to everyone else than it is to me and the squad.

“We’ve a tight-knit set of 19-20 players, the vast majority of whom have played at higher levels, and our strength in depth is such that I’ve been able to rotate the squad all along and we’ve not lost any of our quality.

“That will be crucial as injuries and suspensions have already kicked in and will continue to do so as the season progresses.

“So we’re really happy with how things are going and although there’s a long way to go, our main aim of finishing high enough to qualify for the FA Cup and competing in the upper regions of the division is standing firm.”

Welfare’s success and impressive player recruitment is all the more remarkable given Rawden is operating with what he describes as ‘zero budget’, which although not uncommon at step six of the pyramid has still seen the club attract good quality players.

Rawden added: “What we’ve achieved so far has been built heavily on team spirit. Lots of these lads have played for me before so know what I’m about and what I want.

“Players have to buy into our ethos. If you have lads who want to win each week and if the desire is strong then you’ve won half the battle and the financial rewards can come further down the line.”

Kimberley will host Graham Street Prims at the Stag Ground on Saturday before travelling to Blaby & Whetstone on Tuesday.

Prims are struggling and have lost all three of their away games, whilst Blaby are tenth but have only played five games due to their cup commitments.

Rawden said: “Prims are in a bit of a false position as they’ve a strong squad and have just brought in four players from Long Eaton who they have a link-up with, so Saturday will be a tough game.

“Blaby are another side who will do well this season, but we’ve come through some really big tests so far, including against Borrowash on Wednesday which I think was our hardest so far.

“We’ve signed ex-Heanor defender Matt Blake this week who is a great addition and I hope to have one or two more in by the weekend, so we’re getting stronger all the time.”