Ilkeston FC continued their positive end to the 2015/16 season with a convincing win over Rushall Olympic last weekend - but then learned one of their brightest young stars is unlikely to be with the club next season.
The 4-1 win over the Pics was Ilkeston’s third in four games as they look to end a topsy-turvy season on a high, just a visit to already-relegated Ramsbottom still to come in Saturday’s season finale.
But news soon broke after the Rushall game that centre-back Jordan Wheatley, who has attracted attention from Football League clubs and at one point was on the verge of a move to Brighton & Hove Albion, has decided to not have his contract renewed for next season and will therefore leave the New Manor Ground, although it is believed he had been offered new terms and therefore compensation would still be due to the Robins should he sign for another club.
Nobody from Ilkeston FC has yet been available to comment on the Wheatley situation, but see www.ilkestonadvertiser.co.uk for details as more news becomes available on Wheatley’s apparent departure and the expected announcement of new deals being signed by other current squad players to remain at the New Manor Ground next season.
Head coach Andy Watson, meanwhile, was delighted by the win over Rushall but at the same time voiced concerns over some aspects of the display.
He said: “I’m of course delighted by the result and the fact we managed to score four goals and at the number of chances we created. We’ve got into the habit of scoring more regularly in recent games and that’s something we’ll look to carry into next season.
“I was, however, unhappy with the amount of sloppy play we produced. I expect high standards when we have an opportunity to produce them and with Rushall having only played two days before up at Workington it was a chance for us to capitalise.
“We did that in the end, but nearly gave away some silly goals. We had the chance to touch and use the ball better than we did.
“But there were other elements I was really happy, including some of our one and two touch football, and to score four goals in our last home game is great for us and the fans.”
The run of nine straight defeats has now been firmly put behind Ilkeston’s young players, something Watson has been pleasantly surprised by given how his squad was depleted by departures and injuries just before the run of defeats began.
He said: “I mentioned a few times when the group of eight players left that I thought we’d find it hard to get results and that proved the case for a while, especially when conditions were heavy going.
“But when the pitches have been better, whilst we’ve still come up against bigger sides in a physical sense we’ve been far more able to bring our game to the party which has been a big difference.
“Even against a top side like Blyth we were able to play much more like an effective unit.
“This side is so young but they work extremely hard. We demand a lot from them both in training and in the games but that comes from what the likes of myself and John Schofield have done in our careers, and that anything other than hard work is not an option.”
With just one game to go, an eye is now firmly on next season and although widespread changes to the squad may occur, Watson has a good idea who he wants to keep.
He added: “I’m looking at individuals now to see just who I think can do a job next year.
“Their continued development under the likes of Steve Welsh, Schofe and myself has been evident, particularly in recent games, and while there is still so much for them to learn they’re doing it on the front line which can only help them.”