Duffers Diaries: Takeover talk leaves fans on tenterhooks

Ilkeston fans applaud Anthony Dwyer on Saturday. They now await news as to whether a takeover is imminent.
Ilkeston fans applaud Anthony Dwyer on Saturday. They now await news as to whether a takeover is imminent.

It’s no secret that a takeover looks firmly on the cards at Ilkeston FC - it seems it’s just a question of when it’ll be complete.

It won’t be soon enough to save the Robins from relegation, that much is pretty clear, so the new owner(s) will immediately have to start planning for life in Division One South.

That won’t be easy, although it’ll depend largely on whether the ethos at the club will change from being so academy-focused to instead giving the fans what they want and that’s a competitive team with a good mix of youth and experience that will start to progress again.

The years since Ilkeston reformed shouldn’t necessarily be deemed a failure just because they’re about to head back to the level at which they began. Several excellent players have been brought through the ranks and gone on to greater things, and some good memories have been made by two or three exciting seasons of football and the odd cup final in there too.

However, relegation will surely be the signal that the current ethos has run its course, irrespective of how much talent lies in the academy as we speak.

I was one of many supporters of the ethos for much of the last five years, but recent developments have indicated it’s time for a rethink.

First team crowds are at the lowest they’ve ever been at the NMG, including when Ilkeston Town were in existence, while fans are entirely disillusioned by watching a team largely consisting of teenagers each week and also at seeing much more promising squads assembled in the summer only to see them dismantled before too long.

Clearly, financial reasons are behind those kinds of decisions but it can’t carry on like that. It’s not how to operate if you want to move forward and the club will die when fans simply stop buying into it, and I mean that in a literal sense too.

You can’t just click your fingers and expect things to get better, which is why Nigel Harrop hasn’t been able to rectify things in his time at the club. If the debts are as high as rumoured in some quarters, then the new owners are going to have to spend a lot of money just to get things back on an even keel.

Fair play to anyone who wants to do that - Ilkeston is a big town and the potential for a football team to thrive if things are done properly is huge. That wasn’t lost on Dave Mantle and Harrop when they took over for their respective spells in charge, but quite clearly things went very wrong for various reasons, some of them the club’s fault, some of them perhaps not.

Either way, as we all sit and wait patiently to discover just what will happen next, I hope fans’ optimism at the new beginning it seems is about to happen will not be extinguished too quickly, either by any deal falling through or by whoever takes over failing to grasp what’s needed.

A lot of trust has to be rebuilt to get vitally important sponsorship back to the club given the apparent lack of it at the moment, and in my eyes the clubhouse/function room could do with becoming club-owned too because facilities like that can produce crucial revenue if utilised properly.

On the playing front, plenty of decent non-league players would love the opportunity to play in front of 4-500 (at least) fans each week as well as good away support, as opposed to sides at the same level who attract far fewer fans and play at less impressive grounds.

It wouldn’t be cheap of course, quality costs money in any walk of life, but if you’re willing to own a football club like Ilkeston in this day and age you have to have a decent degree of ambition and willingness to put money in with a largely limited chance of much return, otherwise you may as well just take over a Sunday League team.

So the next few weeks will be interesting. On the one hand we’ll most likely see Ilkeston drop down a division after what, let’s face it, has been a disastrous season from start to finish, but on the other hand new owners are, with a decent degree of certainty, expected to come in and herald a new era and whatever that brings with it.

Who knows what lies in store next in the soap opera that is Ilkeston FC?!