Martin Carruthers says he wishes Ilkeston Town hadn’t drawn the Hartlepool United for the next round of the FA Cup but is just glad they will be on home turf.
The Robins capped off their blistering start to the season, seeing off Alvechurch to set up a bumper tie with the National League leaders in a fortnight’s time.
Current restrictions mean if the tie was being held at the Pools’ Victoria Road stadium, spectators would be banned from watching.
And despite the tough task handed to them, with their fans behind them, Carruthers believes his side can conquer anyone.
“We had a Zoom call with the owners and some of the players and watched the draw in anticipation,” he said.
“We wanted a home draw to guarantee we could have our fans there – the last thing we wanted was to go away to a National League side and play in an empty ground.
“Our fans are integral to our success. We’ve got some unbelievable supporters and they have really helped us perform to the levels we have.
“We wouldn’t have wanted Hartlepool if we’re completely honest with them being top in the National League. You want to try and give yourself a realistic chance of winning the game but with the magic of the FA Cup – the best competition in the world – you have to believe and think why can’t we cause an upset?
“We’ll go into the game with no fear, with nothing to lose and everything to gain and see what happens. Hopefully it will put the club back on the map and help us for the future.
“If the current restrictions were not in place, we’d probably be looking at a crowd of around 2,500 which would be unbelievable. Unfortunately, that can’t happen, but we are bringing the local community together even with the limited numbers we’re allowed in.”
The Robins’ cup run is also working wonders with the club’s appeal, with fans from nearby clubs at a loose end with no live football to watch, Carruthers is hoping to inspire a new generation of fans.
“We’re already getting new fans on board,” he added.
“We had some mates of mine who support Nottingham Forest come down for our last game and they’ve said they’re going to be coming every game now.
“If people are willing to pay £15 to watch a Premier League game with no atmosphere, they can come down and watch us for half the price and get a real feel for Non-League football.
“The benefits for the Non-League football world will be huge for years to come. Those neutral fans who used to come just now and again will see the quality of the football and stay with us.”
This interview featured in The Non-League Paper on Sunday 18 October 2020.