Work on the ground during the lockdown has helped develop a strong bond between supporters, volunteers, players and the management team at Frickley Athletic according to Dave Frecklington.
Frickley boss Frecklington, who has now been in charge at Westfield Lane for just over a year, has created a fairly new-look squad for the NPL Division One South East campaign.
A good team spirit can take time to establish, but Frecklington believes some good has come out of the lockdown.
“When we came into the club they wanted stability and we are all on the same page which is massively important for a manager,” Frecklington told Non League Yorkshire.
“We had a lot of changes behind the scenes in the summer and the volunteers, the staff and the supporters have worked really hard to get us a playing budget where we can at least be competitive.
“With that we want some longevity and we want to try and build the club from the bottom right to the top and if we can get some success along the way, brilliant. It is important we are competitive and winning games of football as it brings people through the gate.
“We have a good management team, a good board, the chairman is great so we are in a good place as a football club at the moment. They work really hard on the ground, the pitch and it is a really tight knit community.
“We have real togetherness and what the lockdown did is give everyone time and extra time to get to know each other better. We were socially-distancing around the ground and everyone grabbed a paint bush and a tin of paint. There were cups of teas and bacon sandwiches and it was good.
“Because the weather was pretty good to us, it allowed us to have conversations and it allowed everyone to meet the squad. Because it was a new squad it was important we tried to get those connections early on.
“I’ve been at the club over a year and mine, my management team and the players’ connection with the supporters and volunteers has been brilliant. We took good numbers to Wisbech on Saturday.
“During the Covid situation, we massively benefited from spending more time than normal together. When we started the season it felt we had been together longer. It has been a strange time and for a new group it did seem we had been together for a long, long time without playing the game.
“As a group we appreciate everything the volunteers and supporters have done for us so when we can look back (in a few years), hopefully we’ll have brought them some success and that will be a reward for all the hard work that has gone in.”
Frickley have won three out of their opening seven fixtures – a mixed start – but Frecklington admits there is mitigating reasons, ahead of the home clash with Sheffield FC on Tuesday night.
“I’d say so (that it has been a disappointing start from our own expectations) and looking at it before the season started, we wanted to get off to a decent start which we did,” he said.
“We won our first game in the FA Cup and we brought in £1500 as well. We then went to Chasetown and beat them 3-2 after being 2-0 down.
“We started the season well, but then our next game was the FA Cup and we got knocked out of that. We then lost three really key players (to injury), right down the spine of the team, which affected us against Belper and we also had the ‘keeper sending off against Carlton.
“Kern Miller, our centre-half who we brought in as a leader, Nathan Hotte who is captain, and Brad Grayson. They are three really key players and they’d get in a lot of teams in the league above, never mind our league.
“We haven’t got the finances to get like for like so you having to ask players to step in and we were making basic errors. It wasn’t a case of being dominated by teams, we just pressed the self-destruct button.
“There was a lot of factors that had gone into the three games we had lost on the spin in the league. I was disappointed with the goals we conceded, especially from set-pieces.
“We basically had to work harder in setting up a certain way and we had to bring one-or-two in for the weekend and we got our just rewards at Wisbech. We knew if we cut out the individual errors and took our chances, we knew we would soon turn the corner.
“We now need to back up Saturday’s performance and get back-to-back wins. If we win Tuesday, that’s three wins from six and that’s a 50% win ratio and you have to get those numbers to be competitive.
“We believe we can go into any game and win. We want to finish as high as we can and if we get our strongest eleven out then we know we have a chance of competing in every game.
“We need to get our players back fit. We lost Kern Miller again on Saturday, he went down with a hamstring problem, Nathan Jarman pulled his quad before the game last week. So we’re four or five players down, two are isolating because they have symptoms so it has been a frustrating start on-and-off-the-pitch, but you have to knuckle down and carry on.”
With coronavirus rates increasing across the UK and Europe, doubts are heightening over whether the season will actually finish.
Leagues around the country are already in turmoil due to postponements as clubs are having to stop playing because multiple players are either self-isolating for precautionary reasons or because they are have symptoms.
If Liverpool is placed in the expected Tier 3 lockdown, that potentially places the NPL and North West Counties in a difficult position as it could render numerous clubs out of action for the foreseeable future.
Frecklington is realistic about the coming months and would not be surprised if the campaign is not finished – he hopes not though.
“I just think it is going to be an ongoing situation and process that we have no control over,” he said.
“That’s the frustrating thing. You used to worry about the weather and rain. Now you can do all the preparation you like and you could get a phone call saying the game is off because of Covid.
“Only when you get to the ground on a match-day that you can really settle into football mode. It is a very strange situation and we’ve already seen a lot of postponements.
“If we can get through this season then as a whole it will be a massive achievement. But nobody knows what is around the corner.
“If you look at the National League, I think that’s a farce how that has been handled. For us, we started with the FA Cup and we’ve played six league games.
“If games start to get cancelled on a regular basis then I think they should just cancel the season. You might only have teams who have played three games and some who have played ten. It would become a total mess.
“As much as it would disappoint me, we’re in a pandemic and until there is a vaccine or it is all cleared up, football isn’t that important. It is to the local community and everyone connected with the game though.
“If it is chaos until Christmas then a big decision has to be made. Fingers crossed we don’t get to that stage and we see the season out and have a successful one.”
If you have enjoyed reading Non League Yorkshire over the past few months, 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. As we slowly return to ‘action’, 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 because of the cancelled Lucille Rollinson Memorial Tournament, we are down on projected income for the year and we have incurred losses in the last few months.
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. Several of our players are suffering from effects of the lockdown and we are determined to be in the strongest position possible to provide services for them.
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.