Strevens: We are quite happy with where we are squad wise for now

My final interview this week comes from Eastleigh FC boss Ben Strevens reflecting on the start to the season for the Hampshire club:

TK: An excellent start to the season after seven games, are you placed where you expected to be so far?

BS: I honestly didn’t know what to expect at the start of the season as pre-season seemed a strange time. We are happy with our points total, but we realise it’s early days. Hopefully, we will keep on improving as the season progresses.

TK: Summer recruitment seems to have gone well, how have the new players settled in?

BS: Yeah, they have settled in really well, we purposely recruited more youthful players with the hope of helping them improve themselves. They have added to the players we managed to keep and that was just as important as the new guys coming in.

TK: Although it is still very early in the season in terms of games played, are there one or two sides that have surprised you with their results?

BS: Wealdstone have started really well after their promotion from the National South. I am surprised by some of the teams towards the lower part of the table, but as you say it’s still really early to judge those teams.

TK: Do you think that the stop start scenario for some teams has played a part in where they are in the current table?

BS: I certainly don’t think it helps, but it will be the case for all of us over the course of the season, quite sure of that. We now go two weeks without a competitive game which isn’t ideal either.

TK: How challenging has it been to get the players in the right frame of mind for playing in empty stadiums?

BS: That’s been fine to be honest, I have a good group that are hungry to win and do well. We would all love fans back in the grounds but the games still matter and points are there to be won.

I am really hoping like everyone else that in the new year the fans will be back watching us live.

TK: Although the club have received grants and the Lottery bail-out to help with no income, was there any effect if any on your playing budget?

BS: Yes, we reduced things to make sure we were ready for all circumstances. But at the same time that also fitted with the profile of the player we were trying to attract to the club.

TK: If for example you felt you needed an extra player or two to keep momentum going, would these current circumstances restrict that happening or be favourable to you?

BS: We are quite happy with where we are squad wise for now. We managed to add Ryan Hill from Hampton & Richmond and Tom Blair from Dorchester a few weeks back, but if I really needed someone or had an injury to a key player I’m sure the club would back me.

TK: Finally, we touched on it earlier, how important is it that we see fans back in stadiums in 2021?

BS: I really hope they are the fans are the lifeblood of every football club. Every team is missing them being there to see the action, hopefully in the new year they will be back in and I really can’t wait for that!

Smith: We do miss having the supporters as they are so important

On Wednesday I caught up with Bromley FC boss Neil Smith via text to find out how the season has gone for him so far:

TK: It’s been a stop and start season so far, how pleased are you with how the team has played so far?

NS: It’s been difficult with so long off from last season getting this season started was great but then we picked up silly injuries and it’s been hard trying to field an unchanged team.

We are just starting to play to how I want us to play so overall it’s been ok but we need to be better.

TK: Do you think we’ll be looking at a season full of interruptions or some calmness might prevail in the New Year?

NS: I think it will be a stop, start, go kind of season until the vaccine comes in, even then I think there will still be little outbreaks in places that cause us to stop.

TK: Only seven games in so far, but are you happy with where you are currently placed in the National League table?

NS: I’d like to have a few more points but to be just outside the play-off places with games in hand isn’t bad. It will be a tough league and there are a lot of clubs that could do it this season so it is early but we want to be in and amongst it all season if we can.

TK: Are there any clubs that have surprised you so far?

NS: Maidenhead and Wealdstone have had a fantastic start to this season and this shows just how competitive it will be for us this year.

TK: Has it been tough to motivate the players to play in front of empty stadiums each week?

NS: We do miss having the supporters as they are so important and it’s so much better having them watching us but the players are trying to create their own atmosphere.

The motivation isn’t a problem as they had so long not playing that I think they missed it that much they really appreciate how lucky they are to be playing football.

As a manager and a player you still have that mentality to win every game and we are still playing for the supporters and their club. We still want them to be proud of their team even though they are not here in person.

