07:15PM, Wednesday 10 February 2021
Maids skipper Phil Cowell remains hopeful the team will return to competitive action this season, with England Hockey and the Southern Hockey League waiting on further guidance from Government over the easing of lockdown restrictions before deciding if and when matches can resume.
Cowell is confident his teammates will want to get back on the field, as and when it’s safe to do so, but it’s unclear at present whether restrictions will be eased sufficiently to enable matches to resume, or if promotion and relegation will be maintained – with a full season of matches now extremely unlikely.
Cowell’s best guess is that hockey will resume in a competitive capacity from early to mid-April, with matches continuing through to May. Each side will play each other once, either home or away and placings will be tallied on the results of just 11 matches. Maids are currently sixth in MBBO Premier Division 2 West having won three and lost three of their seven matches to date.
“We received an email on Sunday that was basically saying it’s not realistic for the restart to be at the end of February,” he said. “They’re creating a new England Hockey Conference, and they want to take two teams from the Southern Premier 1 (the league above Maidenhead's). So, I know they would like to try and get the season finished, because two teams would go up from Premier 1 and this would mean two teams would need to go up from our league as well.
“England Hockey are going to make a statement on February 15, but our league is going to wait for the Government’s update on February 22. They will then advise us accordingly.
“If hockey can resume, one thing they’re looking at is restarting the league on April 10 and playing through to the middle of May. Each team would have to play 11 matches, and everyone would have played each other once.
“For me that would be disappointing because we wouldn’t be able to play all the games. Obviously, that’s unrealistic now. But we’ve already played teams like Woking away and other teams we would have backed ourselves to beat at home, and we’re not now going to get the chance to turn those results around. It’s disappointing but I can see why they want to try and get some sort of league season in. I am, however, slightly confused as to whether they’re going to have promotion and relegation at all. Because within the email it said that if we wanted to withdraw from playing matches we could do so without any penalty. I guess we will just have to wait and see what they come up with.”
On the players’ eagerness to return to action, Cowell added: “As long as everything has calmed down and it’s safe to do so.
“We put a message in the group chat for the boys and they all seemed keen to get some hockey back going again.
“We said once we know the confirmed details, from England Hockey and the league, then we’d get an availability list out and find out who’s available for those dates. Then based on that, we would have to decide to go forward and play them.
“I think most people sounded keen to be playing because we’ve been stuck without any hockey for a while now. It would be good to get back on the pitch even if it were just for some friendlies.”
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