As the new campaign begins this Saturday, Ilkley’s new signings and retained players will be raring to go, writes Evan Seaman.
The Baht’atters have made six new signings. Ben Clarkson, who plays up front and has previously played for Silsden Reserves. Blake Wood, who recently scored a 30-yard screamer in a friendly against Nostell, was previously at Ilkley’s academy before going away to Newcastle Uni in the Northern League and eventually came back to Ilkley.
Lewis Seyffert has arrived from Harrogate Railway Athletic, so he brings previous experience at step 6 level. Ilkley have also acquired a couple of players from the UFCA academy, Jack Lane and Shaban Mehmeti, so this will be their first season of senior football.
Ilkley have also signed a new keeper, Charlie Bell who comes from Haverhill Rovers, Suffolk, and will undoubtedly provide stability in goal.
But as for the retained list, there are no major surprises, as the vast majority who played for them last season have committed to Ilkley this season as well.
One of the key players that they have retained is Kevin Gonzalez who was Ilkley’s top goal scorer last campaign with 26 in all competitions and he is still only 18 years old. Striker Tom Smith will also be a useful asset after scoring 15 goals in all comps last season.
In midfield, captain Harry Brown will be looking to pull the strings after appearing in 90% of their games in the 2021/22 campaign. George Gomersall’s set piece prowess will also be crucial to Ilkley’s success in the upcoming season.
However, Ilkley will be looking to improve on last season’s defensive record as they conceded an average of two goals per game but were very entertaining to watch and averaged 3.95 goals every game.
Ilkley did end the season reasonably well, winning three, drawing once and losing twice in their final six league games, which meant they picked up 10 points from a possible 18.
Ilkley Town manager, Sam Dexter, talks about summer recruitment, “the hot topic of conversation for any neutral parties in pre-season is always based around the signing of new players and who has signed for who, but I don’t want that to be the main focus ahead of the new season”.
But he also highlights how, “It is just as important to highlight the players we have retained and this season every player who played last season has committed to us again which I think speaks volumes of the culture we have created and the commitment that the players have for this club.”
“Adding to the squad is important and we have identified early in the new year the positions we needed to strengthen, and I am delighted with the new players we have signed. A goalkeeper, along with two full backs and a couple of further attacking options was of the upmost importance and we have filled those roles which ensures our squad is very strong.
Dexter finishes by saying “The competition for places is fierce, as it should be, and this will ensure all members of the squad continue to raise their levels in order to secure a starting spot. I am really looking forward to the start if the new season and seeing all our players back in action.”