TK: Having watched you via the stream on Saturday against Barnet it looked like everything clicked and went to plan, was it almost the complete performance?

NS: It was a great performance from all the players and apart from letting a goal in and not taking a couple more of our other chances it was more like how we can play.

We’ve had a couple of games where we have a good first half and a not so good second half and vice versa. This was a more complete ninety minutes and gives us something to build from.

TK: Do you expect the table to settle down a bit in the next four weeks and give a more balanced idea of how the season might pan out?

NS: Yes I do, but I also still believe with being disrupted with positive tests and waterlogged pitches that it’s going to be a hard season to predict.

TK: How good have the chairman and the board been in helping the club be competitive again this season?

NS: They have been amazing from the start of lockdown to where we are now. The chairman made a statement saying that the club being sustainable was our main aim during these hard times but he also made sure everybody was ok and we did some fantastic work out in the community as well.

Since the start of this season he has backed and supported myself and my management team with his experience. He wants to give me the best chance to get Bromley into the play-offs for the first time even in what are unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in.

TK: And do you think if you needed one or two extra for a final push later in the season it’s able to happen?

NS: I always keep something back myself in the budget for someone who might become available. Who knows, hopefully I’m in that situation and I’ll then find that answer out!

TK: We touched on it earlier, but how crucial is it to have the supporters back inside Hayes Lane in 2021?

NS: It’s so important for everyone, the supporters want to get back to watch live football but also to meet up with friends and family and as a club we can only survive with people coming to watch, the players also want to be playing in front of the paying public for that atmosphere. We are missing the fans as much as they are missing getting out and going to their clubs.

Currie: My love and enthusiasm for football is still beaming

Earlier this week I caught up with ex-Barnet FC boss Darren Currie to find out what he’s been up to since leaving The Hive before this season began:

TK: What’s been the life of Darren Currie since leaving Barnet at the end of the summer?

DC: It’s been very different not being around football as it’s been in my life from a child, Saturdays have not quite been the same, I’ve either been glued to the vidiprinter or walking round Sainsburys with my wife.

In a normal situation without the pandemic I would be at games 2 or 3 nights a week and visiting training grounds but that’s not a possibility, however my love and enthusiasm for football is still beaming and I can’t wait for another opportunity.

TK: Can’t get in the way of your housework! Have you kept in touch with other managers and coaches just to keep involved and in touch with the game?

DC: Of course the housework is now my job but I’ve always been the house proud type!

Yes, I’ve had lots of conversations with many people across the game at all levels, I’ve always found football debate interesting because everyone has an opinion and you can always learn something from someone, there is always something that can provoke you to think.

TK: You’ve been getting out to watch a lot of games like most of us until the beginning of this month, has it given you some food for thought on how Steps 3-6 approach the game?

DC: I’ve watched a few games, some good, some not so good but that’s football! From a recruitment point of view there are gems at all levels so always worth a watch.

There is no right or wrong way of playing, everyone does it how they see the game and their own personal values, there’s been some different styles for sure.

TK: Does it bring home the frustration a little more at times watching from behind the barrier rather than directing from the dugout?

DC: Yes and no. I’m a fan like everyone else so I do understand, it depends whats being asked of the players, fans may think someone is not doing well but the coach believes he’s doing his job that’s been asked of him that benefits the team or a team-mate but yes I can understand that it can frustrate.

TK: Have you felt quite proud that a majority of last season’s Barnet team have gone on to bigger things, a mention of course for Jack Taylor and his full Republic of Ireland call up.

DC: Yes, very proud of them all to be honest, we had a great atmosphere in the changing room last season and although I’m no longer their manager I have kept in contact with them all and speak regularly.

Part of my management style is to create relationships and invest in the person as well as the player so I will always look out for them.

JT is not surprising anyone, he’s a terrific player whose football journey will just get better and better, and many coaches can take credit for his development as can myself and Junior (Lewis) but the main credit goes to Jack himself for his attitude and drive to keep improving.

He’s on the big stage now so everyone connected to the Bees will be watching on proudly.

