01 19


Several weeks before Ilkeston Town FC were wound up by the High Court on September 8th 2010, five supporters approached the club to see if there was anything that the supporters could do as a body to help the club financially via fund-raising activities. Paul Seale, Paul Miller, Duncan Payne, Lee Francis and Alex Middleton - who would collectively become known as the 'Gang of 5' - left the meeting none the wiser, unconvinced that the line that 'there is nothing to worry about' was reassuring and with a feeling that their offer was not being taken too seriously.
Town went into liquidation on September 14th and the 'Gang of 5' immediately arranged a supporters meeting for the following night at the local venue Gladstone Lodge as the gates to the New Manor Ground were padlocked. It was an emotionally-charged evening, the 'Gang of 5' being stunned by the sheer number of people who turned up, many of whom left because the venue was filled to capacity. Also in attendance were representatives from Supporters Direct, Chester FC and Scarborough Athletic but equally important was the presence of Erewash councillor Mike Wallis who told the audience that the New Manor Ground would remain a football venue as long as a new club could be formed.
The outcome of the evening was that the supporters themselves, spearheaded by the 'Gang of 5', would bid for the ownership of the lease of the ground. However, they were not the only interested parties. At least a dozen individuals and consortiums indicated an interest although that number gradually dwindled down. Erewash Borough Council, as the owners of the land, had the power to decide which party should own the lease to the New Manor Ground but they ultimately chose to leave the final decision in the hands of the liquidators who were acting in the interests of Ilkeston Town's creditors.
When the time came for the bids to be supplied to the liquidators the number of parties was believed to be four including the fans, a consortium headed by local businessman Geoff Clarence, and Clifton Mitchell whose company leased the clubhouse from Ilkeston Town. The other interest came from Dave Mantle, Head of Operations of SR Education, a Nottingham based company which specialised in NVQ Training and Apprenticeships across the sport sector.
Mantle was already a key presence at the New Manor Ground because it was his company which ran the Ilkeston Town Academy which had been formed during the summer. The Academy had been allowed by the liquidators to continue to use the facilities there. His intention was to relocate his company to the New Manor Ground with the new football club being the flagship, managed by Kevin Wilson. Wilson was held in high regard by Ilkeston supporters, because of the fine football his Town team had produced in the previous season when they narrowly missed out on a place in the Conference North Play-Offs and also because of the remarkable loyalty he had shown by sticking around when the club went under. That regard was shared by Mantle who had witnessed first hand Wilson's excellent coaching skills with the Academy.
On November 19th 2010 liquidator Dean Nelson advised that Dave Mantle was the successful bidder and at a press conference held at the ground three days later Mantle impressed all with his vision of the new club, not least 'Gang of 5' members Middleton and Payne who were fortunate enough to be allowed to attend the meeting. The news of Wilson and his assistant Darren Caskey being appointed as the management team was well received as was Mantle's assertion that he wanted to work closely with the fans. The supporters' bid had failed but it was clear that an exciting future for the new club lay ahead. 

Despite coming into life more than three months into the season the Ilkeston FC Academy was allowed to compete in the Central Conference although it wasn't until early January that they were able to complete their first competitive game. Nevertheless they quickly caught up with their games in hand and it was obvious that Kevin Wilson had some talented youngsters. The Robins romped their way to a league and cup double, losing just once in 16 competitive fixtures.
What was also obvious was that several members of the Academy had the potential to become key players in the club's future first team. Wilson's biggest problem was that he was unable to prepare for the 2011/12 season simply because there was no way of knowing which league the first team would be playing in. Ilkeston FC could have been placed anywhere from Step 4 to the nightmare scenario of Step 7 for their first full season. The waiting game began.

Ilkeston FC learned on May 20th that they would start life as a Step 4 club playing in the Northern Premier League Division One South, the best possible outcome and in effect a two division drop from where Ilkeston Town had been. The philosophy of the club and management was to build a squad of talented and hungry young players supplemented by a handful of experienced players to form the backbone of the team.
