Joining us in 2000, Neil Illman was an industrious forward with an eye for goal and happy to make life tough for defenders. In his debut season at Boro’, it felt as if he took to us as well as we could’ve hoped for; topping the charts with 17 goals from 29 starts and 11 sub appearances. Injury started to get in the way, however, and the 2001-2 season returned no more goals. For any striker, that spells danger and so it proved; Illman featuring in his last game for us in December 2001.
Did you know, though, that Illman’s move to us nearly didn’t happen. In an interview with the Boro’ matchday programme, he revealed that Cloughie’s first approach was rebuffed after he fell out with chairman Victor Green. With the arrival of Phil Wallace, however, in went Cloughie again; this time capturing his man.
Neil Illman: Before Boro’
Illman started his career as a trainee at Middlesbrough – a rare example of a lad to play for ‘both’ Boro’s. After his time in Teeside, the player stepped down into non-league with Eastwood Town. After a successful spell at the Badgers and finding the net often, he got his move back into the Football League with a switch to Plymouth Argyle.
Unfortunately, that move didn’t work out and he went to Cambridge United. While at The Abbey, he moved out on loan to Exeter City. Illman’s time with the Grecians was followed by a permanent move to Northwich; a club at which Illman found his feet. Although injury did much to limit his game time, he still contributed 16 goals during a two-year spell.
Neil Illman: After Boro’
After leaving Stevenage in 2002, Illman rejoined Northwich. After that, he had spells back at Eastwood and then Stratford Town. We lose the scent after a 2003 move to Askern Welfare – but we guess that’s where he hung up his football boots. If you know more, do let us know.
Author: Matthew Kett
Image: Keith Mayhew (if incorrect, please contact us and we’ll happily credit you)