With a date now announced for the beginning of the 2020/21 season for the National League clubs as being the 3rd October, non-league football now has itself set up ready to return and the hope that there are no interruptions heading our way this time.
As we found out during last week lower down the pyramid at Step 3-6, dates in September are when they will begin and with both the EFL and Premier League re-starting on 12th September I’ll be honest I was expecting the National League to fall in line as they waited to do so all through the lockdown period, but no, lets be different!
Let’s dissect it in a little more detail and try to work out the logic behind the reasons. On the sensible side if the National League fall under the bigger stadium rule set out by the government then starting behind closed doors has been discussed as not possible for clubs at Step 1 and 2, it wouldn’t be practical or feasible and so beginning on October 3rd is very sensible in that respect. Clubs can open with capacity restrictions expected still but that is better than no income at all.
It also gives those clubs the time to get things right and Covid-19 ready to maximise every tiny bit they can as part of what is currently normal. There is also the preparation needed for those clubs who have taken part in the play-offs and a chance for the administration to get the fixtures out there with finals still to be played this weekend and also the small matter of Stevenage contesting their relegation versus Macclesfield’s points deductions so in principle it appears a good decision.
On the flip side of that though is those players who have worked up a bank of fitness over July for the play-offs look like its now either going to waste or a two month pre-season for those players. Do clubs give those players a few weeks off and return again knowing it’s going to be a repeat of the same work? Do they go with individual plans for each player as they did during lockdown? Or do they power through adding new signings along the way?
The next big question is while the players are getting honed back in the right condition, who are they going to play in pre-season friendlies? Whilst the National League players are back in training, everyone else up and down the country will have kicked off their league seasons so are we looking at Premier League Under 21 or Under 18 sides as opposition? That part has been poorly thought out, under-prepared and under-strength friendlies will not work for these clubs, it’s to see how they will all get up to match fitness and a higher level of sharpness before kick off.
Two months worth of games to fit in beginning in October with one Saturday at the end of the month lost to the FA Cup, so where do these games fit in then? The National League commonly play one third of their season within the first three months, two months of that will be dead rubber, in August and September, and unless the crystal ball has shown that there will no repeat of the horrendous rain we suffered last winter then the fixture list might just about survive, any cup run though could seriously hamper a title charge for anyone.
Maybe I’m being a little bit harsh here I don’t know, and more will come out in the next few days regarding how clubs can combat the distance in time between training and who exactly will be left to play apart from fellow National League outfits otherwise I finding it hard to see a reason why the season cannot begin during the month of September.