The return of non-league after lockdown – managers have different views

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 November 2020

Action at Millfield: Woodbridge Town's Mark Ray clashes with Hadleigh's Kris Rose during the hosts' 2-1 win from earlier this season. Picture: PAUL LEECH

Action at Millfield: Woodbridge Town's Mark Ray clashes with Hadleigh's Kris Rose during the hosts' 2-1 win from earlier this season. Picture: PAUL LEECH

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Football writer Carl Marston talks to non-league managers about their approach to lockdown, and when they think the season will finally resume

Hadleigh United manager, Christian Appleford. Picture: PHIL MORLEYHadleigh United manager, Christian Appleford. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Managers of Suffolk clubs from across the various leagues, from Step 3 downwards, have differing views as to when they think the 2020-21 season will resume, and how they are approaching the current second lockdown with regards training.

The country is all set to come out of lockdown2 on December 2, which should mean the easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the possible quickfire return of ‘non-elite’ football from Step 3 downwards – the ‘elite’ National League has continued during lockdown, behind closed doors.

Some managers, like Hadleigh United’s Christian Appleford, believe that the current suspension will last longer than four weeks, while others debate when matches should start in December, if ‘non-elite’ football’s return is given the go-ahead. Straight away, or after a week’s training?

Matt Paine scores Hadleigh United's second goal in a 2-1 win over Woodbridge Town. Picture: PAUL LEECHMatt Paine scores Hadleigh United's second goal in a 2-1 win over Woodbridge Town. Picture: PAUL LEECH

CHRISTIAN APPLEFORD – HADLEIGH UNITED

(THURLOW NUNN PREMIER)

“I hope that I am proved wrong, but I can’t see us coming out of lockdown and playing straight away, in December.

“I think if we can start up again in January, at the start of a new year, then that would be a win situation for everyone.

Felixstowe United's management team of assistant Andy Crump (left) and boss Stuart Boardley. Picture: THOMAS BRADFORDFelixstowe United's management team of assistant Andy Crump (left) and boss Stuart Boardley. Picture: THOMAS BRADFORD

“I’m not like most other people who want us to come back quickly and get straight back into it.

Also: Non-league predictions: What will happen after the season restarts

Sam Nunn heads home his second goal for Felixstowe & Walton United, during their FA Trophy 3-1 win over Met Police before lockdown. Picture: DAVE FRANCISSam Nunn heads home his second goal for Felixstowe & Walton United, during their FA Trophy 3-1 win over Met Police before lockdown. Picture: DAVE FRANCIS

“I would rather take a couple of weeks before the season starts, so that everyone can get in some training sessions, because otherwise I can see lots of injuries happening. I’d rather every club got in three or four training sessions.

“Personally, I can’t see the season resuming in December. I can’t see us coming straight out of lockdown, I’d be very surprised if that were the case. I think the next two weeks are going to be crucial.

“At Hadleigh we were kind and gave the players last weekend off. They have a few little running challenges, in which they are posting their runs, and we then plan to send them programmes to follow up from this weekend.

“We trust their integrity to stay fit. They are an honest group of lads, though I suppose there will always be one who has work commitments or there is something on TV!

Ipswich Wanderers' leading scorer, Matt Blake. Picture: PAUL VOLLERIpswich Wanderers' leading scorer, Matt Blake. Picture: PAUL VOLLER

“We also plan to do a couple of zoom sessions, for basic get-togethers, a bit of fun so everyone can see each other. There’s a few online quizzes, and the social media groups are going strong.

“This lockdown has actually come at the right for us, in some respects, because I’ve had seven or eight players out with injuries, so it’s a time for rehabilitation.

“The League have given clubs the option of starting on December 5, or a week later on December 12. We would favour the latter option.”

Danny Cunningham, of Ipswich Wanderers. The Humber Doucy Lane club are hoping for a quick return to league action after lockdown. Picture: PAUL VOLLERDanny Cunningham, of Ipswich Wanderers. The Humber Doucy Lane club are hoping for a quick return to league action after lockdown. Picture: PAUL VOLLER

STUART BOARDLEY – FELIXSTOWE & WALTON UNITED

(ISTHMIAN LEAGUE NORTH)

“We have plans in place. We have got a new fitness coach, Liam Hunn (from Superhero Fitness) this year who has devised the individual programmes.

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“We are also taking advantage of the rule that you can meet up with one other person outside. To that end we’ve paired players off, depending on where they live.

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“Players have their buddies, so that they can do a couple of sessions together each week outdoors, like Josh Kerridge and Jordy Matthews, and Curtis Haynes-Brown and Lamell Howell.

“I think the players will still be very fit, after the four-week break. It won’t affect teams too much, and we should therefore be able to go straight back into it, depending on when the restrictions are lifted.

“Hopefully football will be brought back after this lockdown. I think the league would be OK to start again on December 5 – then we would be able to finish at the normal time. But if you are coming back after Christmas, then the season would probably have to be lengthened.

JAMES BUCKLE - IPSWICH WANDERERS

(THURLOW NUNN ONE NORTH)

“We haven’t sent out any specific training programmes, because players are not being paid at the moment, but we are hoping that the players will do their own stuff to keep fit.

“Clubs are being given a choice of when they want to start, on December 5 or December 12, and we want to go straight back into it.

“They should be able to squeeze the whole season in, especially as it has been extended until May 15 (from April 24).

“Personally, I think we will be back at the start of December. The R rate (reproduction) of infection appears to be going down, and the new vaccine is positive news.

“Four weeks is not too long to be out of action. Injured players can soon get back into it after a similar amount of time out, so fitness shouldn’t be an issue.”

BEN CHENERY - BURY TOWN

ISTHMIAN LEAGUE NORTH)

“We see this break as a chance to sharpen up the players’ fitness, while our players coming back from injuries are following their own programmes.

“We haven’t heard from the Isthmian League yet, but we’d like to get back to action sooner rather than later. In fact, we would like to go straight back into league action as soon as lockdown ends.

“Fitness programmes have been sent to players as a group, and they will change every week, with their distances and mileage recorded.

“The aim is to be in top fitness coming back from lockdown. The injured players are using the time for rest and rehab.

“Ryan Jolland scored on his return (in a 2-2 draw against Romford in the last match), while Ryan Horne and Joe White were on the bench.

“I’d say that Ryan Jolland and Joe White are ready, though Ryan Horne might need a few more minutes under his belt.

“Ollie Fenn has had his operation, while Ryan Staffrod is waiting for his op.

“We’ve got a lot of matches to play (only played four league games so far), so we want to start again as soon as possible.”

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