TK: Would you expect Harry to follow his brother up the footballing ladder in the next season or two? And how different a player is Harry to Jack?

DC: I do expect Harry to climb the ladder as well most definitely. Jack is the eye catcher with goals, assists and driving runs whereas Harry is the consistent versatile reliable player that will go a little unnoticed by some on occasion but as a manager or a coach he’s a brilliant player to have.

Both are great boys in the changing room and it was a pleasure to work with them.

TK: Have you watched anything of Barnet this season or followed things from afar?

DC: Followed from afar mostly but I watched the cup game against Burton Albion which they deserved to win, great effort from the team with 10 men. When the gates open again I will definitely get back to The Hive to watch them play.

TK: That’s because you’re buying the beer! Are Junior or any of the other staff that worked under you back in the game or like yourself waiting for an opportunity?

DC: Everyone is waiting for another opening to come. Yes I will get the beers for sure!

TK: When you see your name linked to jobs around the country as teams haven’t started as well as they’d liked to have, as bad as it might sound are you willing a chairman or two to pull the trigger?

DC: It’s the unfortunate side to the game that someone will lose their job to allow someone else the chance. That will always be the case.

TK: How have you kept yourself busy so far in this second lockdown besides hoovering and bed making?

DC: House husband, school runs, running, dog walking and reading.

And all I want is football!

TK: 2 weeks and hopefully we are back to getting out to games again. Final one from me, are you hopeful that 2021 will bring the return of fans to all stadiums once again?

DC: It’s a must, it has to be. The game needs the fans, football is nowhere near the same without them so let’s hope we get stadiums open again as early as possible and as safely as we can.

Bloor: Chances are missed and not taken in every game

This week I caught up with Eastbourne Borough boss Danny Bloor after his side’s FA Cup tie with Blackpool and a league game against Ebbsfleet on Tuesday night:

TK: How pleased were you with the players performance on Sunday?

DB: I thought they were a credit to the club and themselves against a Blackpool side who I am sure will be pushing for promotion to the Championship under Neil Critchley and Colin Calderwood.

TK: For you yourself, the experience of pitting your tactics against Football League opposition must have been something you relished doing?

DB: 100%! It was a great experience and something the whole management enjoyed throughout the afternoon.

TK: Had the early Greg Luer effort gone in, how much of a different game would that have made it?

DB: Who knows, chances are missed or not taken in every game so difficult to judge how much of an impact it would have had.

TK: Turning attention to Tuesday just 48 hours after the cup exit, was it beneficial to play so quickly after Sunday, almost with no time to reflect on the result?

DB: We were all really concerned about playing one of the favourites for the league in Ebbsfleet so soon after the cup game, especially as they hadn’t played a competitive game for ten days. We felt both physically and mentally that it could have been hard, however we asked the boys to dig deep and we were extremely pleased to get a much deserved point from the game.

TK: It looked like it took a little while for the players to get tuned into the game as Ebbsfleet hit the ground running.

DB: I’m not sure I agree with that, we had our game plan and I felt it worked perfectly, it was obvious Ebbsfleet would have been fresher than us with the extra rest.

TK: It’s still very early in the season in terms of games played, are you quite pleased with how results have gone so far?

DB: We are delighted so far, we have lost only one league in six played and have picked up eleven points, the solitary defeat coming against Dorking Wanderers who I’m sure will go very close to winning the league with the squad Marc White has assembled.

TK: Are you hopeful that in the not too distant future we finally see some movement on getting fans back into Priory Lane?

DB: Let’s hope so, we need them, they need us.

McKimm: Bradford were excellent on the day

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm after his side’s FA Cup exit to League Two Bradford City at the weekend:

TK: Looking back to the FA Cup tie on Saturday, were you a little disappointed or frustrated maybe that the boys couldn’t quite get to grips with Bradford?

SM: No, not really. I knew it would be a tough game and they would have had to have 4 or 5 players having an off day and we would have needed everyone to have a stormer. Bradford were excellent on the day but my lads never gave up.

