In under six years, Michael Carter has transformed Wakefield from a club surviving by the skin of its teeth to a sustainable business defying its status as the underdog.
When Carter took over in 2013, he inherited a club losing £800,000 a year, and one financial mishap away from disaster. Relegation was a constant worry, with the club in danger of spiralling into obscurity when it ended up in the Million Pound Game.
A lot has changed since then.
Now, the club breaks even and has finished fifth in Super League two years running – a remarkable rise for a club that could have easily been confined to history.
The most fitting compliment available for the West Yorkshire club is that, in the course of Widnes’ recent troubles, it was Wakefield many pointed to as the benchmark for what the Vikings could aspire to, moving forward.
Carter’s hands-on approach has been pivotal to their change in fortunes, although he admits that the strain almost forced him to leave the club late last year.
“I think I could have very easily left last season,” he said.
“There were some personal reasons. I had done five and a half years – ask any chief exec or chairman and they will tell you that a year is a long time. There was a build-up of things, and I had got to a point where I was contemplating whether a break would be good for the family because there were times when the family was coming second to rugby, and that shouldn’t be the case.
“It was John (Minards, club chairman) who pulled me back on board and got me thinking clearly. I had a good rest at the end of last season and it reinvigorated me. John has done a fantastic job since he’s come on board.
“It’s also easy when you’ve got a coach who understands where the club is at, and doesn’t demand the earth. Chezzy has always had that – being a Wakefield lad.
“The time away allowed me to reevaluate things and realise what we can do with this club. I’m pleased that was the outcome because I’m rightly proud of what we’ve done, and there are still things we can achieve. I’d love to get to Wembley and the play-offs, I think we’ve got the squad to do that.”
In the much nearer future, however, Carter’s long-held goal of improving the club’s stadium could be on the cusp of coming to fruition.
Should his dream be realised, it will be the latest, and biggest, step towards taking Wakefield to the top of the sport.
“We all know about the facilities and where we’re at. We’re trying as hard as ever to get that resolved.
“The thing it relates to most is crowds. It’s not rocket science to see that the ground is not a pleasant place, at times, to come and spend four hours of your life. They are two areas where I think there can be a massive improvement. And if we can do that, I think it will give us the chance to spend salary cap, which is ultimately one of my ambitions in life.
“In terms of the business, we have done really well. More and more businesses are joining us. We would always welcome more, but we are running out of capacity with boxes and other corporate facilities. We played Catalans on a Thursday night and sold out.
The community side is doing great things currently too.
“I’ve absolutely no doubt there will be a banana skin or two on the way, there always is, but this is a great club to be involved in and I still think that if we can resolve the facilities issue, the sky is the limit.”