After 4 months without football Ilkley Town AFC return to action this Saturday with the first pre-season friendly as they prepare for the new season to start in September. The Baht ‘atters take on Horsforth St Margarets at Ben Rhydding Sports Club with a 2pm kick off.
The squad have been in training for 5 weeks, initially with non-contact sessions. In the last two weeks they have been able to contact train following updated guidance from the FA. The next step is to play friendly matches. The teams are now planning for the return of league fixtures in September.
Manager Simon Armstrong said, “It has been a long time for the players to be without competitive football. We are excited to be preparing for a game. This is the next step for us. We have had a good start to pre-season with the return of all players from last year plus some addition as that will add to the competition for places. The boys are determined to prepare in the best possible way.”
Horsforth St Margarets are local rivals for Ilkley and are sure to provide a good test in the first competitive game for both teams since lockdown. Last season Town came out on top with a 4-1 victory in the West Riding County Cup. The Horsforth team previously played together for Leeds City and a number of closely contested games with Ilkley.
Ilkley have strengthened the team off the pitch as well as on the pitch. Simon has added goalkeeper coach Gavin Phillis and physios Joe Gannon and Lawrence McGrath to the team. This support offered to the players is now at a level expected of semi-professional teams which is a step the club are aiming to make.
“Each season we aim to take another step forward. Gavin did some work with the keepers last season and will continue as our specialist this season. It is the first time we have provided physios to help players with their recovery and injury prevention. Joe and Lawrence will be great additions to our matchday team.”
The club are also starting their innovative Walk On scheme with the game on Saturday. This forms part of the club’s well-being strategy. Supporters meet in Ben Rhydding and walk about three quarters of a mile to the ground. The walk will reduce the use of cars to the ground and provide supporters with the benefits of physical exercise and social contact.
Paul Wintersgill the club’s Commercial Director is organising the walk. Paul said, “With very little live sport taking place this Ilkley Town Walk On is a great opportunity for people to take in sport on a Saturday afternoon. Many of the spectators may be new to watch Ilkley Town. All are welcome. We are able to observe social distancing on the walk and at the ground. We are working with Leeds Mind to promote the benefits to mental health that come from physical exercise and social contact. This is especially significant as we all start to come out from lockdown”.
Supporters wishing to join the walk and watch the game should meet at Ben Rhydding train station ready to set off at 1pm and can contact firstname.lastname@example.org