Defender Luke Foster says he is looking forward to a new challenge at Ilkeston FC after the Robins confirmed the signing of the experienced centre-half last week.
Foster has played in the Football League for Stevenage, Rotherham and Preston North End as well as extensively in non-league for Oxford United, Lincoln City and Southport, most recently plying his trade with Harrogate Town.
A short spell with Matlock Town in 2012 gave him experience of the Northern Premier League, but now the 31-year-old is excited about the new player-coaching role he will take up at the New Manor Ground.
He told the club’s website: “Paul Holland rang me pretty much out of the blue to ask what my plans were for next season, I had a few things in the pipeline but nothing was concrete.
“I didn’t expect the conversation to go the way it did, it was really refreshing the way he spoke about the club and its youth policy.
“What really sold it to me was the coaching aspect of the job, I wasn’t expecting to get that at this stage of my career. The all-round package was really exciting to me, which is why I couldn’t wait to sign.
“I’ve played a lot of football, in a lot of different leagues and had a decent career out of it.
“I’ve learnt a lot along the way, I’ve played in the scrappy side of things and also the nice bigger stadiums and bigger occasions as well, so I’ve got a good mix of experience and it will be nice to be able to pass on the knowledge I’ve built up over the years.
“It’s not always about nice football, they’ve got to learn that there are times when you have to scrap to win games.”
Foster, along with fellow new signing Liam Hearn, will help to coach the Ilkeston FC academy players on a full-time basis alongside Holland and Steve Welsh, whilst also plying his trade in the first team.
He said: “Getting the chance to be a coach was a big part in my decision to sign for Ilkeston, to be fair it was probably the deciding factor.
“I love the idea of playing for the first team as I’ll be playing alongside younger players and it will be good to teach them in the game as well as in training. “I relish the idea of playing and coaching, I want to carry on playing but the coaching is a big thing for me and a great opportunity.
“Playing alongside younger players keeps you feeling younger, you’re around energetic and fit players.
“I think I’ll have to put that little bit more effort into training to keep up with them, but on the flip side I’ll be thinking that at times, I’ll be able to use my head and physical presence rather than my legs to keep ahead of the opposition.”
As well as Foster’s signing, Ilkeston also confirmed this week that three of their academy players have agreed new deals.
Ben Morris, Keenan Meakin and Brandon Clarke all featured in and around the first team last season and will be looking to continue their development under new boss Holland and the rest of the coaching staff.
Clarke said: “At the start of the season I wasn’t even in the academy side, I’d been playing in the development side and my ambition for the season was to get a regular place in the academy, playing in the first team wasn’t something I’d even thought of seriously at that point.”
“Once we’d had such a good run in the cup and I’d seen some of my team mates had been rewarded with a first team contract, that really spurred me on, to work hard and to try to make the step up myself.”