the npl

A moment with Matt | Matt chats to Joint-Assistant Manager Dave Wild!

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A moment with Matt | Matt chats to Joint-Assistant Manager Dave Wild!

The following is an interview with Matlock Town’s joint assistant manager Dave Wild that took place in two parts over March 22-23 shortly before the FA’s decision was confirmed to classify the Northern Premier League’s 2019-20 league season as null and void and that all results are expunged for this campaign. This means that there will be no promotions or relegations and the same teams will take part for the 2020-21 Northern Premier League campaign.

How much contact have you and Paul Phillips had with the Matlock Town squad since the season was officially suspended and how are they all getting on?

“I’ve tried to stay in touch with them as much as possible really. We’ve put a fitness and gym programme put together for them just to keep their general fitness levels up. It is difficult in terms of tracking and ensuring they’re all on top of their workloads. We’ve set up things like this in the past and they’ve done it so we’ve got a great deal of faith and trust in them. We’ve got a new programme set up for them this week. It has to be tweaked what with gyms shutting down now, so it will be a lot of cardio-based work. It’s extremely important that we stay on top of fitness levels and we have to remain as professional as we can. At the end of the day, the season could be back tomorrow for all we know. Nobody knows what’s going on, so we have to do all we can to maintain our fitness and stay professional at all times. One thing that we are aiming to do within the next few days if there isn’t a lockdown in the country is to start doing some small group work. It’s strange and odd circumstances, but we need to continue working as we always would.

The Gladiators have recently signed Scott Sephton from Warrington Town. I understand that this is a player Paul Phillips has been wanting to bring in for a while. Once the sport has resumed, what will he bring to Matlock Town?

“Scott is a player that the manager has worked with before and he rates Scott extremely highly. When we first got involved with the club, Scott was one of the first players that me and Paul identified as someone who would improve the squad dramatically. It’s a good signing for us and I think it shows going forward that we are not looking to be a team destined to be in the lower half of the league. Alex Byrne has come in and he could easily play at Conference North level for me and now we’ve got Scott from a team who were play-off candidates, I think it shows what we’re looking to build here. Individually, Scott will bring us a lot. He’s hard-working, he can play holding midfield, attacking midfield and he can do jobs in both boxes. I think the fans will really like him.”

Do you think that the Northern Premier League should have suspended their leagues earlier? Do you have any sympathy for them regarding the fact that the FA left it to all non-league divisions to decide for themselves as to what to do?

“I think it was a really tough one for the Northern Premier League and I genuinely do feel sorry for their board. They’re in a bit of a catch twenty-two, aren’t they? In the last batch of fixtures, we saw South Shields beat FC United which was a huge six-pointer at the top…realistically, that was a result that would have seen South Shields kick on and probably win the league and go up. It leaves the NPL with a difficult situation in regards to the top of their league. It leaves everyone around the bottom of League – it’s all very good for the FA saying we’ll give it as much time as we can and we’ll cancel the Euros and end the league in the summer if so be it but it does feel like they’ve turned a blind eye to the non-league pyramid and they need to start having a real assessment of it. Everything above us and below us has a knock-on effect to each league. For me personally, and this is from a non-league perspective as I would have said this if I was still at Mossley, we need clarity. The season needs to be either completely cancelled or we need to be told next season will be cancelled to finish off this current season. We’re all in limbo. We just need a final decision so we can move forward. I’m very aware of the financial effects for all clubs and that’s my main concern.”

What do you think should happen with the current campaign? Would you be in favour of declaring the season null and void or would you prefer for final placings to be decided on average points per game?

“I think if they’re the two options, the only fair way to end it especially considering its non-league, would be to make this season null and void. I just think points per game is still uneven and unfair. Some teams have played loads more games so they’ve had more chance to improve their points per game record. Looking at our average points per game, we wouldn’t go down anyway but personally I do think that null and void would be the right thing to do.”

What do you make to Matlock Town’s ‘Donate to the Gate’ fundraiser? How essential is it that more non-league clubs follow suit with an idea like this? Also, what do you say to some suggestions that it is inappropriate for a football club to be asking for financial help from the public when everyone is going through such uncertain times?

“I just think it’s imperative. Non-league, week to week, month to month, for 90% of clubs is generally quite an uncertain environment. Gates dictate things, fixtures dictate things, postponements dictate things. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that some clubs are asking for support and help. The money will be used in the right ways and nobody from the club is demanding the money. If you’re out of work or experiencing financial difficulties yourself due to this Coronavirus situation, then your family obviously comes first, that’s more important than anything. But if you have got anything that can help your local football club and community, then that’s huge. When this situation does pass, I know that Matlock Town will do some quite big community stuff and more of a community drive to help build gates once football returns, as a kind of thank you to people who have helped us get through the situation with this virus.”

I think it’s safe to say that your passion for the game cannot be questioned. You’ve been getting stuck into every single football league which is still being allowed to continue in the world. Can we expect a Gladiators pre-season tour of Belarus or Bolivia in years to come now that you’re supporting a few more teams all over the world?

“I absolutely love it! I’m quite happy to admit that I’m fully obsessed with football. I live and breathe it, I’m happy to admit I’m struggling at the minute without it. So anything that can keep me sane, I’ll take at the minute! So I’ve been watching a few games from Belarus, Angola and Malawi on live streams. I just love it. It’s never been a secret that I’d love to work abroad at some point. I’m a big fan of groundhopping. I’m probably going to plan a trip to Belarus to watch this team because I’ve had some communication with their fans where they’ve been tweeting me, which is hilarious. So yeah, I’m missing it. I’m using as much of this time as I can to study and research parts of the game that I want to improve on. Matlock Town are constantly being prepped and pushed, put it that way!”

Finally, what message do you have for Matlock Town supporters during these unprecedented times where we’re not sure when the team will be playing again?

“We know that as a management group, we’ve not properly got our teeth into things yet at the club. I saw a quote from Paul Phillips recently and I can only echo him when I say that we’re going to be working so hard to give the community and this area a team to be proud of again. We’re working relentlessly behind the scenes. I am a 24/7 man. We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to recruitment, scouting and improving things on and off the field. Most important thing for everyone though right now is that they stay safe, look after their loved ones and as a big football community, we’ll all get through it together. We appreciate all your support and we appreciate everything you’re doing in terms of the fundraiser and if there’s one thing that I can absolutely guarantee, it’s that we will reward and thank you all on the pitch.”