PREPARATIONS for Ilkeston FC’s debut season have taken two huge steps.
It was announced last Friday that the club will play their football at step four of the non-league pyramid, meaning they will compete in the Evo-Stik League Division One South next season.
That means they are just two divisions below the Conference North, where Ilkeston Town FC competed before its liquidation last September.
It was also confirmed this week that Ilkeston firm Ron Brooks Toyota will be main club sponsors, continuing its long association with football in the town.
The news that the Robins will compete at step four was met with delight by club chairman Dave Mantle.
He said: “It’s exactly what we were hoping for and I’m relieved as well as delighted.
“The threat was hanging over us that we could be relegated even further so under the circumstances, to come back at step four is as good as we could have hoped for.
“It’s really good news and now that we know the way forward, we all have to knuckle down and get on with the job and re-establishing Ilkeston as a non-league club to be reckoned with.”
Manager Kevin Wilson added: “I’m just pleased that at last we can start to make plans because the past few months have been very frustrating.
“Had we gone down three steps it would have seriously affected the whole infrastructure of the club but now we can continue the youth development by playing in the Conference Youth League - which is a good standard - and start signing players capable of being successful in the Evo-Stik South.
“The big thing is that everything we do from now on will be with a real sense of purpose.”
The agreement with Ron Brooks Toyota will see the company’s name adorn Ilkeston shirts for the next two years.
And although that’s the way it has been for more than a decade, Kevin Slack, the managing director of Ron Brooks Toyota, stressed that he regards the latest deal as the start of a brand new relationship.
He said: “The sponsorship deal wasn’t good business for us last year with Ilkeston Town going into liquidation so early into the season ... but that’s all in the past.
“I’m Ilkeston born and bred and a keen supporter. And as Ron Brooks is a significant local business, we believe it’s only right to devote a slice of our social and community budget to supporting the football club.
“I’ve been very impressed by the way in which Dave Mantle and SR Education have moved in and given the club a new lease of life.
“It’s great news for the town, and I’m particularly pleased to see the way the Academy has developed and the opportunities that it is offering to local youngsters.”
The two-year deal to become club sponsor, which is worth a significant sum, was clinched this week and Dave Mantle is delighted to welcome Ron Brooks Toyota on board.
He said: “A number of companies had expressed an interest in becoming our club sponsor but I’m particularly pleased that we’ve agreed a deal with Ron Brooks Toyota because they have been staunch supporters over the years.
“I very much hope that their decision will inspire other local companies to decide that they ought to invest in the club because that will be crucial to our chances of being successful.
“I am very keen that we should form partnerships with companies that support us, rather than just ‘take the money and run’. It’s a two-way thing and I want the arrangement to work to our mutual benefit.”