The missing diehard Non League Football fans will be at the forefront of Yorkshire Amateur joint manager Craig Ogilvie’s mind on Saturday.
Ogilvie and fellow manager Neil Sibson are preparing to lock horns with Ian Walker who brings his new-look Nostell Miners Welfare side over to Bracken Edge.
The behind closed doors pre-season fixture will be one of the first Non League Football matches to be held in the United Kingdom since March as it is a 1pm kick off. Saturday is the first opportunity for clubs to play friendlies under the new FA guidance.
But whilst delighted at the prospect of managing again, Ogilvie is crestfallen for those who cannot attend.
“It is not nice (spectators not allowed in) and I really feel for people, I really do,” Ogilvie told Non League Yorkshire.
“It won’t be the same without them and there is a lot of people in our league who watch games all over the place and they’re not going to be able to do that (during August).
“There’s people who watch games every night of the week. They are also the people paying their £5’s to get in and then their £3’s for a pint and that’s revenue clubs rely on.
“There’s a lot of things in the media about people’s mental health and it can affect people in that manner. Some people use sport as a release and something to get out of the house for.
“There are some real diehard spectators out there and not being able to watch games is a massive chuck out of their life.
“It would be great to have the first friendly on Saturday and have 150 people coming to watch, it really would. The quicker that spectators can return the better.
“On a personal level, I’m looking forward to getting going again and seeing a game of football with my own eyes, it has felt like ages.
“The last game was mid-March and it is going to be great to get everyone together and play a game of football.
“It is strange that we’re going to be one of the first Non League games played in the country since March, but it has been unprecedented times. Until the last few weeks no-one has known when we may start playing again.
“I’d like to think Saturday is the start of the return to normality. Now you have 22 lads playing a contact sport; that’s a good sign in my opinion because I thought football might have been the last thing to come back.”
The visit of Nostell is the start of a month-long pre-season fixture schedule in preparation for the new Toolstation NCEL Premier Division campaign.
The FA are preparing for a ‘normal’ season – without the league and local cups – with a finish in May.
Some have expressed doubts over the actual likelihood of the season actually finishing, given the danger of local lockdowns and bad weather, and suggested different league formats.
Ogilvie believes nothing should change, but insists FA should set their Armageddon solutions out sooner rather than later to avoid a repeat of March’s null-and-void debacle.
“I think we should go down the route of having full league season and just see how it goes,” he said.
“I think as long as there is a clear message from the FA what will happened if it ends being reduce, we just have to go with it and see what happens.
“I’m not a doctor, but cases seem to go be going down. Of course there might be a second spike, but whatever way you organise the season you have that risk.
“I think as long as the FA set out from the start the ruling at least we all know where we stand.
“So if the FA say ‘if we don’t through three quarters of the season then it gets scrapped or points-per-game’ then no-one can have a gripe.
“Last season the FA said we (the whole of Non League Football) are under one umbrella and that clearly wasn’t the case (because the National League finished with points-per-game).”
The Ammers squad is very similar to last season’s, with players such as Adam Priestley, Leon Henry, Ryan Serrant, Ash Flynn and Matt Dempsey among those staying.
Five players have departed, but those departures have been offset with the arrivals of Brad Dixon, Joe Thornton, Ross Killock, Casey Stewart, Danny Naidole and Garforth Town’s captain marvel James Beaston and Ogilvie says he and Sibson are pleased with their recruitment.
“Once as we signed Casey (Stewart) from Selby, that was pretty much us shut up shop,” he said.
“You get the odd one who contacts you and if you feel they are going to massively improve you then obviously you listen. But on a whole we are pretty much done. It is a strong squad.
“It is bit strange because a lot of people have said ‘you’ve signed a lot of players’, but on the flip side we did lose five influential players before pre-season started.
“Adam Field and Ross Daly both left to go to Liversedge, Niall Heaton couldn’t commit because of work commitments, T’nique Fishley has gone to Brighouse and Aiden Savory has left.
“People associate us with just going out and grabbing loads of players, but we have actually had a bit of reshuffle. They are five key players we had to replace and I think we have. Myself and Neil couldn’t be happier with where we are.
“When we heard about certain personnel leaving it does a gaping hole, but hopefully we have replaced them. We’ve brought in people who want to work hard and in some cases prove a point (that they can play in the NCEL).
“We’ve told the squad that no-one is guaranteed a starting spot and to use pre-season to prove they want to start. Not one player has been given guarantees and I don’t think you can when you have a strong squad like we have.
“We have healthy competition, that’s a key thing that we have tried to bring in and that’s gives myself and Neil a nice dilemma when the season starts.”
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.