Ilkeston Town boss Martin Carruthers says he’s looking forward to the challenge ahead of his side this season as the Robins prepare to get back in action on Saturday.
They host Carlton Town at noon at the Microlise New Manor Ground, just over a month before their debut in the Southern Premier League Central following their title win in the NPL Midlands last season.
And although a return to training and action has come a little earlier than Carruthers might have hoped, he’s ready for what lies ahead.
He said: “We initially thought we’d be in the NPL which starts on August 13, so planned accordingly dates-wise, but the SPL starts a week earlier so we’re going into this game without much in the way of training behind us.
“It’ll be very much a case of a different team in each half and getting the lads on the way to match sharpness and fitness, which they’re obviously all well short of at the moment.
“Some are only just getting back from holidays given they also planned for a later start to training, so we’ll go easy on them whilst at the same time utilising a match situation to our benefit as opposed to training.”
Carruthers did most – if not all – of his transfer business early in the summer break, with experienced players including striker Chris O’Grady, winger Jamie Ward and centre-half Ben Turner – all of whom have extensive Premier League and/or Championship experience – being joined by defenders Marshall Willock, Kalern Thomas and Ben O’Hanlon, plus goalkeepers Tomasz Bukowski and Saul Deeney, the latter making his loan deal from Coalville permanent.
Carruthers said: “We’ve got about 19 in the squad now and I doubt there will be any more, although you can never rule anyone out if we find a diamond somewhere and there may be one or two trialists that we’ll have a look at.
“I’m happy we’ve strengthened our squad really well and think we’ll be a lot stronger in certain areas when it comes to depth and certainly when it comes to experience.
“We’ll of course have to manage the older players well, perhaps more so when it comes to the midweek games, but they’re experienced and fit professionals and I’d hope they’ll be able to give us at least 30-35 games all being well.”
By Mark Duffy