01:00PM, Friday 03 April 2020
For the first time in 11 years as a manager Neil Baker doesn’t know what to do to try and keep his football club ahead of the curve.
The coronavirus has thrown everything up in the air and, while football isn’t at the top of his priority list at the moment, it’s still disconcerting.
Slough Town’s joint boss is used to working from home but he’s missing the interaction and social side of being a football manager, and, like everyone else in the country whether they follow a Premier League or non league club, he doesn’t know when it will resume.
This week the National League announced it was suspending the season indefinitely, but that organisation is waiting for a steer from the FA, Premier League and EFL over what they should do next.
Baker believes they'll wait to see what happens with the coronavirus over the coming weeks, but the options are fairly simply.
Wait it out and try to finish the campaign, or cancel it now.
There’s mounting pressure from different sides over what to do, with various teams in the null and void camp and others hoping for relegations and promotions to be honoured.
“Football is not important in the grand scheme of things,” said Baker. “But people also still like to talk about football because it stops them from talking about COVID-19.
“The National League will wait to get a grip on what the Premier League and EFL are doing, and will then follow suit I think. It’s a very difficult situation because of the size of the football pyramid. It’s all interlinked and it’s very difficult for one league to do one thing and someone else to do another.
“I’m surprised that step three and down has been cancelled, because there’s so many legal ramifications that could come off the back of that. But we’ve never been in a situation like this and no one really knows how to deal with it. It’s difficult for the people making the decisions and I don’t envy them one bit.”
It might not happen, and Baker says the club will just have to accept that, but he remains hopeful they can finish off what they started.
“If it means our season is cancelled, yes, we’ll be gutted because we would have finished in the play-offs,” he said.
“And would then have had the chance of getting into the National Prem.
“But if it’s cancelled then so be it. We’ll just have to take it on the chin and go again.
“The FA will need to show some flexibility, which they’ve not really been in the past. They’ll just have to adapt because things are going to be different for the next 18 months I think.
“Hopefully we’ll get the chance to finish off what we’ve started, but I’ve no idea really. We think they should finish the season, and if that goes into next season then so be it.
"One thing’s for sure, I can’t see pre-season starting in July. Wimbledon has just been cancelled and that’s in the first two weeks of July so I can’t see us training then.
“The biggest concern for the FA is the Euros in 2021 and ensuring the next season is finished by then.
“Well you know what, Premier League players could play twice a week like we do in non league. Even if they started the season in October they could fit in the games. And in non league we don’t need to finish the season before the Euros. Say the season finished in August, we could resume in October and finish in June. It may create some havoc along the way but we’ll just have to deal with it.”
Whatever happens, Baker is looking forward to the day he and Jon Underwood can lead another training session and manage another match. Football, he admits, could look a lot different by then, but he believes he’ll be re-energised for it, whenever that is.
“I’m missing that interaction,” he added. “For a couple of weeks I’ve sort of enjoyed not having to think about football, because you can’t think about it. It’s just a waiting game. And there’s nothing you can do to try and get ahead of the curve.
“For the first time in 11 years I’ve really been able to switch off from it. We can’t think about next season because we don’t know when that will be, or what affect this will have on the clubs. But I know I’ll come back re-energised and ready.
“Every club is going to be affected differently. From what I know we’re in a reasonable shape. I don’t think we hold any debt which is a good position to be in.
“We also don’t own our ground so don’t have any ongoing costs there. But we’ll be missing out on income and we just don’t know how this will affect our sponsors, our season ticket sales etc. There are so many variables and unknowns.”
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