Ilkeston Wanderers were founded in 1884 and quickly became one of the top sides in the town, despite losing their first two matches by 5-1 against Cotmanhay Wanderers and Loscoe. Within a year they twice beat the town's leading club of the time, Ilkeston Mechanics, the same year that they reached the semi final of the Ilkeston Charity Cup.
Wanderers improved rapidly after losing their first match, 5-1 against Cotmanhay Wanderers. Aided by their move to Barkers Bridge, and the demise of several of their rivals including Ilkeston Town in 1887, they became the town's undisputed leading club that same year. However, rumours had abounded in December 1886 that they were considering to try and merge with Town if a suitable deal could be agreed. If these rumours were true then they had a change of heart and it turned out to be to their advantage. Many of Town's players joined Wanderers in summer 1887.
Sadly, their new found status in the town cut no ice with the Derbyshire FA and despite strong arguments put forward by club president Councillor Moss, they were not admitted into the 1887/88 Derbyshire Senior Cup competition.
In December 1887, Wanderers changed their name to Ilkeston Town to reflect their status.
Key players in 1887/88 included:
J. Adkin (full back/half back)
Sammy Aldred (centre forward) - ex Ilkeston Town, prolific scorer, very good header
Aaron Baker (centre forward/right back) - ex Ilkeston Town, sturdy. father of the talented Baker brothers and who later scored the first ever goal on the Manor Ground in 1893
Laz Barber (centre half) - good tackler
Albert Beardsley (left back) - regarded as the best defender of his time at the club
H. Brown (goalkeeper) - safe, first class goalkeeper
A. Carrier (forward) - ex Ilkeston Town. tricky, good crosser who could go on great runs
George Cockayne (inside forward)
Arthur Goddard (forward) - excellent corner taker
Sam Hunt (half back)
E. Jeffries (right half) - powerful and strong.
Herbert Johnson (inside forward/winger) - also club secretary. tricky, great dribbler and eye for goal
Jerry Slack (right half) - ex Ilkeston Town, industrious player, could shoot from distance
Freddie Tilforth (forward) - ex Ilkeston Mechanics and Ilkeston Town, treasurer from 1888