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HERALD EXPRESS - FANS' ZONE 01/08/2020



AN OCTOBER START FOR THE NEW SEASON BUT LEADERSHIP, EXPERIENCE AND COMPETITION ALL OVER THE PITCH


Well now we know, as the National League confirms that the 2020-21 season will not begin until Saturday October 3 and then with “significantly reduced capacity.” That decision will clearly affect the start of pre-season training but more importantly the survival of many non-league clubs.


With the likelihood of reduced capacities for the foreseeable future one has to ask the question: will a number of clubs go out of business?  Not only will there be reduced income from gate receipts but add in the additional safety costs and for many this could be a financial step too far.


Even for those fans who are allowed into grounds the Sports Grounds Safety Authority has issued draft guidance - 84 pages - to authorities to draw up a Spectator Code of Conduct.  In it supporters will be warned about taking care whilst shouting, singing and celebrating adding, “Remain in your seat or place at all times wherever possible.” There were pictures over the week-end of the Danish derby between Brondby and FC Copenhagen where fans had to sit four seats apart.


There are going to be many club owners and directors who will be having some serious decisions to make. These really are unprecedented times.


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To lighten the moment, for football fans all over there’s nothing like your club announcing a new signing, especially before the start of a new season, and Gary Johnson did his best to quicken our heart rates and whet our appetites for the 2020-21 campaign when he revealed not one capture but five!


First to be confirmed were Danny Wright, as many had guessed, and Andrew Nelson who was a total surprise. These two, then, are the strike force to hopefully propel the Gulls to the promised land.


Reading back over the Boss’s comments on ‘Inside Plainmoor’ I think he’s been toying with us, giving clues along the way. At the beginning of the month he referred to replacing Jamie Reid with ‘strikers’ and emphasising the midfield players - he then named - to provide the ammunition as well as being goal-scorers themselves. So with two ‘up top’ - a different attacking style?


On Monday not only were two experienced centre-halves - Gary Warren and Fraser Kerr - confirmed but, also, the manager underlined their leadership qualities. At six feet plus these two will add height at the back and at set pieces.


With an attacking mid-fielder the last part of the new jigsaw due to be named yesterday there’s going to be, as Johnson says, “competition all over the pitch.”

All credit to Clarke Osborne for backing the manager with a full squad before a ball’s been kicked.


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So what’s happening in the National League? The Board are this week discussing, as are the EFL, the possibility of introducing a salary cap following Covid-19 “shining a stark light on the financial turmoil in football.” We know that on Sunday at Wembley it’s either Notts County, looking for a swift return, or Harrogate Town, looking to join for the first time ever, fighting over the coveted one EFL place.


For the teams that didn’t make it through the play-offs will there be a dip in form not to mention a financial burden? Rumours that Barnet manager, Darren Currie, is favourite for the Southend job while FC Halifax have already released five with two on the transfer list and Stockport County, who were jumped by Barnet for the last play-off place, have been busy in the transfer market with some interesting signings including Barrow’s goal-scoring striker, John Rooney; maybe an early bookmakers’ tip for promotion?


Chesterfield are expecting to complete the transfer of the ownership of the club to the Chesterfield FC Community Trust by the weekend.


And ex-Gull, Nathan Blissett will be leading Maidenhead’s front line in the coming season. Now there’s one place left in the National League system with either one team less in either the North or South divisions. Bury, who went out of the EFL last season, are waiting to find out this week if they’ll be allowed to take that vacancy as the National League & FA decide, meanwhile a phoenix club, Bury AFC, will play in the North-West Counties League Division 1 North.


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Who’s joining the National League? Wealdstone as South Champions and King’s Lynn from the North with either Weymouth or Dartford from the South or North’s Altrincham or Boston.


Let’s take a look at a team the Gulls have never played - King’s Lynn.  The original club, known as King’s Lynn FC, was liquidated in 2009 but returned the following year as King’s Lynn Town FC, starting again in the United Counties League. In 2012 they were promoted to the Northern Premier Division 1 and went up again the following season into the Premier Division. By the end of season 2018-19 The Linnets were promoted into the National North and now they start their new campaign in the National League, one step away from the EFL; not bad for a club that’s only been in existence for 10 years.


The Yellow Army’s visit to The Walks promises not only a new ground to see but also a formidable one too - their promotions were helped by a home form when they went from September 2018 until February 2020 before being beaten.  Manager, Ian Culverhouse, ex-Norwich star, was National North Manager of the Season. The west end of The Walks was originally called the ‘seven sisters’ end due to the seven lime trees - now felled - and since 2016 is the ‘Mick Wright End’ named after the former player who made an astonishing 1,152 appearances!


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King’s Lynn also appear in the Top Ten of weird reasons for match postponements. They had to postpone their Eastern Counties League match at home to Gorleston in October 1937 due to a “noxious stench lingering in the air” as the Norfolk Press reported after a group of local farmers had been over-zealous in their muck spreading!


Now as it happens Torquay United also figure in the Top Ten with the Bonnie Tyler themed, “Total Eclipse …. of the Game”. The Gulls were due to host Portsmouth on August 11 1999 in the League Cup but Devon Police, expecting a large number of visiting supporters, had the match delayed by a week all because of the solar eclipse which was probably a better view as the 1st Leg game when played was 0-0.


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We, at TUST, are sorry to learn that Peter Jones, chairman of the Wrexham Supporters’ Trust is stepping down from his role and position on the football board next month. Peter has been a very helpful ally, always available with wise words and advice.


You can contact me at: fanszone.tu@gmail.com.  To all the Yellow Army stay safe.



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