Duffers’ Diaries: Pre-season brings out the clichés as Robins fare well

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It still seems like forever before the new season is due to start but at least we’ve got some football to talk about.

OK, so it’s just some pre-season friendlies that are generally neither use nor ornament to anyone other than the coaches in charge or the players taking part, but as I’ve said before, they’re a necessary evil at this stage.

The Leicester game last week saw a talented group of youngsters arrive at the NMG and give the Robins the clichéd ‘good test’ and ‘useful workout’.

That kind of opposition is very different to what Ilkeston will face in the Northern Premier League but in terms of fitness it was good as there was plenty of chasing the ball being done.

After a much-changed Ilkeston side then beat Long Eaton the following night, Notts County arrived on Saturday and again provided a different kind of challenge.

With it being their first team squad the quality was there to be seen and again the only real benefit Ilkeston will have got was in getting good practice on defensive shape, although the fact three of the four goals Notts scored were all very similar might be something of a concern to Paul Holland.

I’m writing this before Carlton and Heanor provide opposition this week and those games will be a much better marker as to where Ilkeston are at, particularly Carlton who are just one level below.

Chesterfield will then bring their first team, hopefully including former Robin Rai Simons, on Saturday for what will be a similar kind of game to the Notts County one, I’d imagine, although I’m not suggesting it’ll be another one-sided scoreline.

Away from the delights of local football, I’m writing this on a sweltering Tuesday afternoon and have been made a bit hotter by the fact that not only have the FA been interviewing Sam Allardyce for the England job, but Steve Bruce has had a chat too.

Whether the hierarchy at the FA are just trying to go for a succession of very ugly, old (or both) and not that inspiring England managers isn’t clear, but they can’t be looking for someone who is likely to win a major tournament.

It’s nothing personal against Allardyce and Bruce, they’re both stalwarts of the English game and good characters too, but neither of those things are enough to make you a success at international level. Look at Roy Hodgson as an example.

At least Hodgson had more of a track record to call upon; Allardyce and Bruce merely have a few promotions between them and a couple of successful relegation scraps.

OK, maybe being given a squad of better quality players than they’re used to might see them thrive, but I struggle to see how their respective styles will match those very players they have at their disposal.

Bruce probably edges it in a tactical sense and he’s my favoured pick of the two, but neither are really glittering options, although both are quite used to being sacked which the FA might favour.

I’ll happily let my attention be drawn back to this column when either Allardyce or Bruce lead England to World Cup glory, however.

The NPL fixtures finally came out last week and Ilkeston will start with a home game against last year’s Division One South champions Stafford Rangers.

It’s a really tough start as even though Ilkeston are at home, Rangers were excellent last season and will be keen not to get dragged back down again.

Putting the fixtures together (whether by human hand or computer) is a pretty thankless task and pleasing everyone will be impossible,but forcing Ilkeston into midweek trips to Blyth and Whitby does nobody any favours.

Ilkeston benefit from being mostly full-time so the players can prepare and recover easier than those who may also have other jobs, but it’s tough for the fans and indeed the journos who travel too - albeit I’m still not likely to be covering Ilkeston away games next year! When I did, Blyth away on a Tuesday wasn’t all that welcome!

I doubt the home teams are that keen either given the fact that far fewer Ilkeston fans are likely to travel on a midweek night. Many, many more would do so on a Saturday and make a day of it, but just a hardy few are likely to go on a Tuesday which deprives the host team of a good 50/60 off the gate at least.

Either way, it’ll be another congested season given there are 46 league games plus an unpredictable number of cup ties to fit in - here’s hoping the fitness levels of the young Ilkeston team will count for a lot.

So here are all the fixtures for the coming season, although obviously this schedule will probably change a lot once cup ties and postponements kick in as the campaign progresses.

ILKESTON FC 2016/17 FIXTURES

August

Sat Aug 13 Stafford Rangers (h)

Tue Aug 16 Whitby Town (a)

Sat Aug 20 Stourbridge (a)

Tue Aug 23 Spennymoor Town (h)

Sat Aug 27 Ashton Utd (h)

Mon Aug 29 Matlock Town (a)

September

Sat Sept 3 FAC1Q

Sat Sept 10 Warrington Town (a)

Sat Sept 17 FAC 2Q

Tue Sept 20 Hednesford Town (h)

Sat Sept 24 Buxton (h)

Tue Sept 27 Halesowen Town (a)

October

Sat Oct 1 Sutton Coldfield Town (h)

Tue Oct 4 Rushall Olympic (a)

Sat Oct 8 Corby Town (a)

Tue Oct 11 Barwell (h)

Sat Oct 15 Skelmersdale Utd (h)

Tue Oct 18 Blyth Spartans (a)

Sat Oct 22 Coalville Town (a)

Sat Oct 29 Barwell (h) (FAT1Q)

November

Tue Nov 1 Rushall Olympic (h)

Sat Nov 5 Marine (a)

Sat Nov 12 FAT2Q

Sat Nov 19 Workington (h)

Sat Nov 26 Nantwich Town (a)

December

Sat Dec 3 Grantham Town (h)

Sat Dec 10 Frickley Athletic (a)

Sat Dec 17 Marine (h)

Mon Dec 26 Mickleover Sports (a)

Fri Dec 30 Whitby Town (h)

January

Mon Jan 2 Matlock Town (h)

Sat Jan 7 Stafford Rangers (a)

Sat Jan 14 Sutton Coldfield Town (a)

Sat Jan 21 Corby Town (h)

Sat Jan 28 Barwell (a)

February

Sat Feb 4 Blyth Spartans (h)

Sat Feb 11 Skelmersdale Utd (a)

Sat Feb 18 Coalville Town (h)

Sat Feb 25 Buxton (a)

Tue Feb 28 Halesowen Town (h)

March

Sat Mar 4 Warrington Town (h)

Mon Mar 6 Hednesford Town (a)

Sat Mar 11 Grantham Town (a)

Sat Mar 18 Nantwich Town (a)

Sat Mar 25 Frickley Athletic (h)

April

Sat Apr 1 Workington (a)

Sat Apr 8 Stourbridge (h)

Sat Apr 15 Spennymoor Town (a)

Mon Apr 17 Mickleover Sports (h)

Sat Apr 24 Ashton Utd (a)

*All fixtures are subject to change