Danville would have backed 19-league game plan if full campaign wasn’t possible

Hemsworth Miners Welfare joint manager Luke Danville

Hemsworth Miners Welfare joint manager Luke Danville is glad the FA are pushing through with plans for full league campaigns.

But he would have supported a 19-game Toolstation NCEL Premier Division season if 38 games were not possible.

Danville’s brainwave is very similar to the Apertura and Clausura league format which were the names for the split Premier Division campaigns used in Argentina between 1991 and 2012.

“I’d rather football be back as a normality with a 38-league game season, but if we couldn’t have a full season and had to have reduced measures, I preferred the idea of running it at 19 games rather than 38, just playing teams once,” Danville told Non League Yorkshire.

“They always say after 19 games, you should be around about where you should be, apart from when you get unbelievable runs like the one Worksop did.

“It (a 19-league game season) would be achievable with breaks and you could even run your local cups. If teams then found themselves without a run of games for a couple of weeks, you just organise friendlies.

“I preferred that idea over regionalising the leagues and it was an idea I talked about with a couple of people, I don’t know if the FA looked at it. 

“I know the idea still has the travel risk and you could potentially take or bring Covid-19 back. But we have to go to Brid with a team and fans, but more people are going to Brid every weekend just for the day out.” 

Hemsworth and the rest of the league are hoping to start playing NCEL fixtures on September 5th. 

Clubs and players face their greatest test as the schedule has never been fuller as games are likely to be played Saturday-Midweek for many weeks – with the added threat of local lockdowns and bad weather.

Danville admits the challenges are huge and he says the end date has to be flexible and that the FA must allow the Step 3 to 6 seasons to finish in some way, if problems do arise, in 2021. 

“The timeframe is more of an issue (with a 38 league game season) if you have local lockdowns and bad weather,” he said.

“You look at some of the bad weather we have had over the last few years, if we run into some of that then it is a June or July finish. 

“We hardly played in October, November and December last year and I’ve seen people say get your Tuesday night games in early, but like you say October was a write off last season.

“I think it is achievable (a full campaign), but I think it may be a long season and people have to be realistic about the sort of timespan that it is going to be under.

“You look at Wolves in the Premier League. Their season is still going as they are still in the Europa League and their season has gone over 370 days.

“What the FA can’t do this year if things do spike up is ignore Non League Football. That’s what they did this year. They called the season massively too early. I’m not saying games are ready to be played now, but to do it in March was ridiculous. They should have given it at least six weeks.

“It was like ‘no, we’ll suspend league football, but Non League take a back-seat’. It has left a bad taste. Points-per-game wouldn’t have a lot of difference to us, but the teams who were up there had every right to complain. 

“I can understand their frustrations and then there was the double whammy when they come back and finish the rest of the leagues by points-per-game and promote teams right, left and centre.

“I think the FA and everyone has to be realistic about this season because it may take a bit longer to finish. You can’t put a closing date on and say your games have got to be done by May.

“Yes there has to be a finish, but there has to be a little bit of leeway. If an isolated team in our league gets put into a local lockdown for a month, you can’t expect them to complete their season in time.

“There does need to be some kind of conclusion. If it gets to the point where it is unrealistic (that it will finish) and we have played around the number of games we played last season it needs to come to some kind of conclusion.

“If it is points-per-game, it might not sit right with the teams from last season, but we can’t have another season where they go ‘right, just forget about it’.”

Fans are currently not allowed to attend friendlies – something Danville hopes changes soon.

But he accepts the workload for clubs is now astronomical and praised those ensuring grounds are Covid-secure for when games start.

“The demands have never been higher and It is going to be nightmare, not just for players, it is going to be like that for management, volunteers, fans, everyone,” he said.

“Everyone works apart from the lucky ones who have retired. So you talk about players, but those work in the bars, kitchens at clubs, they have to commit to coming up twice a week.

“On the same token, when you commit to a semi-professional football team, be it volunteer, player, manage, coach, fan, you know what you’re in for.

“Obviously these are uncharted times, no-one knows what’s going off and I think people are expecting a rough ride. 

“I don’t know if you have looked into getting a friendly at home, but some of the paperwork that has to be filled out, I’m just glad I’m not doing it and that there are class volunteers willing to do it for clubs.

“I’ve spoken to the people filling ours out for my club and it seems a nightmare. But it is not more hassle than it is worth.

“Non League Football is a cornerstone for many people’s lives and it is sometimes the social aspect they get in regards of getting out of the house.

“If you can bring some normality back to a few people’s lives, any work is worth it.”

On the team front, Danville and joint manager Luke Potter have responded to the departures of a number of players, including Harry Viggars and Nash Connolly, by signing new faces. 

Goalkeeper Brett Souter, the new Wells captain, is the stand-out capture and he has been joined by midfielders Jack Wilson, Jack Wakefield, Josh Wright and Ben Walker and Danville says a few more signings are on the horizon.

“There may have been a few doubts and worries because of the calibre of player we lost,” he said.

“The doubts were eased on me, Potts, Tonksy (Rob Tonks) and Jeffsy (Steven Jeff) because we were talking to players and we did have players lined up and we knew what squad we were hoping to build.

“It has been good to get people over-the-line and we have brought in some good experienced players. Hopefully the signings will have put not only supporters’ minds at rest, but ours as management team as well.

“We have a good mixture (of experience and younger players in the side) and we still have a couple of signings to release soon. There’s also three or four players we’re still looking at (in training). I think it is coming along nicely and three or four additions in the right areas and we’ll be very happy.

“Signing people like Brett Souter does ease doubts, but there’s not only him. Josh Wright has come in and he’s another experienced player. Ben Walker is another one.

“Jack Wilson is experienced. I said to a couple of people; Jack has had a really good Division One career, but no-one has given him a shot in the Prem. I know him personally with him being from my area and I’ve played Sunday League with him and I’ve been out drinking with him.

“He’s a good mate of mine so I didn’t make the decision on (signing) him. I said to Potts, Tonksy and Jeffsy ‘you have a look at him’ and like I knew they would be they were happy with what they saw.”

If you have enjoyed this interview, please consider making a donation to the not-for-profit organisation NLY Community Sport which provides sport for children and adults with disabilities and learning difficulties. CLICK HERE to visit the JustGiving page.

There is a video at the bottom of the page showing our work.

NLY Community Sport, run by James Grayson and Connor Rollinson, has always had combatting social isolation at the top of our objectives when running our Disability Football teams so when the green light to return is given, our work will play an important role in reintroducing our players, who have disabilities and learning difficulties, back into society.

We have six teams, a mixture of Junior and Adult teams – Nostell MW DFC, Pontefract Pirates, Selby Disability Football Club and the South Yorkshire Superheroes (Barnsley) – across Yorkshire.

We have enjoyed great success over the past three years. Several of our players have represented Mencap GB in Geneva, including Billy Hobson from Selby and Greg Smith, whose story is quite inspiring.

Like most organisations, we have been affected financially by the Coronavirus and we have incurred losses which we cannot recover. We have not been hit as badly as other organisations, but we do need raise £2000 to put us back at the level we were at in mid-March and enable us to make a difference once again to our players’ lives in the future, without having financial worries. As each day goes by, a substantial number of our players become further isolated so we need to be ‘ready for action’ when restrictions are lifted.

Any amount raised above £2000 will be put towards new projects (when the world returns to normal) designed to further benefit people with disabilities and learning difficulties. You can learn more about the organisation HERE and on our Facebook page.

Watch the video below to see highlights from our three years as an organisation. The video was produced for our players at the end of March to remind them of good memories from the last three years.

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