ILKLEY Town AFC are bidding for promotion to the Northern Counties East League for next season.

This would be an historic achievement for the Ben Rhydding-based football club, as it would be the highest level Ilkley has ever played.

Promotion would mean competing against well-established semi-professional teams, including the likes of Harrogate Railway Athletic and North Ferriby.

It also qualifies the team for entry into the FA Trophy and potentially the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup.

The team play in the West Yorkshire Premier Division and currently lie in second place. To achieve promotion the club must finish in the top four.

They must also improve the facilities at the ground, including providing spectators with covered shelters and refreshments. Plans are in place to complete these improvements in the next few months.

The club have been making progress for the last 20 years with a number of promotions from the Harrogate Leagues up through the West Yorkshire League. The team play on the 4G pitch at Ben Rhydding which has given them the opportunity to increase their profile further.

The first team are part of a much bigger club with 30 teams representing Ilkley Town each week from under-six to under-18 and include boys’ and girls’ teams. This season they have added an under-23 team that is a feeder team into the senior reserves and first team.

Developing junior players so they are ready to play first team football has led to a youthful squad of players and is a key strategy for the future.

Sixteen-year-old Alfie Heaton has nailed down a regular position in the team and young players like Ben Atkinson and Charlie Nixon are knocking on the door of the first team.

Ilkley manager Simon Armstrong said ‘We now have a strong competitive squad with depth and players who are ready to challenge themselves at the next level.

"The club has and continues to work hard in order to improve facilities and develop our infrastructure, so it’s not just a case of can we make it to step six, it’s more of a challenge to see how far we can actually go.

"We’re still in the very early stages of our journey and it’s taken a lot of hard work and commitment to get to this point."

The club have 60 volunteers working across the teams including many volunteer coaches, a media manager and video analysts who deconstruct the match video for training purposes. There has been an increase in the attendances for games and this is expected to increase further as the facilities improve.

Club chairman Richard Giles said: “It is important for us to be rooted in our community. Nearly 600 players play for Ilkley Town each week.

"Many local businesses help us grow and be successful and we give them the opportunity to promote their business. We want to see the number of people watching games increase. The brand of football Simon has the team playing is entertaining, and as we achieve success it's an exciting time for the club.”