TK: Did you see it as a compliment to yourselves that they felt they needed to field a full strength team to ensure they progressed to the next round?

SM: Most definitely, they made a host of changes against Oldham on Tuesday night and lost so maybe if they hadn’t had gone so strong on Saturday we may have had a better chance. That will always be a question that can’t be answered unfortunately.

TK: It certainly wasn’t as if Tonbridge didn’t have their chances to score at crucial times in the game, did you feel you had to go for it a bit at times which opened you up at the back?

SM: We had a couple yeah. The free kick which led to their 3rd goal, if that was given to us as it should have been right on the stroke of half time we’d have loaded the penalty area and possibly had a decent chance from that.

That was the goal which really killed off the tie for us and it seemed from then every time we went forward we left ourselves exposed and they punished us for it.

TK: A great occasion for the club, yourself and the players live on TV, but unable to have spectators inside Longmead to watch first-hand, are you hoping that after lockdown we see some progress towards their return?

SM: I hope so for everyone’s sake, supporters need their football. The players and the clubs need them back too, we want to see this happen.

TK: A mention for Bantams fan Jonnie Carrington, a fantastic gesture to set up a JustGiving page which has raised in excess of £6000 at the time of writing for your club, it just goes to show the strength of the football family.

SM: It’s something we didn’t ask for or were expecting to happen, but an unbelievable thing to do that we are grateful for. I’ve spoken to Jonnie a couple of times, he’s an absolute diamond and welcome to Longmead Stadium any time.

TK: How pleased were you to go to Chelmsford 48 hours later and return to Kent with three points give the short turnaround between games?

SM: It was great to get a positive result on Monday night and pleasing that we had a game straight away so the lads didn’t have any time to dwell on Saturday’s result, very pleased.

TK: With a lot of football still to be played this season especially midweek, do you think it’ll be a while until the league table settles down a bit?

SM: After the first ten games are done it starts to give you a bit of reflection in the way things might turn out, but with squads being stretched with a lot of games on top of each other it might take a little longer this time around.

McKimm: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them

This week I caught up with Tonbridge Angels boss Steve McKimm ahead of the visit of Bradford City this coming weekend in the FA Cup:

TK: A bit of a mixed bag of results so far this season, are you reasonably satisfied with how things have gone so far?

SM: Yes I think so, 1st Round of the FA Cup and more points out of our first three league games than last season so it’s an improvement for sure.

TK: How have you and the players found not having fun inside to watch games?

SM: Different. I’m pleased to be playing obviously but you always love the banter, grief, and support you get from the terraces, so it does seem very strange at times. #LetFansIn

TK: I managed to get to watch you and the team in action at Chichester in one of the earlier rounds where there were fans, was that a bit surreal in a way?

SM: Most definitely it was a bit, it’s what we all love though, watching a game and we want fans back close to the action ASAP as it’s not the same without them there.

TK: How pleased were you to get the club through to the 1st Round for the first time since 1972, a long time to wait?

SM: Very proud! It’s something that myself and other managers/players have tried to do in the past and it’s finally happened. I’m so pleased for everyone involved in the club from the chairman to the board members, supporters, volunteers, absolutely everyone.

TK: And now selected for the BBC live game as well announced as we chat, do you hope the players rise to the occasion and show the watching public what Tonbridge Angels are all about?

SM: I do, but it’s all on the day. I hope and believe the players will not freeze on the occasion but we will be right up for it.

TK: Has there been a ban on any FA Cup talk until league games are out of the way?

SM: The game is actually our next one as because of less numbers in the National League South this Saturday falls as our week off so it’s worked out quite nicely.

TK: With the current restrictions have you managed to get out and scout Bradford City?

SM: Let’s just say we’ll be doing our homework on them.

TK: As a club have you felt having to play in empty stadiums that’s it’s brought you, your staff, and the players closer together?

