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Covid-SW19

UPDATE: With impeccable timing, the OS has an update. I’ll do another update in due course, but the proposed opening date of NPL is two days before my birthday and when I’ll be in Tirana…I forget where I stole that headline, but it’s a goodun…

Ah, Easter. A time for overpriced chocolate eggs, unpredictable weather and, in the case of AFCW, a lousy few days results wise.

Just think, in ordinary times we would be looking forward to Sunderland at KM today, then Wycombe on Easter Monday. On past form, we would have lost them both…

We never seem to do well this time of year traditionally. It’s always that stage of the season where all I can ever remember are losses and shite performances.

Even as far back as 1986/87, your editor remembers going to the old Manor Ground and watching us shit the bed. Nothing really changes, especially when we face Oxford.

Of course, this time of the year also gave us THAT Barnet game

So on one hand, I can’t really say I’m missing the football right now. That said, I have lost about 2/3rds of my income, and have to wait until June to get back what I’ve dipped out on. So the sooner we’re back, the better.

That’s going to be some while off, as training isn’t due to resume until 16 May at the earliest.

The current intention is to somehow – somehow – finish the season off. Right now, with CV19 at its peak (or close to it), that seems inconsequential and even a tad callous.

By mid-May though, when the worst is hopefully over, Coronavirus fatigue is setting in and you have a large number of people simply fed up and wanting to return to some normality, there may well be an increased appetite for it.

It was supposed to be the Summer of Sport, but now it’s the Summer of No Sport.

And yes, this will have the backdrop of a nasty death toll. But everyone seems to have been primed for that exact scenario, so don’t be surprised if that’s just greeted with widespread de-sensitivity.

Will clubs want to finish it in such circumstances though? It’s telling that nobody who can make that decision seems to want a curtailed season, and even now they’re still adamant it will finish.

I think that’s as much financial as anything. Incomes have slumped, the costs of running a football club haven’t gone away, and furloughing** may only be a partial solution.

** – we haven’t officially announced we’ve done that, have we? Would make sense if we have, let the state pay for some of our squad.

Unsurprisingly, the £125m from the Prem isn’t quite as straightforward either, and while that gets sorted out – there’s going to be some cold sweating going on right now.

Especially if a return will (almost inevitably) be behind closed doors. Although this proposal of needing to prove you’re healthy went under the radar a bit. They’ll have to pay player wages again, but they won’t get any income from fans being in the ground.

Personally, I think unless they can actually start training again mid-May, and get the season completed in June/July, we’re looking at Bolton being our last game of 19/20. And that’s when the fun and games really start…

What does this mean for AFCW though? According to this interview with Ivor Heller earlier in the week, it hasn’t affected us as much as it has others. Sure, it’s not ideal at all, but we might be in an odd situation next season where we’re guaranteed mid-table because half the teams are in admin**.

** – over the years, I’ve tended to take a lot of these “clubs are set to collapse” predictions with a large pinch of sodium chloride. Clubs folding are actually very rare, which is why Bury’s demise was a genuine shock, and I do expect some bailouts aplenty to prop up sides in the next few weeks.

And no, I don’t expect the amount paid on player wages in future to drop that much…

While I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about this squad returning in June/July with one man and his quarantined dog watching, if we do at least we’re heading back to normal life.

If 19/20 does get truncated, it will be six months in total without football. That said, I would expect some pre-season friendlies to be starting in July/August (as IMO 2020/21 will start afresh in September).

Never will so many people look forward to a glorified training session at GGL. They might even allow us a beer by then.

The most important thing as far as AFCW is concerned is NPL continuing to take shape. Apparently, the government have been contacting construction firms to advise them they can still work, and providing all safety considerations are adhered to, we’d be wise taking advantage of that.

It’s not just us, by the way – Pompey are doing likewise too.

I don’t know if ourselves, Buckingham, or anyone else have to pay compensation for delays in completion, but I get the feeling this project has taken so long that Buckingham in particular just want the whole thing finished ASAP.

By the sound of it, both the pitch and the other three stands aren’t lockdown-sensitive, which leaves the west stand. And thanks to the OS and a picture from the Met Police a couple of days previously, we can see that progression is continuing on that too.

Manpower and supplies are presumably the issues right now, although your editor passed NPL this week and there was some new material already delivered that wasn’t there the previous week.

Plus, with something like the west stand, there’s a lot going on/to do that you can’t see from the outside. The cladding on the ground floor is a good sign, certainly.

The above interview suggesting we may end up slipping behind (from being ahead of schedule, according to Joe Palmer last month) isn’t what you want to hear, but with everything going on, that might be a small price to pay.

Finalising this sodding loan – apparently we were very close to signing it before CV19 hit – remains that one final hurdle, and the financial market is pretty much on lockdown itself over this kind of thing.

I expect we’ll end up having to sign on increased unfavourable terms, but by that stage I expect we’ll stop caring.

NPL has proven to be something where just when you think we’ve got a clear run on it, yet another hurdle pops up. This latest one was potentially the cruelest of the lot, as it was nothing to do with football, finance or politicians.

At the very least, we can capitalise on Euro2021, the Olympics and other such sporting contests now penciled in for next year at the new Sportsman.

We deserve that final bit of luck over this. And if it’s completed by September, and the season starts back by then, maybe we’ll finally have had it..

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