Maidenhead United cautiously preparing for new National League campaign

There is still plenty of uncertainty over when the new National League season will start, however, Maidenhead United – and plenty of other teams in the same boat – are having to think about pulling together a squad and putting plans in place for the new campaign.

At present the National League’s focus is split between completing the current season - with play-off matches in its three divisions set to start this month and conclude at the beginning of August – however, it’s also keen to provide more clarity over when the new season will kick-off.

Three weeks ago National League clubs were told to start preparing for a September start, however, it remains to be seen whether this is feasible, with social distancing measures still very in place for most clubs. The play-offs are progressing as planned this month but only because clubs are paying for COVID-19 tests and putting measures in place to ensure their grounds are safe to use.

“There is still lots of uncertainty over when the season will start,” said Adams. “They gave us an indication that football might start again in September but we’ve heard nothing on that since then. But we have to plan on the basis that it might start then should that be the chosen date.

“The league’s focus has been on the play-offs and finishing the current season, but we’re beginning to focus on beginning the new season and being prepared for pre-season as and when that might be. This means we’ve been in discussions with players we want to keep and release and we’re starting to do that and Dev is at the early stages of thinking about pulling together a squad for next season.

“We haven’t yet been given any information about how we might deliver pre-season training. But at some point in time, if we’re looking to get the season up and running, there will have to be a point where the players come back for contact training. It will be very different to what we’ve got planned for our community programme, but we don’t know how yet so we need to be in a position to adapt and change to make sure we’re operating within the guidelines we’ve been provided.”

Magpies CEO Jon Adams admits procedures and measures will be in place when the club finally returns to competitive action, but feels it’s wrong to speculate on what they might be at this. He thinks it’s unlikely clubs will have to regularly test players ahead of and during the new season, but says the club must be prepared for whatever advice is issued by the league and government.

“The truth is that professional football is up and running again,” he said. “And that involves contact training. The challenge we’ve got is how we’re going to adapt in terms of keeping the players and coaches safe during training and then matches.

“I’m sure the requirements will be different to what we’ve had in the past and we have to be ready for that. We’re not expecting to be in a position where we’re required to test players for COVID, but the truth is that for the play-offs, right down to Slough Town’s level they’ve been testing. At the moment they’re approaching it in a very similar way to the EFL in terms of requirements, but in a couple of months hopefully we won’t have to do that because it would have a significant implication at our level in terms of costs. It would be difficult for us to consider doing it, but we’ll have to wait and see what we’re being asked to do at the time and at the moment it’s wrong to speculate.”

This week the club confirmed eight players were moving on this summer, including Josh Kelly, Joe Ellul and Danny Whitehall, however, Adams hopes that if and when the club moves to its new home in Braywick Park it will be a full-time club with the facilities and revenue streams to attract better quality players and tie them down to longer contracts.

“We’re continuing to progress out discussions and planning for the move and COVID hasn’t really impacted that progress or the timetables we’re working to,” added Adams. “But the reality is that COVID has shown us now more than ever that we need to move to a model where we have a sustainable range of income streams to make the club more secure in the long term.

“If we can deliver this project with the additional facilities that we’re proposing then we’re going to be able to move to a much more stable place, where we’re not reliant on the chairman to put money in specifically to keep the club afloat. It then creates all sorts of opportunities for us in terms of attracting better quality players because of the nature of our facilities, but also in terms of giving us a basis to grow and move forward.”

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