Paul Holland says Liam Hearn and Luke Foster won’t be the last experienced players to join the Ilkeston FC ranks as the new head coach continues to build his squad for 2016/17.
Holland returned from holiday this week to begin his new job and was delighted to have been able to add Hearn and Foster to the ranks, both players set to also coach in the Robins academy.
And while securing the futures of young players at the club is also on his mind, Holland wants to bring in more signings that will provide a strong spine to the Ilkeston team.
He said: “It’s important to have that along with good young players around them who can develop and progress.
“That’s a philosophy that has worked before and I think it’s necessary if you’re to succeed in this league.
“We need the right type of player and there could well be more arrivals that will leave fans quite surprised that the players have dropped down the levels to play for us.
“I said when I took the job on that the first team is the most important thing and that’s why I’m determined to put a lot of effort into making us as strong as possible.
“The academy has a vital role to play and will take up much of our time, but if the right players come in that are only able to train part-time due to work commitments or such like, then I hope we will be able to accommodate that.”
Hearn and Foster both have extensive experience of playing at higher levels and Holland feels they’ll be valuable assets both on and off the pitch.
He said: “They are players I’ve known of for a long time. When you’re involved in lower league football you become aware of the best players and I think if Liam is on form he’ll get a lot of goals at this level, while Luke will be a huge influence at the back.
“They will coach the academy on a daily basis alongside Steve Welsh who in turn will assist me on first team matchdays.
“I think the backroom team is complete now and I’m confident we have staff who are all thinking in the same way, which can only help us.”
Holland says he is excited by the challenge of taking Ilkeston forward following a turbulent 2015/16 season that saw two head coaches take the helm and the Robins face a relegation battle in the latter stages.
He said: “I’ve been here for five years so know the club inside out.
“I got involved in the coaching side with Kevin Wilson and Darren Caskey and have always had my own ideas as to how I’d like to do things.
“It was hard last year and I’ll obviously have certain restraints to work under as you’d expect, but if I can implement my ideas then I’m confident we’ll do well.
“The academy is proven to work and if we can complement the best players from there with experienced and quality players in the first team then I think we can do very well.”
The Robins’ pre-season schedule has been announced with Holland, who says talks are ongoing with several existing members of the squad with regard to new deals, adding he is keen to have a strong squad in place as early as possible and not to require the usage of too many trialists during the summer.
Ilkeston will host Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, July 13 and then Notts County three days later, before Heanor Town are the hosts on July 21 and Chesterfield visit on July 23.
A trip to Staveley MW follows on July 27 before Derby County and Alfreton will bring sides to the NMG on July 30 and August 3 respectively.
An Ilkeston side will visit Rossington Main on August 5 before the final friendly takes place at home to Belper Town the following day.
Holland said: “I don’t want too many trialists here as it isn’t always helpful to break the team up like that, nor to have different sides playing in each half.
“I hope to have a good 18 or so in the squad before pre-season starts and then there will be scope to have a look at a couple more if needed on a trial basis during the friendly matches.”