Steve McClaren will bring his Derby County side to the New Manor Ground on Saturday as Ilkeston FC’s pre-season schedule gets underway in style.
The Rams are expected to send a strong squad for the encounter, eager to begin erasing the memories of losing May’s Championship play-off final to QPR at Wembley.
And Robins boss Kevin Wilson believes it will be a great occasion both on and off the pitch.
He said: “We’re expecting upwards of 1,500 fans to come along so it should be a great atmosphere.
“We’ll welcome Steve and his staff, many of whom I know well having played with and against them during my career.
“It will obviously be a good test for our players, not only because it’s their first game back but also given the quality of the opposition.
“Naturally we’ll expect Derby will have a lot of possession so it will be a good exercise in keeping our shape and working for each other off the ball, but it will also be interesting to see how high up the pitch they press us and what we can do with our own spells of possession.”
The Robins players returned to training last week and have begun the new schedule of daily morning sessions which Wilson hopes will be embraced by as many of the squad as possible.
He added: “All of the young players have been in as well as several of the more experienced lads.
“We’re having to compromise with some of the players who have jobs that mean they can’t do all of the mornings but some may be able to do two or three a week.
“They’ve all returned in really good shape and are raring to go.”
Wilson revealed that Mike Williams, Ellis Storey and Rob Duffy won’t feature against Derby due to still being on holiday, while several trialists may be given run-outs at some point in proceedings.
He said: “It’s obviously an early start for us again, as was the case last year when we had a friendly around this time, but I hope most of the lads will get around 45-60 minutes.
“We deliberately left a clear week between this match and the Nottingham Forest game to allow us more leeway in terms of how long they play for.
“We’re having a look at a few trialists, some experienced, some less so, and it should be a good test for everyone.”
Meanwhile, Wilson revealed that young academy striker Ryan Osborne won’t be returning to the club this season as he has taken up the offer of a scholarship in the USA.
But the rest of the young talent to have come through the academy over the last two years has been retained with Wilson keen to see more push for a first-team spot this year.
“We haven’t changed our philosophy and the players who came through last year will go into this season with the valuable experience gained from that,” he said.
“Some who didn’t get as many first team games will hopefully challenge this time around as there is undoubtedly a lot of promise coming through the ranks.”