SM: Not really, I always make sure we have a changing room that sticks together, hopefully you will see that this coming weekend. With our recruitment of new players they have to fit in with what we’re about on and off the pitch.

TK: Has the chairman promised a trip to anywhere not on the government’s quarantine list should you win?

SM: Haha! No he hasn’t, but a mate of mine, Paul, who sponsored a board around our ground this season (tables or businesses) said he’d take all the players and staff to Vegas if we get to the semi-finals!

Bloor: It’s a fantastic tie for the whole football club

I caught up with Eastbourne Borough manager Danny Bloor this week ahead of their FA Cup tie against Blackpool:

TK: Four league games into the season so far, how pleased are you with the start to the season?

DB: Yes, I’m satisfied and particularly pleased with the team spirit but there is plenty to work and improve upon as the season goes on.

TK: And the goal scoring form of Chris Whelpdale is impressive so far, was that something you tried to encourage to take the burden off the strikers?

DB: Not particularly, but of course it’s a major bonus when goals come from all over the pitch and not just one or two players.

TK: How easy or difficult is it to get the players mentally prepared to play in empty stadiums?

DB: It’s not been easy at all but it has meant really getting the boys fired up in the changing room. We have had to make our own atmosphere which so far seems to have worked.

TK: Do you feel that it has created a real togetherness amongst you, your staff, and the players?

DB: 100% as a whole group

TK: Turning attentions to the FA Cup, what was your initial reaction when Blackpool were drawn out of the hat to come to Priory Lane?

DB: It’s a fantastic tie for the whole football club and we are delighted to host a club with such an outstanding FA Cup pedigree.

TK: Is it tempered with a slight disappointment that spectators won’t be close to the action on the pitch?

DB: It’s the way the world is now in all aspects of our lives, we just have to get on with it but I know our supporters, the best in Sussex, will be supporting us from a distance.

TK: Bearing in mind the restrictions currently, is there a plan to scout the opposition before the tie?

DB: We had them watched on Tuesday night at AFC Wimbledon and we will watch them again at Burton on Saturday, I may go myself to watch them at home to Wigan on Tuesday night.

TK: Are you confident you can spring a surprise and take the club into the Second Round for the first time ever?

DB: How can you be confident, they’re a football league side! What we can be is very well prepared and committed to trying to cause a shock result. The pressure is all on Neil (Critchley) and his Blackpool team, they will be massive favourites to progress but in every round there are one or two upsets.

TK: Have the players been fairly grounded despite this big tie looming on the horizon?

DB: Honestly, before our win at Hampton on Tuesday night I banned all talk of the Blackpool game until after 5pm this Saturday following our game at home to Welling.

TK: What would it mean to the club as a whole to have a good cup run this year?

DB: Well I think we have already had a very good cup run so far this season but now we want more, we want the icing on the cake.

*Since speaking to Danny on Thursday afternoon Borough’s game has been selected for TV coverage on Sun 8th November ko 2.30pm live on BT Sport 1.

Are you PNLP?

Last week saw the beginning of a new venture for me, the Premier Non-League Podcast. Before the pandemic started I was looking at something like this to be my next venture, after all if you stand still things pass you by and the opportunity is gone. Of course, that plan like life itself was put on hold!

However, as one door closes another one opens and a few weeks back when the #LetFansIn campaign was at its height I was invited onto a special Rebel Yell podcast run by Worthing FC fans James Easton and Peter Vale and also joined by the voice of Bognor Regis FC’s Rocks Radio host Lee Roberts.

Subsequently, James mentioned to Lee and me about a new podcast he was putting together and asked if we were interested. Needless to say, we both accepted and along with Horsham fans Jonny Kenworthy and Iain Budgen the PNLP was born.

On first glance you might be thinking ‘well this is going to be an Isthmian League podcast’ given the teams these guys support (my allegiance is also to Worthing at this level) but not at all.

Our aim is to cover Steps 1-6 and even Step 7 if the material is there, premier to me means the best, we want to give the game the best coverage we can. We’re very keen to get clubs and fans involved, it’s your podcast what do you want to listen to?

