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Weekly News | 24/6/20

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Weekly News | 24/6/20

There’s a chance that Matlock Town fans might see their team back in action in September as the country eases out of Covid-19 lockdown, but nothing is set in concrete.

There appears to be a number of alternatives at present, and a common agreement that non league football will not return without spectators watching.

Of course, any return to action would need the say-so from the government but clubs are naturally anxious to get the 2020/21 campaign under way as soon as it is safe to do so.

The usual mid August date for the start of the new league campaign seems unlikely. A September or October start should mean that there’s sufficient time to play a full league season, but fans might have to do without League Cup or County Cup fixtures. September is seen by many as the most probable time.

There would probably be a different outlook if the season was delayed, say until November. It would be extremely doubtful that a full campaign could take place so it may be that half a season is played with teams playing each other only once or the division being split in two, possibly on a regionalised basis to have teams facing each other twice as normal. A play off may then determine the league winner.

The worst news would be a delay until 2021. Clubs and fans would prefer not to think about this alternative but would have to face up to the possibility of that happening.

A fly in the ointment should clubs resume playing again is a second spike of the virus and after the controversy which resulted from the 2019/20 campaign being declared null and void, it is thought that the Football Association might request that leagues agree as to a way forward with regard to promotion and relegation issues should the 2020/21 season come to a premature end,

Of course all non league teams look forward immensely to the FA competitions, in Matlock’s case the FA Cup and the FA Trophy, the chance for the smaller club to giant-kill, make some money from the prize fund and generally increase the prestige of the club.

A September start would most likely see the competitions run in their usual format, but a later start might see replays withdrawn, particularly as it appears the date set aside for the First Round Proper in November cannot be pushed back. The prize money looks like being reduced to what it was in 2018 so a return to action has to be paired with a little pain.

But, before any football can be contemplated at the Proctor Cars Stadium, there are a number of hurdles to overcome.

Quite understandably given the ferocity of the pandemic, the safety of the crowd and those participating on the field and behind the scenes needs close scrutiny. The FA has stipulated that each club must have a Covid-19 risk assessment in place and to have a Covid-19 Officer to ensure it is in line with protocols.

Matlock officials have already been working hard looking at what would be involved with making the Proctor Cars Stadium, including their Shorts Lounge, compliant to be able to function legally and smoothly once football returns.

We hope that day will be sooner rather than later as we’re missing our non league football, but there’s lots to be resolved and then lots to be done.

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Matlock Town manager Paul Phillips called for “clarity” over a start date for next season as Britain comes out of Covid-19 lockdown.

A number of alternatives have been mentioned as to when the 2020/21 campaign can get under way, ranging from the usual mid August time, end of August, September, October and into November. 2021 has been considered as a possibility by some, this being a worst case scenario.

The Gladiators have been having informal training get togethers under social distancing measures with players keen to keep momentum going after an unusually long break because of the early end to the null and void 2019/20 campaign.

“Give us a date” he asked. “If we find out that date’s not possible further down the line, it can be altered. The Premier League had a date when their season resumed so why not us with regard to the new season? We need clarity, having a date helps everyone at the club, players, management, officials and fans. I know there’s a lot to do but at least you have some date to work towards.”

Phillips is busy building his own squad in what will be his first full season in charge at the Proctor Cars Stadium. Four new players have arrived so far, the latest being left back Reece Kendall last week, the 20 year old joining the Gladiators from Brighouse Town. Buxton skipper Callum Chippendale, Radcliffe winger Callum Dolan and forward Kayde Coppin, from Mossley who will double up as assistant coach being the first three new arrivals. More are expected through the front door at the Proctor Cars Stadium in the coming weeks.

Phillips praised the contributions made by assistant manager Dave Wild, coach Dave Noble and the remainder of his backroom staff.

“Wildy, Dave Noble and the rest of my staff have done some great things” said Phillips who was assistant to Wild for a spell at Mossley last season after leaving Buxton.

“Wildy, like the others love doing what they do. He’s got an enthusiasm for the job that I’d never seen anywhere else before. He’s on the phone, morning noon and night, he lives and breathes it, even my wife commented on how much he puts into the job. It did me good being the assistant for a bit last season, I had time off from sorting wages and contracts, I had more chance to speak to people although I have that now. I trust the likes of Wildy and Dave Noble and Kayde Coppin’s come in and is doing quite a lot. They’re setting high standards and I feel that all of the backroom staff are pulling in the same direction. They’re helping to bring the players in who are setting standards both on and off the pitch so that the players are managing themselves which shows the character we’ve got in the club.”

Having been at the Proctor Cars Stadium for one of the training get togethers last Thursday, Phillips described the pitch as “looking fantastic”.

“Dave Reynolds and Dick Lomas have put a lot of hard work into the pitch and it looks fantastic which is huge credit to them. Again it epitomises the work which is being put in throughout the club.”

Ian Richardson