Maltby Main manager Louis Axcell believes Non League Football clubs will have to fight through major obstacles to be able to stage matches when Government restrictions are lifted.
Axcell is remaining optimistic over an August or September return to the training field and he says clubs will have an important role to play in reconnecting society.
“I’m a little hopeful (on a August / September) and to me it all depends on how the social distancing can work,” Axcell told Non League Yorkshire.
“I’m in education and I work in a College so if the wholesale return of kids into school happens in September, I don’t see how other activities can be stopped from going ahead? The long and short of it is if you’re going to have 30 kids in a classroom, social distancing is not going to be there because they’re going to be doing PE.
“It might be me being hopeful, but as long as we can police the social distancing I can see training starting around August or September. But who am I to say that, no-one knows and public health and safety is more important. We can’t push it.
“When we are allowed to return, the league committees are going to have a lot on their hands. They will be a lot of inspections for the social distance measures that will have to be put in place within the stands, cafe areas, changing rooms. Changing rooms on a whole are quite small and everyone has communal showers so that’s a problem.
“Social distancing measures could be the stumbling block. I don’t think the directive to say we can return will be, it will be whether clubs can prove that their grounds have the right safety measures in place. I don’t envy the people who will have to make decisions.
“I don’t think the competitive games will start around August or September. I’m hoping that’s when we can get on the training field. I could see the season get shortened too, nothing would surprise me. It is a minefield and for clubs who have committee members over 70 that could cause problems. You could have a team ready to play, but over 70s might be still told not to leave their homes.
“But I do think some progress will need to be made as it is not just about the football or the lads who are playing and picking a wage. It is about those people who watch clubs as it is their social activity. There is a lot of pensioners whose clubs are the core of their social life. Coming to games is when they see their adult friends. For some it might be the only time they get out of the house during the week. It is the most important part of their week to some. You look at mental health and that’s need to be considered as long as the grounds are safe.”
When Maltby are able to resume training, Axcell and John Crossland will be joined by Dean Bamforth, the ex Hallam management team member and Jason Dodsworth, the former Athersley Rec joint manager.
The quartet are now attempting assembling to assemble a squad as best as they can and Axcell confirmed he does not intend to completely change his squad.
“It was my idea to bring them in,” he said.
“I’ve known Dean for a long time and he lives close to me. He was involved at Handsworth as well as me and I also had his lad Harry) playing for me in the County Senior League when he was really young at 17.
“Dean’s someone I trust. I did think of bringing someone extra to help out after I took over, but I decided to wait.
“I have also got to know Jase over the last year or two and both him and Dean have different qualities. They both get on and they have good links with players.
“I had a chat with both of them and it seemed like a good fit so I’m looking forward to working with them. We’ve had a few WhatsApp calls. Dean lives around the corner, but I can’t see because of the social distancing.
“I have probably left it a little later than other with regards to approaching players, but I kind of wrote things off because of the situation. But you get wind of what business people are trying to do so in the last week or two we have stepped things up.
“I don’t want to make many changes. I had an agreement with the players from last season that I wanted to get 80%, maybe more, of the squad ready for next season.
“There is going to be comings and goings, that’s inevitable. I’m happy with the squad we had and there will be loyalty and no wholesale changes. We could do with some creativity in there and a bit of pace which I think we lack in certain areas.
“The long and short of it is that any player who comes in has to strengthen us. I’m not going to bring people in for the sake of bringing people in.”
Axcell was named as Maltby’s permanent manager shortly after the Toolstation NCEL Premier Division season came to abrupt end.
He had joined Maltby as Scott Mason’s assistant in 2018, but when Mason was sacked last October, Main appointed him as interim manager.
Axcell has a long association with the NCEL and being a manager in the league was always an ambition through his deep interest in football coaching.
“I’m from Grimsby originally and I actually made my debut in the NCEL when I was 16 Winterton Rangers on loan from Scunthorpe,” he said.
“So I have been around the NCEL for over 16 years on and off. I moved to Sheffield to go to University when I was 18 and I signed for Denaby United which shows you how long ago it was. I look younger than I am. I’m 39.
“They were in the NCEL Premier then. I played for Hallam over three or four different spells. During my first spell with Hallam a load of us went and signed for Buxton. So I played in the Buxton side which was successful in the NCEL Premier a few years before Nicky Law took over.
“I had a couple of seasons at Buxton and I played for Staveley and South Normanton in the NCEL. My son was born when I was 26 or 27 so I had to stop playing for a bit as my wife worked on a Saturday.
“I ended up signing for Dinnington when they won the League Cup and got promoted in the NCEL Premier Division. I was a winger originally, but as I got fatter and older I dropped into the right-back position at Dinnington. I then ended up playing in goal a few times for Handsworth reserves when they didn’t have a ‘keeper available. I kind of made my way backwards as time took its toll on me.
“That’s where I finished my career as I stopped playing. During this time I also made the odd appearance for England at Futsal, but managing in the NCEL is something I have been wanting to do.
“I teach Sports Science so I have always been into coaching. I have always kind of led the coaching at my clubs too.
“I started off coaching at a club when my eldest lad started for Handsworth. That’s where the link with Handsworth comes from. I ended up coaching their under 18s team and we had a successful side and we reached the FA Youth Cup first round proper.
“I was assistant manager to Darren Bland when they were Worksop Parramore. Handsworth and Parramore came together and I then took on the reserves for Handsworth Parramore.
“I stayed running that side for a few years and we won the Sheffield & Hallamshire County Senior League with a young side. We had a youth policy and we made sure our under 18s got experience of playing in the County Senior League.
“Their youth policy has been really good. I was quite involved for a few years and there was a spell for two or three years where some really good players came through into the first team. There were the likes of Will Eades and Jed Phillips who came through.
“As far as I’m concerned it is one of the best youth set-ups around in Non League football. There is a clear pathway for players there. It is renowned and there are not many clubs who have it.”