However, we do have a structure so it’s not hours of endless rambling from the six of us, we plan on an interview from a top non-league player whose made it in the professional game depending on how forthcoming they will be, failing that between us we have enough contacts to get you a view from a different level of the game and we welcome any club chairman or manager that would like to get themselves on air.

The show will be pre-recorded and out for your ears before the end of the week on a fortnightly basis to begin with and if we can raise the listener profile quickly there is a good chance it will become a weekly feature.

We are looking for a sponsor to come forward to cover the costs of our hosting platform, these aren’t a huge amount but we’d like to get some coverage out there for someone’s business, you will appear all over our branding across social media and linked into the voiceover’s for use on the show. Please get in touch via our channels below if this is of interest.

We are looking for some help from those of you with links to the Midlands clubs, just a bit of content is all we’re asking for but a chance for someone to get themselves some exposure, again please get in touch via the channels below.

We have our own Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ThePNLP, our Twitter handle is @ThePNLP and you can email us thepnlp@hotmail.com, we want to hear from you so please get in touch. All that’s left to say is give us a listen and see what you think, comment good or bad and get us trending! #AreYouPNLP……….

Styles: The local community and our fans will be extremely vital

Late last week, I caught up with Tunbridge Wells FC boss Richard Styles to find out what had been happening for him over the last three months and a look ahead to a new season:

TK: I think it’s fair to say before football was suspended in March Tunbridge Wells were enjoying their best season for many a year?

RS: Yes, last season had a lot of positives. I think if I had been offered the way the season had unfolded before it stopped, I would’ve been happy with that for a first year at a new club and a new set-up. We were ultimately disappointed when the season came to an end because we felt we would finish the season strong and still had lots to play for in both the league and cup competitions.

TK: How did you view the lockdown period, a chance to reflect or to take stock and plan to improve further?

RS: The lockdown was initially frustrating because the season ended so quickly but understandably so, and safety is always the main concern. We stayed close to the players during the lockdown and had regular sessions delivered over Zoom as well as training plans set to allow the boys to tick over and recover. As staff we had meetings to reflect on the season and to identify ways, we felt we could improve and strengthen to progress when the new season begins. We haven’t stood still since lockdown came in and have very much been proactive.

TK: Now that we are looking at the new season beginning in September, have you been able to step things up a little and start to talk to potential new signings?

RS: Yes, we have been in communication with all the current squad with a view to returning and they are fully aware of our plans going forward.  We have also spoken to several targets to improve on what we already have, and they’ve been very positive talks so far.

TK: Given the financial struggles most clubs have suffered with during the pandemic how vital is it to get the local community fully behind what you want to achieve as a club?

RS: It’s huge! The local community and our fans will be extremely vital in us getting back into it ahead of next season. Every club has been hit hard by this and we’re all in the same boat. We have a real good community behind us and a close relationship with the supporters here and we’re now looking for that more than ever to continue once we’re able to get back on the pitch once again.

TK: Is this the perfect time for football to maybe take a look at itself and work out a way to live within its means a little more?

RS: There is an argument for that for sure, a lot of clubs will struggle and will have been hit very hard by whats happened and some will be unable to commit to the playing budgets they had previously. Players will have missed not being able to complete the season and as a manager you can get a feel of a player’s value in terms of playing and see whats important to them.

I don’t think that will happen next season personally because I think there will always be several clubs willing to have a bigger budget in chasing success.

TK: Are you expecting a similar competitive league once we begin?

RS: Yes, I’m expecting it to be as tough as last season. There are a number of teams who will feel they have some unfinished business, there are a lot of teams who will look to strengthen further and a there will be a lot of players dropping down levels as teams higher up go with small squads. Some big budgets and aspirations will also be out there too.

TK: What will be the expectations from the chairman and the board for Tunbridge Wells this season?

