FEATURE: Hearn’s passion reignited by new Ilkeston FC role

Liam Hearn lists Mansfield Town among his former clubs
Liam Hearn lists Mansfield Town among his former clubs

If it’s goals you want, then Liam Hearn is usually a man who can provide them.

The 30-year-old has been one of the hottest properties in non-league football for several years following impressive spells with the likes of Alfreton Town, Grimsby Town and Lincoln City which have seen him notch over 100 goals in the top two tiers of the National League.

But having found himself without a club at the end of last season and in desperate need of something to reignite his love for the game, Hearn wasn’t sure which way to turn as he considered the various options put to him.

Enter Ilkeston FC.

A chat with former Robins player Russell Peel helped pave the way to a meeting with current Ilkeston chief executive Nigel Harrop, and before long Hearn was announced as a player-coach at the New Manor Ground as part of the new regime alongside boss Paul Holland.

And as Hearn freely admits, it’s truly sparked his passion once again.

“I was contemplating getting some plumbing qualifications and dropping into part-time football, which is where Russell Peel came in as we go back a long way and he was helping me on the plumbing side of things,” he said.

“He mentioned to me that Ilkeston might be a good option for me to explore and it went from there.

“I’d had offers to stay in full-time football and also from other part-time clubs at a higher level but they weren’t quite right. I’ve had a frustrating couple of years due to various setbacks that had meant my passion had faded, but talking with the chairman at Ilkeston reignited my passion and he’s a big reason for me being here.

“That’s also a big relief because I’ve had times where I’ve been at clubs who have denied me the chance to progress by putting crazy price tags on my head and forcing me to stay put whether I liked it or not. That doesn’t happen with young players here.

“Things were helped also by the fact I knew Paul Holland from when I was a kid at Mansfield so knew what he’d have to offer.

“I was really impressed by the vision the club has and the way they operate, and the proposal put forward to me appealed a great deal.”

That proposal was not only for Hearn to play a key role in the side under Holland and hopefully net a few goals to help push the Robins up the the table, but also to use his experience to coach the Ilkeston academy prospects on a daily basis as well as assist the younger first team players in match situations.

He added: “I’ve got a lot to offer and have always enjoyed helping younger players in whatever way I can.

“When the chairman told me he wanted me to assist the younger players whilst at the same time getting started on my coaching badges and also playing a pivotal role in the team, I jumped at the chance.

“It gave me the kick I needed and now I can’t wait to get started.”

Hearn, who grew up in Bulwell and still lives in the area, also proved to be a key factor in the recruitment of another player/coach, Luke Foster, the centre-half having been appointed with a similar brief to that handed to Hearn.

“I had played with Luke at Harrogate last season and when I knew Ilkeston were after a centre-half he came to mind as I was aware he was in a similar situation to me,” said Hearn.

“We sat down and had a good chat and he too was keen to help out, so I’m chuffed he’s on board too.”

Dropping two levels might give the impression Hearn will find life easy at Northern Premier League level, but whilst he’s confident he can score goals he’s under no illusions how tough the division will be.

He said: “I’ve played at this kind of level before for teams like Hucknall, Eastwood and Quorn and to be honest it was the most enjoyable time in my career.

“But it’s a tough and physical league with a few bullies around to make life tough out on the pitch, but I can take plenty of that and it’ll by my job to help the younger players cope with it too.

“On top of the playing side, I want to help get the young players out in the community too in whatever way I can as I think that’s really important and it’s something I’ll be keen to eventually do on a regular basis.

“I’m really excited by the season ahead. If we can get this club promoted then that will in turn help us keep the best players here and give the lads who are looking to get into the Football League a chance to shine at a higher level.

“This is a big club with a good fanbase that has the potential to grow much bigger.

“I played here for Alfreton in a cup tie a few years ago and remember the atmosphere being fantastic so hopefully that will be the case moving forward.

“I can’t wait to get going and haven’t felt like this for ages so I’m delighted to have been given the chance to come here.”