Senior football was established in Ilkeston in 1882, but a succession of clubs - Ilkeston Mechanics, Ilkeston Wanderers, Ilkeston Town and Ilkeston United - all collapsed because of financial difficulties.
The new Ilkeston Town FC was founded in July 1945 and their opening competitive match, 32 days later, was the first senior contest seen in the town since 1937.
Initially members of the Notts & Derbys Senior League, they recorded two resounding victories in 1946-47 that remain a club record to this day. Swanwick Old Boys were beaten 13-0 in the Derbyshire Divisional Cup in October 1946 and the following May they beat Codnor Miners Welfare 14-2.
Ilkeston’s record defeat came in 1947. Impressive FA Cup wins were recorded against Midland League clubs Ransome & Marles and Boston United but in the next round, they were thumped 11-1 by Grantham.
The first of many Ilkeston players to make the step up to Football League level was Geoff Barrowcliffe, a young right back who joined Derby County. Others who have since emulated that feat include John Tudor, David McVay, Scott Barrett and Mark Robinson.
Ilkeston, regularly attracting crowds of more than 2,000, won the Central Alliance four times in successive seasons in the early Fifties and they also reached the first round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in 1951, losing at home to Rochdale.
One of club’s stalwarts in the Sixties, by which time Ilkeston were playing in the Midland Counties League, was centre half Terry Swinscoe. He made a club record 377 appearances – including an unbroken run of 186 games.
The 1967-68 season was one of the best in Ilkeston’s history as, inspired by the attacking partnership of John Froggatt and Ralph ‘Bomber’ Brown, they won the Midland Counties League Championship. Sadly, the formation of the Northern Premier League the following season was to prevent them from building on that success.
Three years later Ilkeston went into the Southern League Division One North but crowds suffered because of a lack of local derbies and for not the first time – or the last – the club faced serious financial problems.
It marked a change of fortunes in 1982 when Ilkeston switched to the Northern Counties East League. They won the Derbyshire Senior Cup that season for the first time in 20 years and also reached the last 16 in the FA Trophy, eventually losing to Enfield before a home crowd of 2,087 – easily the biggest gate for 15 years.
The arrival of millionaire businessman Paul Millership in 1989 soon led to Ilkeston joining the West Midlands Regional League Premier Division and the chairman began making plans to move from The Manor Ground to a new purpose-built stadium.
It took three years for those plans to come to fruition but after 99 years of calling the Manor Ground their home, Ilkeston took up residence at The New Manor Ground in August 1992. It boasted a clubhouse and a covered stand, and most importantly ... floodlights.
The new stadium, opened in August 1992, gave everyone a ‘lift’ and that was reflected on the pitch with back-to-back promotions taking Ilkeston through to the Southern League Premier Division.
Ilkeston reached the last 16 of the FA Trophy in 1994-95, when the drawn first match against Kidderminster Harriers attracted a crowd of 2,349.
It was an era of relatively high-profile managers at the New Manor Ground as Bill Brindley was followed by Leighton James and Keith Alexander, and then by former Scotland stars John McGovern and John McGinlay. Alexander went on to become a hugely popular figure and is regarded by many fans as the most successful in the club’s history.
Ilkeston were relegated from the Southern League Premier Division but soon bounced back and in 1998-99 they finished third – their highest-ever position. Then, in the following season, they defeated League opposition for the first time as Carlisle United fell at the first hurdle in the FA Cup. The 2-1 win was watched by a crowd of 1,748.
Ilkeston were relegated from the Premier Division in 2003 but Phil Stant led them to promotion from the Unibond League at the first attempt before making way for Nigel Jemson, who had to steer the club through two tough relegations battles.
There was a massive blow off the field with the sudden death of influential chairman Paul Millership. He was succeeded by wealthy builder, Chek Whyte, who appointed David Holdsworth as the new manger.
Holdsworth built the foundations for success before being lured away to Mansfield Town. But Rob Scott and Paul Hurst did a great job as caretaker-managers, extending Ilkeston’s unbeaten run to 25 matches. That took them into the Unibond Play-off Final, where they beat Nantwich to clinch promotion, and they also reached the League Cup Final, where they lost 3-2 to Guiseley after extra time.
The management duo left in the summer of 2009 to be replaced by Kevin Wilson, and his new-look squad surprised many by finishing eighth in their first season in the Blue Square North. They also reached the first round of the FA Cup for the first time in 10 years, losing to Cambridge United.
Uncertainly off the pitch was ended when Whyte was replaced as chairman by Gary Hodder. But he “inherited” an unpaid tax bill of £50,000 and although the team made a promising start to the 2010-11 season, the High Court ruled in September that Ilkeston were insolvent and they were put into liquidation.
Two months later, with four parties bidding to take over Ilkeston Town’s assets, SR Education, the company running the Academy scheme at the New Manor Ground, got the ‘nod’ from the Liquidator. Dave Mantle, SR Education’s head of operations, became chairman of the re-named Ilkeston FC.
Manager Kevin Wilson and coach Darren Caskey quickly agreed new four and a half year deals, and the scene was set for another exciting chapter in the eventful story of Ilkeston.
The club initially set up an Academy team, who completed an impressive Central Conference League and Cup double in 2010-11, which set the scene perfectly for the return of senior football in 2011-12 as the club were accepted into the Evo-Stik Division One South.
Ilkeston FC’s first competitive game took place on 13th August 2011 and brought a 4-0 victory over Goole AFC in front of 1,315 fans thanks to goals from Tyrell Waite, Will McCall, Daryll Thomas and Kristian Cox.
The Robins quickly established themselves as promotion contenders and were never far off the pace at the top of the table throughout the campaign. However, it was Grantham who emerged to take the league title, with Ilkeston finishing third behind Carlton Town to claim a place in the Play-offs.
In the semi-finals, Wilson’s men took on Sheffield FC at the New Manor Ground and stormed to a superb 7-0 victory. That set up a final against Leek Town, again at home, after the Staffordshire side edged out Carlton in the other semi-final on penalties.
A crowd of 1,670 was present to see Ilkeston claim a place in the Evo-Stik Premier Division at the first attempt as Matt Richards and Daryll Thomas scored the goals to seal promotion and spark memorable scenes (pictured).
The hope now is that Ilkeston FC can carry that momentum through and enjoy another successful season in 2012-13.
With thanks to Duncan Payne at ilsonfootball.co.uk for his assistance with historical details.