Jason Clark not only saved Worksop Town once, back in 2010, but according to the club’s life president kept them ‘safe and secure’ right up until this week when his time as Tigers owner came to an end.
Keith Ilett has seen a number of regimes come and go at the world’s fourth oldest football club since his involvement began in 1971.
Ilett was a director during the Clark era, which began when he arrived on the scene to help financially eight years ago during the club’s period of exile.
Clark, CEO and President Proact IT Group, took over ownership from previous chairman John Hepworth and bankrolled them single handedly.
He brokered a groundshare deal that brought the club back to Sandy Lane and financed a promotion charge, led by then manager Mark Shaw, that ended in a Northern Premier League play-off semi-final defeat at Fylde.
In May 2014 Clark stopped funding the club, but his £550,000 loan remained and he retained his majority shareholding.
The board took the decision to resign from the Northern Premier League and wereinstantly relegated two divisions to the Northern Counties East League Premier, where they still compete today.
Clark returned as chairman in November 2016, although he had minimal involvement with day to day affairs.
This week the club announced that local businessman Paul Tomkins had purchased Clark’s shares, and the club’s debt had been written off by the outgoing owner.
Ilett paid tribute to Clark for not only keeping the club safe but making the new era possible.
“I’ve a hell of a lot of respect for that man,” he said.
“Jason had that loan, the money he put in, to safeguard the club.
“He always wanted to keep the club safe and secure so he maintained his loan and his interest in the club.
“If it hadn’t been for him, none of this could have possibly happened.
“Jason has made it so this can happen.”
When Clark first got involved, the club was going through financial turmoil with wages being paid late and administration a genuine concern.
Under his chairmanship they stayed in the Northern Premier League, moved from Ilkeston back to Bassetlaw, groundsharing with Retford United, and then eventually returned to Worksop to share Sandy Lane.
Ilett said: “It was in a hell of a mess and he put thousands in before he even owned the club, I couldn’t believe that.
“He put money in to save the club and that’s how he ended up owning it.
“Jason straightened everything up and then went forward.”
Ilett believes there’s only one thing the businessman might change about his time as owner, with the benefit of hindsight.
Although there was talk of a new stadium and Clark spent money investigating the possibility of building a home for the club in Worksop, that never came to fruition.
And he spent heavily on player wages in an attempt to win a promotion that also never came.
“I think he realises now he should probably have bought the ground and not just piled it into the first team, but it’s easy to look back and say that,” said Ilett.
“I think the only thing he might have done different was probably buy the ground.
“But he saved the club.”