Relegation rivals eager to resume fight for survival
Football clubs continue to patiently wait for news on when competitive games will resume, after almost three months kicking their heels rather than a ball.
Government announced last week that the Return to Play guidance had reached phase three of the four stage plan to resume competition action. Indications are sports could resume in the next couple of weeks, once certain protocol has been met such as the testing of all athletes beforehand.
League games were last played on December 5, the weekend that all sport was halted because of the spike in Covid-19 cases. Now teams are back in training and awaiting word of an official resumption date from their governing bodies.
“I really thought we were going to kick off in the new year, that was what I had my heart set on. Now we’re looking at probably March,” said Jensen Rogers, coach of Somerset Eagles who occupy last place in the Premier Division with three teams to be relegated at the end of this season.
“It’s not ideal to be looking at a three month break in mid-season and then start back up again, but it is what it is. Hopefully we can use it to help us.”
Rogers feels the break will ’level the playing field’ as no team will have an advantage in terms of match fitness when play does resume. For Eagles, the interruption came at a time when they had just produced a couple of good performances, against North Village in a league match on November 22 and the following weekend when they lost to holders Southampton Rangers 4-3 in extra time in a Friendship Trophy match.
Eagles have a game in hand on the teams around them and are only five points from safety.
“The stoppage of the league came for us at the wrong time because we had just started to find our feet,” Rogers stressed.
“We had two good displays back to back and it was looking promising. Now with trying to get things back to normal and getting the season started again, it’s kind of like we’re starting over, like coming into the first game of the season.
“Everybody is going to be lacking a little fitness, a little sharpness so this is the time to go for it and try to get some points on the board early. What we can’t do is start how we started the first half of the season, coming out slow. We have to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Rogers added: “Training hasn’t been normal with the Covid rules, obviously the number of players has been down, but I’m sure that’s with every club on the island.
“We have Covid tests coming this week so I’m guessing within a week or two they’ll give us a shout about the start date. But it looks promising, the players have been coming out to shake the rust off and hopefully when we get back to things we can get match fitness and get game sharpness back.
“Like with anything, it’s what you do with this break. Do we come out and be nonchalant or come out and be hungry? Only time will tell.”
X-Roads, just one place and two points ahead of Eagles, are also eager to restart their season as they, too, face a fight to stay up.
“The players want a confirmation on when the games are going to resume,” coach Kameron Fox said.
“The players understand, but they get frustrated and I just try to tell them to stay fit for yourself. Most of it is going to be about fitness and whoever returns the best.”
The season seems certain now to be extended into May, with the BFA have to find dates to make up at least nine rounds of league matches, as well as cup competitions.
“It’s just unfortunate that with Covid we’ve had to go through this, the season being pushed back,” Fox said.
“Some days are good, some bad, but we have to hope we have more good days than bad right now. Guys are back from injuries but then it becomes about work commitments and family.
“I’m just trying to keep them motivated to still want to play football at this time. It has taken a toll on everybody, but hopefully the BFA and Government come to a decision on whether it is going to be on or are we going to scrap it until next year.
“I just hope they find the best solution, but in finding the best solution I hope everybody’s safety is put first. That’s what I’m looking for.”