As a new month starts, I hope this finds you well and coping as best as possible with the ever-changing circumstances we find ourselves in.
Normally, at this time of year, we would be busily preparing for the new season. There would be news of new signings, fond farewells to others, season tickets being sold, pre-season friendlies being arranged – the list goes on.
As it is our wonderful stadium stands empty, quiet for the first time since it opened eight years ago.
Sport in this country is starting to emerge from lockdown. The Premier League is set to resume on the 17th of June and the Championship is targeting a return days later. We saw the first horse race for ten weeks at Newcastle this afternoon and there is a snooker tournament in Milton Keynes – all behind closed doors.
None of the above will look and feel anything like we’re used to. We will all be watching with great interest, not just for the sport but how it operates.
Today marks the start of Volunteers’ Week. The annual awareness campaign is an opportunity to thank all those who give their time freely. This year many will pay tribute to everyone who has stepped up during this Coronavirus pandemic. I’d echo those but would also like to thank our club’s star volunteers.
Like so many organisations, we are indebted to those who do so much at the club on a voluntary basis. From running the club shop and filming/photographing matches to managing and coaching one of our many teams, several hours a week all contribute to the success of this club.
My gratitude to those running our teams is all the greater this year as many have given their time only to see the reward snatched by the lockdown.
Compared to what some families have been through during this crisis, I am sure all our managers and coaches would acknowledge their disappointment and frustration is polar opposite but I would like to take this moment to acknowledge their efforts and thank them wholeheartedly on behalf of the directors, as well as the players and their families.
If only it was as simple as turning up an hour before, scribbling some names on a sheet, quartering some oranges and giving a rabble-rousing team talk.
There’s all the admin, travel arrangements, training, tactics, first aid courses, safeguarding and welfare considerations – it’s a task and a half nowadays, totally different to when I started out playing and managing.
Our women’s first team and development squad, the under-23s and several youth sides were on course or tantalising close to securing a league title or enjoying cup success.
For anyone involved in sport, to now call up that season’s results or league table and see nothing is a real gut-wrencher.
Those who managed and played for those sides will remember where they were when lockdown started and should take pride in what they achieved.
In my career as a player, manager, administrator and chief executive, I’ve had some low points in this game. It is even worse when those low points are through officialdom rather than results on the pitch.
My advice would be to regroup and redouble our efforts for next season, whenever that might be, and hopefully continue where we were forced to leave off.
Thank you once again to everyone who volunteers at the club, it is so appreciated.
To you all, stay safe and I look forward to the day we can all get together again.