Four of the Academy players signed first team contracts: Tyrell Waite, Ryan Wilson, Andrew Osei-Siribour and Josh Wisdom. Waite and Wilson in particular were to play a significant part in the campaign with Waite creating history on three counts. He was to become the first Ilkeston FC player to score a competitive goal, the first to sign for a League club when he signed for Notts County in March 2012, and he held the record of being the club's youngest ever player when he made his first team debut at the age of 17 years and 43 days. Other Academy players such as Scott Low, Mike Williams, Laurence Zisaruk-Gibson, Tom Colclough and Gerome Palmer were also handed first team opportunities as the season progressed.
Arguably Wilson's two most important pre-season signings were striker Gary Ricketts and defender Russell Cooke, two highly experienced players who were able to bring stability, guidance and expertise to the squad. Cooke became captain but for Ricketts it was a season of triumph over disaster. In an infamous pre-season friendly three Mansfield Town players were hospitalised following separate clashes with Ricketts. The game was abandoned when the Mansfield manager pulled his players from the pitch, but in his defence Ricketts wasn't cautioned by the referee for his part in any of the incidents. Suspended and fined two weeks' wages by the club following an investigation Ricketts bounced back and was a true inspiration, ending the season as top scorer as well as picking up the divisional Player of the Year award and being voted as Ilkeston FC's Player of the Season.
Wilson also signed a number of young players who he felt had the potential to progress under his tutorship. Goalkeeper Aaron Butcher, defenders Josh Hill, Dan Partridge and - early in the season - James Cullingworth, midfielders Adam Colton, Liam Green, Joe Maguire, Kristian Cox and Will McCall, plus striker Daryll Thomas were all aged between 18 and 24. Not all were successes in the long term although Hill, Patridge and Cullingworth all played a big part whilst Maguire and McCall would have had a much greater influence but for injury problems. As for Thomas he scored goals frequently apart from a lean patch midway through the season.
The season kicked off memorably with a 4-0 win against Goole in front of 1,315 fans at an emotionally charged New Manor Ground but things didn't go to plan initially. Three defeats in the first six games, due in part to defensive naivety and a midfield which lacked bite, meant there was plenty of work to do but as the youngsters learned from their mistakes confidence grew. Three splendid away wins in Sepember - Lincoln United (5-2), Market Drayton Town (6-0) and Sheffield (3-1) - took the Robins to the top of the table. They were still there in late November but a 3-1 defeat at home to the impressive Grantham Town - who went on to win the league by a ten point margin - emphasised that the team was not the finished article, something most people had accepted given that they were prone to the occasional poor performance such as the 3-2 defeat at bottom club Quorn.
Wilson strengthened the squad during the winter in a bid to keep pace with the leaders. Following on from the arrival of midfielder Matt Richards in November he brought in wide men Jack Watts, James Reid and then former Town favourite Sam Duncum. 
It was in February that the team really began playing to its full potential and the purple patch lasted until the end of the season. Wilson continued to add to his squad as the season headed into the final few weeks with midfield general Laurie Wilson coming in on loan along with another former Ilkeston Town player, the experienced striker Francis Green. A further loan signing was teenage goalkeeper Lloyd Allinson who came from Huddersfield Town.
The goalkeeper position had caused problems all season. When Butcher was released in November after an unsuccessful stint at the club it left Wilson without a recognised goalkeeper in the first team squad other than Ben Gathercole who had arrived on a year long work experience placement from Nottingham Forest. Gathercole played in many of the games following Butcher's departure but when he spent time out through suspension and injuries Wilson was forced to bring in a succession of goalkeepers on a loan basis. Although Gathercole was fit when Allinson arrived the manager was leaving nothing to chance.
Sitting in third place at the start of February the Robins lost just once in their next 12 league games before going down to a last minute goal at champions Grantham on the final day. That goal robbed Ilkeston of the runners-up spot which would have guaranteed them a home game in the Play-Off Final if they won the Semi-Final.
