The persistence of Kevin Wilson finally paid off this week when Ilkeston Town Juniors agreed to merge with Ilkeston FC.
The Robins’ boss was adamant he wanted a junior set-up that would act as a feeder system through to the club’s Academy and has been in talks for some months with the Juniors, who are based just up the road from the New Manor Ground.
Juniors’ secretary Dominique Smith said: “Kevin wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and his enthusiasm for getting us to act as one club has eventually won us over.
“I think a lot of our people were sceptical because they felt we had been this way before. Lots of promises were made under the old regime that went unfilled and we didn’t want to run the risk of getting involved in something similar.
“But we’ve had a number of meetings with Kevin and Dave Mantle and although the jury is still out to some extent, we believe that this time, it will be different.”
Ilkeston Juniors currently run 13 teams from under-5s through to under-18s - plus a ‘minis’ development group - and Wilson believes it is crucial to have a set- up of this type as part of his Master Plan.
He said: “It’s a really positive step to bring the Juniors under our umbrella and I couldn’t be more pleased that they’ve agreed to our proposals.
“They will continue to run themselves on a day-to-day basis but we will work together to try and raise standards and introduce pathways that offer youngsters a genuine chance to work their way up the various levels.
“I think it will be a brilliant thing for the town and community, not just for the football club, and we want everyone involved to be part of the Ilkeston FC family. I don’t want to see any ‘them and us’ issues ... we are all in it together with a common aim.”
Junior players are all to be given a free season-ticket to watch matches at the New Manor Ground and one of many schemes being planned is that the Ilkeston FC players will each ‘adopt’ a junior team and work with the youngsters at various times throughout the season.
Ilkeston Juniors, a Charter Standard Club who were formed in 1990 and built up by local parents, is already regarded as highly-progressive but as Dominique added, they can see real value in forming the new link.
She said: “At the end of the day we are a community club and if joining forces provides a boost for the town at a time when it needs all it can get, that has to be a good thing.
“Having listened to all the views and seen how keen Kevin Wilson is to make it work, I’m really excited about where it can lead.”