Cheltenham Town Ladies manager Tom Davies is fearful over the potential outcomes for the remainder of the Division One South West season.
It’s been 70 days since Cheltenham Town Ladies were last in action due to the announcement of a third UK Lockdown at the end of 2020.
It’s been challenging times for teams up and down the country and Cheltenham are no exception, with everyone at the club desperate to get back in action as the vaccine rollout brings hope of a post-Covid world.
“From a realistic point of view, it’s going to be very difficult to finish the complete season.” said Davies. “As much as we all want to get back and get playing, we had a conversation about where we are at with it.
“We’ve got 15 games left to play without the FA Cup, without any interference with covid, without bad weather. We have to play at least 12 of them on a weekend. We can’t play Exeter, Southampton and Buckland on Tuesday nights as they’re three hours drives. If the possibility allows itself that we can go and do that, 100% we want to be playing fixtures straight away.”
“We will train, enjoy ourselves and whatever the league and clubs decide we will take. We will play as many or as little fixtures as we are told to.”
How the season will be resolved remains to be seen, the Women’s Super League and Championship were decided on points per game [PPG] last season but Davies wouldn’t welcome this under current circumstances.
“This season, if we have to play those games it is not a problem but we can’t do PPG. We’ve played five, some have played three or four. There’s no way that can be decided now. It is what it is and we will take whatever happens on the chin.
“I’m more open to it [null and void] this season than last season. It’s not our decision so we get on with it. We want to play competitive football as soon as possible, whether it be this season or the next.”
Given the lockdown, Davies and everyone at Cheltenham Town Ladies have spent a long time apart.
As a part-time club, that escape from the weekly nine to five comes in the form of training on two evenings a week and the thrill of a matchday on Sundays.
The community feeling has now come in the form of the usual WhatsApp group as well as sharing Strava times – with the players looking to keep on top of their fitness.
“It hasn’t got that competitive!” laughs Davies. “Mainly because Abby [Bevan] is a personal trainer and she’s a bit ridiculous at the best of times. She’s out there running marathons and stuff, it’s like Abby and the rest.
“We’ve been support for each other and helped each other. Ultimately, we’ve kept that drive to keep going and just worked with each other to make sure everybody is still fit and healthy – both physically and mentally.
“The delight of players telling me, ‘I’ve beaten my time by 15 seconds they aren’t bothered what anyone else is doing! They’re so motivated to be the best person they can be to contribute to the team and it’s such a refreshing culture. Actually, players are looking at themselves but doing it for the purpose of the team”
With the Government expected to lay out a road map shortly which would see the return of grassroots football, Davies is optimistic for what the future could hold and can’t wait to get back to it:
“The biggest thing we have is about people. Just seeing people and being with our group, we call it our little family so it’s difficult. Every single one of the players and staff not seeing each other – it has an impact. We are kind of that third home, we aren’t home or work, we are that place that is really important to so many people.
“It’s one of those things that when something gets taken away you say you’re gonna enjoy it more when you come back, but we know we will! We know how much it meant to us in the first place and we never lost that love.
“It’s those Tuesdays and Thursdays that actually, we forgot to enjoy as much as we wanted to. We are going to learn to enjoy the process as much as the result more when we go back.
“To get back to that is huge, we live for competitive football. We are all competitive beings and want to be back as soon as possible. I think it’ll be a couple of weeks after the end of lockdown.
“There will probably be hoops to jump through in terms of facilities, areas, and tiers as we are spread across Midlands, Bristol, Swindon, Cheltenham and Worcester.
“Ultimately, spending time with each other again is really important for us and we will do it as soon as we are allowed to.”