Non League Daily

Academy hard work is paying off for Robins boss Wilson

From the ashes of Ilkeston Town a new club, with a new vision, has risen. Ilkeston FC, under the tutorlage of former Chelsea striker Kevin Wilson, are forming quite a reputation for themselves on and off the park.


The club have established a prolific academy and one that has produced several players who have gone to Football League clubs, the latest of which was eighteen year old defender Akil Wright who moved to SkyBet League Two club Fleetwood Town last week.

Wilson is the man charged with giving his academy products a chance in the first team, something his hasn't shyed away from, and he stressed the importance that he places upon the Youth System at the New Manor Ground.

"It is important because it was the thing that pushes the club forward. The development of the young players has been excellent and I think we are showing that if you put hard work into an academy system, which we have, you can get results"

In football, perhaps more than any sport, trends and fashions come and go. Whereas ten years ago managers wanted big, strong athletes like Patrick Vieira in their side, more recently Barcelona's diminutative tiki-taka artists like Xavi and Andres Iniesta have become the blueprint in the production of young footballers.

However WIlson insisted that as long as he has players who have the correct technique he would be happy to work with them, something he feels will benefit his club in the coming years.

"You want technical and tactical players, we don't look at size or anything like that. We had some great acquisitions who have gone into the academy and have gone on to play in the first team. There are some who have taken that next step and gone into the professional game and that all bodes well for the future of the club"

With so many players now progressing from the academy at Ilkeston, surely the pressure increases to keep on producing? That is a suggestion Wilson scoffs at, with enjoyment being at the heart of seeing youngster develop at his club.

"There is no pressure to keep on developing, we just enjoy the success of developing new players. It is a challenge to develop players, to nuture them and to give them time to do that but that is something you have to do. Time is important and we have been fortunate but it is working"

January's Capitial One Cup semi final produced a landmark for Ilkeston. Sheffield United's Che Wright scored twice against Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspur to hit the national headlines. Only months earlier Adams had been making a name for himself at the New Manor Ground, attracting scouts from each of English Football's professional leagues.

Seeing Wright score twice against Spurs left Wilson feeling proud at the youngster's acheivements, and he revealed that he should be the example any young footballer should follow if they wish to progress in the game.

"Seeing Che do what he did made not only me, but everyone at the club feel very, very proud, to have played a part in his route to that night and to where he is now was very special. It was a great night for Che and for our club too, you say to lads when they leave that they have a chance to make a name and a career for themselves but they have to work for it and that night Che showed what can be achieved"

Far from closing the door on his departed academy products, Wilson revealed that the Robins welcome players back for visits to the club. The former Northern Ireland international feels that it is imperitave that the club continue to support their graduates, no matter where their career takes them.

"We occassionally have them back and Che, for example, was here for our game against Ashton United a few weeks back.
We like to welcome the lads back and show that we haven't forgotten them and that means, if they need us, they know we are always there for them"

With that sort of attitude who would rule out more potential Football League stars moving on from the New Manor Ground in the coming years.

Interview: Mark Carruthers

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