RS: The vision and expectations going into the second season have always been the same. I’ve been in close communication with the chairman ever since the season ended and there’s a clear outlook from both sides. We want to progress each season and push on the best we can, last season we were on course to achieve what we wanted which was to put some stability back into the club, the main objective. We kept ourselves in the top five all season and next year we want to build on that foundation we’ve made and hopefully have a successful season.

TK: And finally, what would be your message to anyone wanting to attend a game next season but nervous about being out in a crowd?

RS: I can fully assure anyone that Tunbridge Wells FC are working currently to put all things in place at the Culverden Stadium to ensure a safe environment and experience for all. By the time the season begins everything will be in line with the government regulations for our level. It will be great to have our crowd and families back to watch us again and I can’t wait to see that!

My thanks to Richard for giving me his time to answer these questions.

Hull: It’s been a challenge

Last week I caught up with Arundel FC boss Simon Hull to gain an insight at how Step 6 clubs have coped with the lockdown period and this is what he had to say:

TK: When football was suspended by the FA back in March Arundel had nearly half a season to play in around six weeks, how much pressure do you think that would have put on the players to manage 3 or even 4 games a week?

SH: It would have been a real challenge and tested the depth of our squad to the limit. Considering our players have full time jobs and aren’t afforded the luxury of rest days it would have been tough undoubtedly.

TK: How did you approach the lockdown period once the season had been marked null and void?

SH: We (the coaching staff and myself) made multiple plans for various start dates, a best guess exercise really. I also kept in regular contact with our players advising them and updating them to the best of our knowledge. It was difficult but everyone has been in the same boat.

TK: Has it been easy or sometimes difficult to keep the players you have close and to approach players you want without a start date in mind?

SH: Our players have been first class, I can’t speak highly enough of them. Almost all have committed to the club for next season too, we have approached a couple of players with a view to adding to the squad and giving us more depth and quality, honesty is the only approach that works in my book. Fortunately, we have been able to offer 1 to 1 sessions and now group work courtesy of my coaching staff. They have been working around the clock to accommodate all the lads and deserve a special mention.

TK: Now that we have a tentative start time as September, is your planning now able to become a bit more through so you are ready to hit the ground running?

SH: Yes, we have things planned for the players which are now ongoing until the season commences, all things being equal let’s hope it is September. We have been training in small groups as per the guidance and also individually for a month now so we’re relatively in a good place.

TK: How do you think the football landscape will look at Step 5 when the season begins?

SH: Purely speculation and opinion, let the powers that be provide guidance and an exact start date ensuring safety is an absolute priority, lives come before football. I expect and hope we mirror last season with the number of promotion places up for grabs and being able to enter the FA Cup and Vase. Whilst I understand there may be time constraints for the Cup there has to be an element of common sense to work around this. Steps 4, 5 and 6 clubs place huge emphasis on being able to compete for prize money and to miss out would be terrible for clubs at the lower end of the pyramid. Whilst be financially important for clubs, it’s a highlight for players and coaches alike. Scrap all replays but don’t devalue the competition by reducing the entry.

TK: Has the club been able to maintain itself over the last three months and be in a position to begin once again in the next couple of months?

SH: It’s been a challenge! We have lost all revenue streams without the bar and clubhouse. Fortunately, sustainability is at the forefront of the Arundel model. It’s an expensive business but we have prudent people  who look after the clubs finances so we should get through it but it’s not easy.

TK: Given the make up of Division One should look the same as it did last season, what are you expecting to happen?

SH: I’m hoping it’s the top 4 being promoted again as was supposedly the case last season for the restructure. Time will tell and we shall see, but I expect to see the same sides challenging again.

TK: Finally, the lockdown period can be viewed as a great time for reflection and for re-set. What things if any have you yourself from a football perspective felt a good time to change?

SH: We have had a slight restructure with regards to the management set-up and introduced a reserve side instead of the Under 23’s alongside our existing Under 18 team. We analysed closely last season what we did well and more importantly areas we felt we could make improvements and have implemented some change we hope is for the better.

My thanks to Simon for his time answering these questions.