Weekly News - 15/4/20
Matlock boss Paul Phillips wants his side to “hit the ground running” whenever the new NPL season gets under way.
The FA formally ratified the decision of the Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmian Leagues to declare the 2019/20 campaign as null and void last week so it’s as you were with no promotion or relegation from the NPL Premier.
“The decision’s been made now as regards the league so we know who we’ll be up against. The players we’ve got have their fitness programmes and we’ll be touching base with them whenever that may be” explained Phillips.
“I’m also delighted to see the Just Giving amount go past the £10,000 mark and again I’d like to thank James(Griffiths) for promoting it and to everyone who’s contributed, it’s a magnificent effort.”
Phillips says it is time that Matlock were competing towards the top end of the table after a number of seasons of mediocrity or struggle in the NPL.
“We’re all working hard, we’re speaking to players and looking at getting everything right as best as we can at present so we can hit the ground running. We need the fans to stay behind us. I’m sick of seeing Matlock Town being at the wrong end of the league, I want us to push on and try and get out of this league. We need a change of mentality at the club, we have good players but these good players are playing in a side that’s been down towards the bottom of the division this past few years. That’s got to change.. We should be big enough to compete with the best clubs” Phillips added.
For Adam Yates, the cancellation of the 2019/20 BetVictor NPL season must have been particularly frustrating. .
The Matlock Town skipper was set to celebrate his 500th Matlock Town appearance in the home game scheduled for Tuesday 17 March against Ashton United.
But the Covid-19 outbreak has put that milestone on hold and with results and players appearances now having been expunged from the records, Yates is back where he started the much troubled season, on 469 first team appearances for the Gladiators.
The 30 years old defender has become one of the most popular players to have worn a Matlock shirt in his eleven seasons at Causeway Lane. He was signed by Mark Atkins who was suitably impressed by a tremendous performance from Yates for Shirebrook Town in the 2008/09 Derbyshire Senior Cup semi final. Since then countless accolades have come his way and he has been voted as the fans’ player of the season on no fewer than four occasions, 2012/13, 2015/16.2017/18 and 2018/19.
He has become Mr Matlock Town, a figurehead at the Proctor Cars Stadium, but typically put his personal disappointment to one side as the world battles against a killer virus.
“When the Covid-19 situation arose, it was in the back of my mind that I might not make my 500th appearance this season” Yates admitted.
“Peoples’ safety and lives are more important, I just wanted people to stay safe. That day will come at some point, as a club we wouldn’t want people coming when it’s not safe to do so and the league eventually cancelled the rest of the season. I wasn’t sure whether the appearances I made last year would count but it looks like appearances get expunged as well, it’s not ideal, it’s not great. Lads have scores some good goals so it’s hard to take but no-one expected the situation the world finds itself in at the moment.”
Last Thursday the Football Association ratified the decision taken by the Northern Premier, Southern and Isthmian Leagues to make the 2019/20 season null and void. Yates agrees with the ruling but has sympathy for clubs in the leading positions in the leagues affected.
“It could have been resolved in a number of ways and it must be terrible for the top clubs. I suppose we’ve had a bit of a reprieve although I think we’d have got out of it towards the end. It’s a very hard one but I believe the right decision’s been made. There was too many ifs and buts to make any other decision such as using the average points per game. We’d played only 28 games, some clubs had played thirty five or so, my gut feeling is that the decision’s the right one and that’s not because we’re near the bottom of the division.”
With players facing a longer than usual break from playing, they now face the dual problem of maintaining their fitness and staying safe as the Coronavirus continues to take its toll.
“Everyone’s trying to keep ticking over and with the restrictions in place it’s easier for some rather than others. I work from home a lot which is quite helpful but with the nursery closed I also have to keep my young daughter entertained. I’m managing okay though and we’ve been given training schedules and had bleep tests so we can be prepared whenever we return after this pandemic’s over.”
The 2019/20 campaign was a particularly difficult one for the Gladiators who slid from the top of the table in early September towards relegation. They won their opening four matches but then only managed four more wins and seventeen more points from their remaining twenty four matches, form in direct contrast to their displays in the FA Trophy which saw them unluckily lose 2-1 at Conference National Eastleigh in the last thirty two after eliminating Chorley, also from non league’s top tier in the previous round, January also brought about the tragic death of midfielder Jordan Sinnott.
“I don’t think some of our league results reflected how well we played at times yet we had very good cup results. Our league form suffered which was very disappointing for the league’s our bread and butter. We had to play a lot of games in a short space of time, the big cup game at Eastleigh and then back to the league and it took a lot of mental strength. We didn’t have a great deal of luck but also when you look at where we were, results and the points we have don’t lie. We’d have been okay in the end but we weren’t good enough over the 28 league games we played.”
So it’s as you were for the new season with the NPL Premier Division having exactly the same membership as in 2019/20 with no promotion or relegation.
The Covid 19 outbreak will bring financial hardship in and outside non league football. Many clubs may find sponsorship more difficult to obtain as businesses struggle to stay afloat.
“It’s to be hoped the club can work some magic with regards to sponsorship and it could be that players will have to accept what’s on offer. It’ll be a case of playing it by ear and see how it goes. Every player has their own motivation for playing the game, money could be one. For most it’s not a problem for a few it might be. We’ve had a few difficult years so it would be nice to see some consistency. Managers have come and gone and we’ve now got Paul(Phillips) who’ll hopefully be able to bring in the players he needs to go with the ones we have, we need the players to pull together and play for the manager and our great fans and people that work so hard behind the scenes.”