Lee gets second chance to make good impression
Roger Lee, the Bermuda defender, will look to make the most of his second chance at Ilkeston when he returns to the English non-League club for pre-season training.
Lee, who played in Bermuda’s second-round World Cup qualifying tie against Guatemala, had a short stint at the Derbyshire side last season before injuries and a lack of match fitness curtailed his opportunities.
The 23-year-old spent the remainder of season training at other non-League sides, including Weston-super-Mare and Gloucester City, before picking up another injury that kept him out of Bermuda’s first-round qualifier against Bahamas.
Paul Scope, who owned the Bermuda Hogges, recommended Lee to Ilkeston and is confident the former Robin Hood and Somerset Eagles player can reap the benefits of getting a full pre-season under his belt.
“Roger will get another opportunity at the club after being very unlucky last season,” Scope said.
“He went over to Ilkeston really late in pre-season, picked up an injury and never really got himself fit. He’s got himself fit now and he’s up for going back to Ilkeston for the beginning of pre-season.
“Roger will get an opportunity this time and I’m confident he will make the grade, which is good for Bermuda because he’s one of our best defenders.”
Plenty has changed at Ilkeston, who have pre-season friendlies against Sheffield United, Chesterfield and Peterborough United, since Lee’s previous spell at the club.
Gavin Strachan, the son of Scotland manager Gordon, has succeeded Kevin Wilson as the team’s manager, while Nigel Harrop, a former Bermuda resident, has taken over as owner.
Scope believes the changes will only strengthen the relationship between Bermuda and the ambitious club, who play in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, the seventh tier of English football.
“Gavin Strachan is a young manager who seems very organised and enthusiastic and will boost what is already a great programme,” said Scope, a former Bermuda assistant coach.
“He’s excited about the Bermuda project and I’ll be sure to meet him next time I’m over there. I’ll certainly be inviting him to Bermuda.
“Nigel obviously has a Bermuda connection having lived here, so that’s another positive for us.”
Aside from Lee, there are two other Bermuda players at Ilkeston with J’nai Butterfield-Steede, a 17-year-old midfielder, in the club’s Academy, and goalkeeper Jahquil Kumari-Hill, 18, part of the first-team squad.
Scope said all three players will live together in the same apartment and revealed that he had spoken to another young Bermuda player about the possibility of joining them.
“We’re getting a new house which will be able to lodge four Bermuda players,” Scope said. “Players get a lot of exposure at Ilkeston as the club is surrounded by teams like Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Stoke City, Chesterfield and Mansfield Town. I’m talking to another Bermuda player about going over there and seeing if we can get something finalised.”
Several Bermuda players have passed through Ilkeston including Rai Simons, the Bermuda striker, who signed for Sky Bet League One side Chesterfield in April.
“Rai’s definitely been the poster boy for the Bermuda/Ilkeston link-up,” Scope said. “We have had a lot of players go through Ilkeston and it hasn’t worked out for all of them, which shows it’s a challenging level for our players.
“We’re trying to continue the flow of players going to Ilkeston, but if we can get someone placed at a higher level right away then obviously we’ll do that.”
Ilkeston were beaten 1-0 by Curzon Aston in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier play-off final last season.
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