Robin Hood Athletic manager Mathew Wright felt it was imperative the West Yorkshire League created a cup competition for their member clubs after the hard winter lockdown.
Wright expects Hood to be competing in a league-style cup with 11 or 12 of the Premier Division teams playing each other once, starting on April 10th.
Apart from playing one match during the ill-conceived December restart, Hood have not enjoyed a run of matches since the end of October like everyone else across the region.
Now with a clear plan for April and beyond, Wright is looking forward and he expects the competition to be a boost for everyone.
“It is something to look forward to and for me it is about getting smiles on faces and getting that structure and social side back,” Wright told Non League Yorkshire.
“I read (Dodworth Miners Welfare manager) Darren Young’s article and he has similar views to me that it is about getting back enjoying it and getting that structure back.
“This lockdown has been so hard because it has been winter and dark so you haven’t been able to get out of the house whereas last summer everyone was able to go out for walks in the countryside.
“It has been hard on everyone. There’s been rainy nights so all we have been able to do is look at four walls.
“I’m lucky that I go to work every-day so I get out and see people. Some people have been told to work from home so they don’t see anyone and they are communicating by email and it is tough.
“That’s why I do think it is important we get back playing because the social interaction is important for everyone’s mental health.
“Someone from the league asked me for my views and I said that if we didn’t do anything then it would be another three months without anything and I didn’t think that would be a good thing.
“It is just so important getting people back out there interacting and that’s the spectators, volunteers and the players.”
The Step 7 world is totally different to the vast majority of the Non League football world in the sense players play for enjoyment and without financial reward.
Wright says the social aspect is integral and he believes the restrictions have damaged the ethos of Step 7 football.
“If you had anything about you, you probably understood that the season wasn’t going to finish and because of that this year no-one has had the full football experience,” he said.
“You couldn’t go in the pub or bar; the changing rooms have been restricted too and my lads have been quite keen to come back which suggests they have missed the enjoyment of football.
“Football is about the whole experience.
“People don’t want to come changed, they want to be in the changing room and after the game they want to have a beer in the bar after.
“You play football to be around lads and have that banter and team spirit.
“With the rules of you had to turn up changed or get changed in groups of four and after you had to go straight home and not go for a drink; the lads were missing the routine they were accustomed to – some for 20 years.
“Keeping the boys motivated has been hard because you have to dangle that carrot of ‘we have a good team and we can achieve a lot’. Luckily we have a great group and I’m looking forward to the future.
“But if we hadn’t, I could have seen some of them thinking ‘you know what I’m getting older my family is my priority’ because the social element is gone. To some players it is more than kicking a ball.
“Everyone enjoyed the playing side between August and October, but no-one enjoyed the before and after. If you can’t have that interaction before and after then it knocks the fun out of it.
“You could play golf for a longer period and socialise with people without any issues.
“At our level, football is lot more than playing football. That’s been lost at a higher level.
“I’ve been reading your stories and I read the Phil Sharpe one in which he said he saw that players (at Non League level) tend not to go into the bar after a game anymore.
“At our level you still get people going in and it is a key part of the experience. Our lads have missed that.
“We’re not going to get the full experience back straightaway, but there’s a route out of this with the vaccinations and once we’re vaccinated they are saying we’ll go back to life with normality in June.”
Robin Hood were mid-table when the Premier Division season was consigned to the dustbin and Wright hopes his Hood side can have a strong campaign in the cup.
“We want to finish as high as we can and if there is a league of 12 I definitely want to finish in the top half,” he said.
“I think getting as close to Ilkley, Beeston and Field as possible is achievable.
“Those three teams were the strongest sides in our league this year and I think they will be strong in this cup competition.
“We want to be competitive and I feel we have built a squad which is competitive and I felt we did well before the season was curtailed.”