How is England’s National Lockdown Affecting Non-League
Football? By Catherine Micallef
The announcement of yet another national lockdown in England meant that non-league football was put on a hold for the second time this year.
We have spoken to Darren Middleton of Lichfield City FC Youth Academy and Mark McKeever of Weston Super Mare Youth Academy about the effects that this second lockdown has left on their squads and how are they coping with it.
The U19 squad of Lichfield City FC have made their debut this season in the Division G of the National League U19 Alliance. Manager Darren Middleton explained how this is a unique situation in which the players have to adapt to these stop start instances. During their “development season”, Lichfield’s mission is to keep their players focused and engaged during this lockdown. They are doing so by implementing self-fitness programs, diet plans and clear messages of communication. Previously in March, Lichfield had been successful in teaching and coaching about the support building a player needs during these times and so they look into adapting the same experience. Middleton said, “When you find your team performing to the team’s goals of fitness and standards it’s very difficult to stop for the second time and reproduce the same intensity.” While trying to keep a positive atmosphere for their players, Middleton admitted that the clubs feels “nervous after what happened last season.”
Back in March, the plan was to have a month-long lockdown but the rise in Covid-19 cases extended the lockdown till June. Many fear that this can happen once again. That means, once non-league football restarts, the clubs will have to play an amount of matches in a short period of time which will leave a huge effect on the players who have been absent from the pitch for quite some time.
Weston Super Mare’s Manager Mark McKeever said that the club will use this time to work on match related preparation. The bright side of this lockdown is that clubs are still able to train and the Seagulls are making the most of this time. They are working on fitness and conditioning in order to prepare their players for the extra matches which they’ll have for when the league gets clearance to resume. This situation has also left financial implications on most clubs and McKeever explained how the academy staff at Weston Super Mare had to be laid off for the time being and their future rests unclear until further confirmation of football restarting.
McKeever further said, “Obviously the lockdown has not been ideal. We would much rather be playing games and developing players but we are fully aware that people’s lives and wellbeing are much more important at the moment. We, like everyone else, are just crossing our fingers and hoping we can return to some sort of football normality soon.”
We stand with McKeever and all other football clubs. For now, teams will have to prepare to what’s coming and adapt to the difficult circumstances this pandemic presented them with.