As it was Ilkeston had a home Semi-Final, against Sheffield, and they saved their best football of the season for the occasion. The Robins had already beaten Sheffield twice in the league, and roared on by a crowd well in excess of 1,000, they destroyed their opponents 7-0. Two days later they learned that the Final would be at home against Leek Town, ironically the last team to beat them on the New Manor Ground, and by kick-off time there were 1,670 people in the ground.
Attendances had steadily held at over 500 since the historic first game and Ilkeston comfortably had the biggest support in the division but the drama of the Play-Offs had enticed many more local people to the ground.
The Final was a tense affair that was dominated by Ilkeston but two goals inside two minutes by Matt Richards and Daryll Thomas midway through the second half sealed Leek's fate and earned Ilkeston promotion. It was a fitting end to an exciting season for a club that has an exciting future. 

The 2012/13 season saw Ilkeston FC take another stride forward even though a second successive promotion was never likely to happen. But the way the team rallied after a difficult start to the campaign suggested that the club would be capable of better things in 2013/14 than the midtable finish they achieved in 2012/13.
Kevin Wilson opted to keep faith with the majority of the players who helped the team to promotion to the Premier Division. Sam Duncum was one of the departees, which was disappointing but understandable given the options the manager already had in left midfield, as was Josh Hill who had lost his place in the heart of the defence by the time the Robins were involved in the final push for promotion. A bigger loss was expected to be that of James Cullingworth who had performed reliably at right-back. Cullingworth had chosen to move to Australia and even though he was to return to Ilkeston in the autumn he found it difficult to adjust upon his return and his opportunities were limited.
Wilson wisely chose to bring in some new faces in preparation for the new season. Learning from the difficulties of the previous season he signed a goalkeeper on a permanent basis. The colourful and controversial character Ashley Timms, whose off field transgressions had destroyed any chance of a career at a higher level, clearly had ability but Wilson upset him by signing another 'keeper on the eve of the new season. Chris Martin came from Port Vale and got the nod, and although Timms was given the opportunity a few weeks into the season, it was Martin who came out on top. Timms had also upset some supporters with some outspoken comments on social media websites and it was no surprise when he left the club early in 2013.
Laurie Wilson was also signed on a permanent basis following his successful loan spell at the end of the previous season, and another new arrival was the promising and versatile young defender Greg Pearson from Huddersfield Town. But perhaps the most eagerly anticipated signing was that of prolific and experienced striker Jamie Clarke who had scored heavily the previous season, including one against Ilkeston FC.
Unfortunately, Clarke picked up an injury in an otherwise promising pre-season for the club, and some good performances led to a rise in expectations from many supporters for the season ahead.
Yet things did not go to plan initially. A highly promising 1-1 draw on the opening day against play-offs bound AFC Fylde was marred by an injury to striker Daryll Thomas which led to Clarke being introduced into the team sooner than Wilson may have liked given his lack of preparation. Clarke struggled to impose himself, as did the whole team, during the first few weeks with the exception of mercurial midfielder Matt Richards, and it was no surprise when Clarke left the club having failed to make the expected impact. Adam Somes, a young striker from Mansfield was introduced but didn't impress although Ryan Osborne from the Academy was handed a few cameo appearances up front and looked to have a very bright future. Nevertheless, it was a welcome relief when Thomas regained fitness and returned to the side.
As autumn approached the team was struggling at the wrong end of the table and in November they were rock bottom. There was no panic and it was generally felt that the team was in a false position. Nevertheless, with a third of the season gone, Ilkeston had only accrued 10 points. There had been a succession of narrow defeats as a mixture of bad luck, a lack of quality in the final third, and defensive blips proved costly but for the most part they had given as good as they had got. However, as results continued to go against them confidence began to ebb away. There were times when their fighting spirit brought reward, such as when they scored three times in the final 6 minutes to snatch an unlikely 4-4 draw, but the fact that this was against relegation bound Kendal Town merely emphasised that the Robins had problems. The only relief was coming in the FA Cup which Ilkeston FC had entered for the first time, and they managed to make the first round draw. Defeat at home to AFC Fylde in the final qualifying round replay deprived them of an appetising home clash against League Two side Accrington Stanley.
