Robins respond in style after Strachan’s exit

Andy Watson
Andy Watson

Two impressive wins rounded off a dramatic few days at Ilkeston FC as the Robins adjusted to life without Gavin Strachan.

The 36-year-old head coach departed the New Manor Ground on Friday to become assistant manager to new Doncaster Rovers boss Darren Ferguson, just four-and-a-half months after taking on the role with Ilkeston.

That meant Andy Watson was promoted to interim head coach although the Advertiser understands the Scotsman may well keep the role - a possibility strengthened by successive victories over high-flying Buxton and Stourbridge in the opening days of his tenure.

Speaking on the departure of Strachan, Ilkeston FC CEO Nigel Harrop told the club’s official website: “When you appoint someone with the potential, capability and calibre of Gavin, you know that one day the phone will ring, it just happens that it rang sooner than we expected.

“In the short time that he’s been here, Gavin has started to build a squad and back room staff which will stand Ilkeston FC in good stead and I can’t thank him enough for that.

“It’s been great working with him, everyone at the club wishes him well and he’ll always be very welcome here at the New Manor Ground.”

Strachan worked with Ferguson at Peterborough United, the duo reunited at the first opportunity given this is Ferguson’s first managerial post since leaving London Road in February.

Strachan said: “The phone call from Darren asking me to be his assistant came out of the blue, I really didn’t see it coming. I was really focused and enjoying the work that I was doing at Ilkeston with the players and the staff.

“During my phone call with Darren, it became apparent that it was too good an opportunity to pass up and I have to say that it needed to be a fantastic offer for me to leave this club, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second of being in charge here. If it had been any other manager asking, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to leave because I’m enjoying what I’m doing, but the fact that it was Darren and I enjoyed working with him so much at Peterborough, for him to ask me to join him at Doncaster as assistant manager was an honour.”

Speaking after seeing the Robins beat Buxton 3-1 on Saturday, Watson said the move was as much of a shock to him as it was to everyone else, but that he was more than happy to step in and take over.

“Gavin mentioned on the Wednesday night that he’d had the call but that was all it was at that stage and he was just giving me the heads up,” he said.

“Then on Thursday, Gavin learned Ferguson was to be appointed and they wanted Gavin there Friday morning.

“We’d already spoken about what the team would be given our injuries and so on but the players responded really well.

“We’ve played well in some games and not got the result we deserved but against Buxton it all came together.

“We played really well in the first-half yet went in behind to their only shot on goal. We spoke at half-time about a similar situation happening against Nantwich and us coming out and winning 3-1, and I thought there was a real spirit and energy about us that won us the game.”

In-form Stourbridge were then dispatched 2-1 on Monday night, meaning Ilkeston have won four and drawn two of their last six games.

Watson said: “This was a really tough game. Stourbridge played well in the opening 30 minutes and got themselves a goal. Then we started to get the ball down and make a few passes and when we started to do that, we got more control in the game.

“We had a good start to the second-half getting down into their penalty area and to give the boys credit, they really wanted to win so much, it was great to see. Now we’ll take this into the game against Grantham on Saturday.”

Saturday’s game is a rearranged fixture having been brought forward from Monday night due to FA Cup exits.