PREPERATIONS are underway at Ilkley Town, as they prepare to take on Step 6 football for the first time in the club's history.

Simon Armstrong's side returned to pre-season training just over a week ago, and preparations are going well.

And looking ahead to their semi-professional maiden campaign, Town and Armstrong are aware of the challenges they will face, however it's a fixture against soon to be local rivals Steeton, which has caught the eye of the Ilkley boss.

He said: "Now we are in Step 6, the standout fixtures for us will be the Bury game. And obviously, from our own perspective, the games against Steeton will be exciting, as it will offer the chance for a local derby.

"It will be a new local rivalry because we've been in different leagues, and we've never really competed directly against each other.

"This will be the first time that we really have, so I think it will be a new rivalry, a rivalry that will be a positive one. Hopefully, it will be a derby that draws in a lot of support for both games.

"It's certainly something that we are looking forward to, and I know that their manager Roy Mason is looking forward to it at Steeton as well."

With the excitement building at Ilkley ahead of their Step 6 journey, Armstrong confirmed that he and his staff are overseeing the squad dynamic ahead of the new campaign.

He said: "We've only been back at pre-season for one week, but preparations are going well.

"The numbers have been strong at training, from last season's squad, but also from a number of players who've shown an interest in coming down.

"They've been able to take a look at us and we've been able to take a look at them, so we're in a decent place all things considered."

Armstrong added: "I think we need to make sure that last year's squad are given the opportunity to make the step up, because they worked so hard for it, and they're all very capable players.

"But I do think it's important that we add four or five new faces, just to freshen things up and increase the competition for places, so we will be certainly looking to do that.

“We’ve also had two or three lads who’ve contacted us, liked what they’ve seen and wanted to give it a go at training. They’ve attended the sessions and looked very promising."

Ilkley host Guiseley on July 13, a side who sit four divisions above the Step 6 club, and Armstrong is excited by the challenge.

He said: "It's a big opportunity for the players to test themselves against some strong opposition.

"We really wanted to get a high-profile game to announce the fact that we've moved up to Step 6.

"For us on a local level, there isn't much of a bigger test for us than Guiseley. And it's a double edged sword, because I want to give the players the chance to compete against a side at that level, while also giving the players the chance to play in front of a larger crowd too. They will have to get used to it in Step 6."