Wilson reacted swiftly to the problems on the pitch by bringing in several promising and hungry youngsters on loan from League clubs including midfielder Greg Tempest and defenders Jide Maduako, Curtis Thompson, Steven Smith and Jake Wholey during the early winter. Several first team players were allowed to leave including the popular Joe Wilcox and, to the disappointment of many, top scorer Daryll Thomas although somewhat crucially none of Thomas' five goals had come in league games. 
In addition Joe Maguire was introduced into the heart of the defence after spending much of the previous season in midfield and he responded magnificently, barely putting a foot wrong for the rest of the season and deservedly winning the Player of the Season award. A crucial signing was that of striker Aaron Hooton who made the big step up from Basford United with seemingly effortless ease but probably a lot of hard work. Tall, strong and a good finisher, Hooton quickly won over the fans by forming a good partnership with the talismanic Gary Ricketts, and the first sign of things to come from him came at Ashton United. Ilkeston had managed a 1-1 draw at title winners North Ferriby at the end of October but the real turning point was at then second place Ashton when the Robins destroyed them 3-0, with Hooton scoring twice early on, the first coming after just 16 seconds. Suddenly the team had belief and five successive wins had fans dreaming of a late push for the play-offs rather than suffering nightmares about relegation.
The 2-1 win against promotion chasing Worksop Town on New Years Day, with Laurie Wilson scoring a superb winner in the last minute, added to the belief. Even though most of the loan signings had gone the players were filled with confidence. However, they were stopped in their tracks, not by the opposition but by the harsh and prolonged winter which caused multiple postponements. The bad weather affected all clubs across the country but when normality finally resumed the enforced break had caused the Robins' juggernaut to stutter. Performances were no longer consistent and the faint play-offs hopes disappeared although there was enough in the displays to show that Ilkeston now had the basis of a very good team. The team was now boosted by the arrival of Bermudan international striker Antwan Russell, an imaginative capture which hinted at future links between the club and the islands, plus former Premiership right-back Rob Kozluk who combined playing with coaching duties.
As the season drew to a close there was little to play for apart the Derbyshire Senior Cup. A superb 2-0 victory thanks to two goals from Hooton against a near full strength Alfreton Town team took them to the final where they faced Matlock Town at Chesterfield FC. Ilkeston were on the brink of defeat but roared on by the magnificent support that made up the bulk of the 1769 crowd they scored twice in the dying minutes to win 2-1. Substitute James Reid was the hero scoring both, the first a vicious shot from 25 yards and the other a stoppage time penalty.
Safely ensconced in midtable Wilson wisely chose to introduce several highly promising Academy players into the first team for the final few games and they produced some hugely encouraging performances. Danny Gordon, Liam Mahon, Matt Baker, Callum Chettle, Akil Wright, Paris Pereira and Curtis Burrows were amongst those who seemlessly made the transition, and the stunning 4-0 away win at Whitby Town - where Hooton played the last 70 minutes in goal because of an injury to Scott Low - was almost frightening in its showcasing of their potential.




