Friendlies are fine, but bring on the real thing!

Ilkeston have had several pre-season friendlies so far, with more to come. Photo: Craig Lamont.
Ilkeston have had several pre-season friendlies so far, with more to come. Photo: Craig Lamont.

With pre-season being what it is, it’s easy to run out of things to say about it after a while and that’s pretty much the case at the moment.

But seeing as I’m paid to fill this worryingly large space each week I’d better give it a go.

There have been some more ‘good tests’ and ‘useful workouts’ in the last week or so but to be honest, like everyone else, I’m just desperate for the proper stuff to start.

Even watching some of the pre-season games involving the Premier League clubs is entirely uninspiring - the efforts to jazz these fixtures up by sending the teams around the world and making some kind of competition out of the matches doesn’t work in a playing sense as still all you tend to get is an extended training session with bells on.

Anyway, as I’ve said before, they’re useful to the coaches and players and that’ll count for plenty once the nitty gritty starts on August 13.

Ilkeston head coach Paul Holland, as he’s quoted as saying on the back page, will want to get some matches in where his full strength first team might get some more shooting practice than they were afforded in games like the Notts County and Chesterfield encounters, because we’re yet to really see just what kind of attacking blends will be on offer.

Liam Hearn, if fit and given the right support, will get plenty of goals and so it’s crucial he gets lots of service. I’m always partial to a good winger or two and haven’t really seen too many candidates for that role yet that look likely to be a real danger to Evo-Stik Prem full-backs. Some players have good pace, some can cross, but the combination of the two would be a useful asset, particularly if they have an eye for goal as well.

It’s not been identified by Holland as a piece of the jigsaw that’s missing, indeed he may not see it as key to what he’s trying to do, but it can’t do any harm to have that kind of option available.

A central midfielder remains his key desire and I’m not sure what’s happening with the Anton Brown situation. He didn’t feature on Saturday so hopefully any potential deal hasn’t gone cold as he looks like the kind of player that could bring some real steel to the middle of the park.

I’ve been very impressed by Mark Shelton from what I’ve seen so far and will be interested to see how much of an impact he can have on games when he gets more of the ball than he’s had in the games I’ve witnessed up to now.

Likewise, Luke Foster looks to be a class act, which you’d expect given his pedigree, and his partner at the back Matt Baker has also been looking sharp in the friendlies too.

I’ll miss the Derby and Borrowash games but will be at the Belper match on August 6 to hopefully see a side looking in really good shape ahead of the ‘big kick-off’ a week later.

In last week’s column I talked about the imminent appointment to the role of England manager, which at the time of writing was between Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce.

As we now know, Allardyce got the nod while Bruce is all of a sudden frequenting Job Centres in Humberside. Possibly.

Anyone who read the piece I did last week will know I wasn’t entirely enthused by the possibility of Allardyce taking over, and I’m still not jumping for joy, but having had a chance to reflect and also having heard Allardyce speak about the role, I’m not entirely upset about it either.

There are plenty of good things about him taking on the role; he’s very English, has vast experience, is a no nonsense kind of fellow and knows what it takes to win games given he’s had a bit of success in the lower leagues in the past.

Granted, he’s never set the Premier League alight but then the clubs he’s had at the top level haven’t really been those he could have taken to the top very easily.

He once went on record as saying that if he managed a team like Manchester United he could win the league with them and much more. Well now he has the chance to work with a team of top quality players (well, most of them) and it’ll be fascinating to see how he does.

I’d rather someone younger and with a fresher approach had been chosen, but maybe if Allardyce fails spectacularly the FA may finally realise that a much more different angle needs to be taken in future. Time will tell.

I wanted to finish on a personal note if I may. Don’t know why I’m asking as it’s my column, but anyway...

As some readers will be aware, my wife, Nicola, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and had an extremely torrid time with the subsequent chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, surgery and recovery that followed.

It wasn’t an easy time for any of us, especially given we have a toddler in tow, but as anyone who’s been through this kind of thing will know, you just battle through it the best you can whether you’re the person who is ill or those closest to them.

Anyway, after ten months of treatment, I’m pleased to say Nicola is now back at work as a primary school teacher and has just done her first two weeks of full-time work since before our daughter was born in July 2014.

I’m telling you all of this because so many people I come across though my work activities, particularly with Ilkeston FC, have kindly asked after her in the last year and I’ve been really touched by their messages of goodwill. It means more than you realise.

This is particularly the case with those who kindly made donations to the various charity things we’ve done, including me shaving my head last year and Nicola doing the 10k Race for Life a couple of weeks ago in Derby, just two months after her final dose of radiotherapy.

So many donated (we raised around £2,000 between us) and we’re truly grateful so thank you.

Nicola is now ‘cancer free’ and I’m sure you’ll join us in firmly crossing our fingers and hoping that’s how it remains!