I suppose we shouldn’t really be shocked by yet another Ilkeston defeat, and to be honest I don’t think anyone was after the Blyth game on Saturday, but there was still that similar feeling of helplessness come the final whistle.
Unlike some of the other defeats in this horrid run the Robins are on, this fell into the ‘lost with barely a whimper’ category, along with games such as the 7-0 thrashing by Mickleover and the 4-0 loss at Frickley.
Blyth will go up, I’m pretty sure of that, but the match emphasised the gulf in class and quality that there currently is between Ilkeston and sides that have a chance of progressing to the higher levels, and with it not being long since Ilkeston fell into that latter category, it’s pretty frustrating for all onlookers with even a slight interest in their fortunes.
As I’ve said before, it’s not earth-shattering punditry to predict Ilkeston will be relegated unless something pretty remarkable happens with regard to their form, and for that to take place it’ll need at least six or seven signings that will make a massive difference and fast.
I had a private chat with Nigel Harrop after Saturday’s game. It wasn’t the ‘on the record’ chat that everyone wants, particularly me, but Harrop did acknowledge that there remain things he wants to say but that there are what he regards as genuine reasons why a lot of them can’t be said right now.
I know and he knows fans won’t buy into that, and he also acknowledged my own reasons for being so keen, but I remain adamant that before too long pretty much everything fans want to know WILL be answered one way or another because, quite frankly, it has to happen.
Harrop is well aware of the stick and vitriol directed his way by many fans and is clearly affected by it on a number of different levels. He’ll get very little sympathy from fans, and I think he knows that too, but I made it clear to him once again that communication either through official channels or through the press has to improve, regardless of whether people will take what he says with a pinch of salt or not.
There are things happening behind the scenes, I know that much, but having spoken to Harrop and a few other sources, some of them independent, it’s hard to assess just how concrete some of the rumours are and indeed how serious any interested buyers are in taking on what, let’s face it, is a pretty tough job in steering Ilkeston back to ‘where they should be’.
I know names, and have seen some of those names in attendance at the NMG. What has to happen if, and it remains a big if, anyone is to take over the club is that there is total transparency with regard to what the club does or doesn’t owe, what has gone on in the past to create the mess the club is in and who should be held accountable for it. For what it’s worth, whilst he has very many questions to answer, I don’t blame Harrop for all of the current problems.
A lot has been said about Paul Holland and whether he is either mad or a saint for sticking with the club given the circumstances he’s working under, or on the flipside whether he’s up to the task at all given the run of results.
My own opinion is that he certainly deserves great credit for sticking with it and clearly is frustrated by not being able to put out a stronger team each week. When he had a better squad to call upon earlier in the campaign, he showed he could get results, so to blame him for all the defeats thereafter would be harsh.
He’s said he won’t walk away and I don’t think he will. Were he to be sacked one could argue he’d have been harshly treated and perhaps made a scapegoat but then there may also be some who might feel a complete change in the playing side of things, from coach through to most of the squad, might see the Robins fare better. Time will tell on that one but I hope Holland is the man who is still in charge to the end of the season at least and I think the players will too.
Anyway, when it comes to the playing side of it here and now, I just can’t see how the Robins will escape. The signings of Dale Eve and Dante Leverock, both the latest in the long line of Bermudians to grace the NMG, won’t solve the problems alone although in fairness it seems Eve has been one of the better performers in his two matches so far.
The next three home games will be crucial and they come consecutively over the next couple of weeks. Coalville will bring half of the Ilkeston squad from earlier in the season with them and then Sutton Coldfield arrive with an ever-improving squad and similarly trying to escape the relegation zone.
Hednesford then come to the NMG on February 21st although given how many times that game has been either abandoned, postponed or rearranged we shouldn’t be shocked if it doesn’t actually get played until Christmas.
Either way, Ilkeston have got to be looking at six points from those games as a minimum, and they’ll certainly need some high quality new players to help achieve that.