Tyrell Waite (Notts County 2012), Che Adams (Sheffield United 2014), Kieran Wallace (Sheffield United 2014)

Record victory: 8-1 v Holbrook Sports (H) (Derbyshire Senior Cup Quarter-Final) 2014/15
Record league victory: 6-0 v Market Drayton Town (A) (Northern Premier League Division One South) 2011/12; 6-0 v Trafford (H) (Northern Premier League Premier Division) 2014/15
Record defeat: 1-6 v Leicester City (H) (Friendly) 2014/15
Record league defeat: 2-5 v Worksop Town (A) (Northern Premier League Premier Division) 2013/14
Record attendance: 3020 v Nottingham Forest (Friendly) 2014/15
Record league attendance: 1315 v Goole AFC (Northern Premier League Division One South) 2011/12
Longest unbeaten run: 16 games 2014/15
Longest unbeaten league run: 11 games 2014/15
Most successive victories: 8 games 2014/15
Most successive league victories: 5 games 2012/13, 2014/15
Longest run without a win: 7 games 2012/13, 2013/14
Longest run without a league win: 6 games 2013/14
Most successive defeats: 4 games 2013/14
Most successive league defeats: 4 games 2012/13, 2013/14
Youngest player: Ryan Osborne 16 years, 184 days
Youngest goalscorer: Akil Wright 16 years, 350 days
Oldest player: Gary Ricketts 38 years, 290 days

Gary Ricketts 129
Ryan Wilson 122
Joe Maguire 116
James Reid 116
Matt Richards 106
Laurie Wilson 86
Jack Watts 73
Dan Partridge 65
Daryll Thomas 64
James Cullingworth 63
Kane Richards 62
Russell Cooke 58
Aaron Hooton 56
Ellis Storey 51
Joe Wilcox 51
Tyrell Waite 47
Chris Martin 40
Callum Chettle 38
Danny Gordon 34
Josh Hill 31
Will McCall 31
Russell Peel 30
Chey Adams 28
Matt Baker 26
Liam Green 26
Ross Etheridge 24
Jason Stokes 24
Andrew Osei-Siribour 23
Greg Pearson 23
Akil Wright 23
Darren Caskey 22
Adam Colton 22
Ben Gathercole 21
Antwan Russell 21
Aaron Webster 21
Rob Kozluk 20
Lloyd Allinson 19
Mike Williams 18
Sam Duncum 15
Rob Peet 14
Dereece Gardner 13
Ashley Timms 12
Dion Chambers 11
Alex Ford 11
Kieran O'Connell 10
Ashley Robinson 10
Rai Simons 10
Cheye Alexander 9
Jide Maduako 9
Chris Palmer 9
Jordan Smith 9
Aaron Butcher 8
Jack Eades 8
Francis Green 7
Lejaun Simmons 7
Steven Smith 7
Alex Archer 6
Jamie Clarke 6
Rob Duffy 6
Courey Grantham 6
Goran Seymour 6
Curtis Thompson 6
Jake Wholey 6
Jamie Anton 5
Scott Low 5
Ryan Osborne 5
Luke Shaw 5
Greg Tempest 5
Eli Bako 4
Kristian Cox 4
Chris Jones 4
Dan Lowson 4
Josh Wisdom 4
Marcel Barrington 3
Curtis Burrows 3
Wilson Carvalho 3
Dimitar Evtimov 3
Liam Mahon 3
Adam Somes 3
Courtney Baker-Richardson 2
Tom Colclough 2
Nick Langford 2
Ryan Swift 2
Callum Williamson 2
Sam Andrew 1
Cameron Darkwah 1
Jack Dean 1
Brad Gascoigne 1
Ryan Hastie 1
Anthony Maguire 1
Gerome Palmer 1
Paris Pereira 1
Karum Shankar 1
Fabian Smith 1
Jan Yeomans 1
Laurence Zisaruk-Gibson 1

Gary Ricketts 43
James Reid 27
Daryll Thomas 24
Aaron Hooton 20
Joe Maguire 20
Matt Richards 17
Laurie Wilson 17
Jack Watts 16
Tyrell Waite 13
Will McCall 9
Darren Caskey 8
Aaron Webster 8
Sam Duncum 6
Kane Richards 6
Dereece Gardner 4
Danny Gordon 4
Antwan Russell 4
Mike Williams 4
Adam Colton 3
Russell Peel 3
Jason Stokes 3
Ryan Wilson 3
Rob Duffy 2
Jack Eades 2
Francis Green 2
Josh Hill 2
Dan Partridge 2
Jordan Smith 2
Joe Wilcox 2
Chey Adams 1
Matt Baker 1
Marcel Barrington 1
Callum Chettle 1
Kristian Cox 1
Dion Chambers 1
Liam Green 1
Kieran O'Connell 1
Andrew Osei-Siribour 1
Chris Palmer 1
Luke Shaw 1
Steven Smith 1
Ellis Storey 1
Akil Wright 1