FOOTBALL in Ilkeston enters a new era this weekend as Ilkeston FC prepare for their first ever competitive match.
They will host Goole AFC at the New Manor Ground in an Evo-Stik Northern Premier League Division One South encounter, just under a year after Ilkeston Town FC was liquidated.
And club chairman Dave Mantle is excited about not only the opening day of the season, but also what the future holds.
He said: “It’s going to be a very special day for us and I really hope that the people of Ilkeston feel the same way about it.
“Ever since we’ve been involved, they have been telling us how important a football club is to the town and I suppose that we will be able to judge by the attendance figure on Saturday whether they really mean it.
“It’s an historic occasion. There’s no doubt about that because you only play your first-ever League game once, and I hope people make the effort to come and give us a big send-off.
“We have big ambitions for Ilkeston FC but the one thing I can guarantee is that the club will be run in the right way.
“As I’m sure supporters already understand, we’re about building from the bottom – giving local youngsters a chance – and although that may mean we won’t progress as quickly as some would like, we will do our utmost to give them a club that fills them with pride.”
Tickets, costing £7 for adults, £4 concessions and £1 for under-16s accompanied by an adult, are still available to buy.
The match is all-ticket so nobody will be admitted to the ground without one.
If you want to be sure of your place, tickets can be purchased in advance from the New Manor Ground, as well as from the Sir John Warren in the Market Place and The Newdigate Arms in West Hallam.
Meanwhile, manager Kevin Wilson, who says he hopes to have two more signings on board by the weekend, is excited by the prospect of competitive football returning to the town.
He said: “Obviously we’ve been running the academy ever since the previous club folded and that has provided light at the end of the tunnel throughout the gruelling process of getting the new club up and running.
“But we’re ready to go now, with a good squad of players I feel will be able to compete at this level, and I hope to see as many fans as possible down at the New Manor Ground not only on Saturday, but throughout the entire season.”
n For more of Kevin Wilson’s thoughts ahead of the new campaign, see the back page.