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HERALD EXPRESS - FANS' ZONE 11/07/2020



HAVE WE SEEN THE LAST OF THE MAGIC OF THE FA CUP?


With a significant number of lockdown restrictions being eased from last Saturday all football clubs and their supporters wait to find out when stadiums will once again be open for crowds to return. It’s a long waiting game.

Gulls’ boss Gary Johnson is pinning his hopes on pre-season training starting next month and that predisposes that National League fixtures will be on the calendar for some time in September but the FA have already stated that Non-League matches cannot be played behind closed doors - and what club at our level could cope financially without paying customers?

Clubs, though, have been asked to prepare an action plan to ensure their ground is Covid-19 secure.  Before League matches begin what’s the story about the FA Cup for season 2020-21? Some sources claim there will be no replays up to Round 3 or possibly none at all. Remember there are six qualifying rounds, including the extra preliminary round and last year the FA Cup journey began on August 14.

Will the magic of the FA Cup be lost forever if it cannot be played as we’ve all come to love? The match report of last week’s Newcastle United v Manchester City quarter-final in a national newspaper tells of no drama, no sense of occasion, no noise, no thrills and concludes,” quite frankly, if a competition which has earned its place in the nation’s heart because we crave shocks and upsets is going to be played behind closed doors again next season, do not bother playing it at all.”

Meanwhile the National League play-offs are due to be played later this month - starting with Boreham Wood v Halifax on July 17 - and although the Premier League have given £200,000 to help pay for Covid-19 testing my guess is that all these clubs - remember chasing just one EFL place - will be financially out of pocket and what impact will there be for the five clubs which aren’t promoted?

They’ve already discovered, as Boreham Wood did when they tried to sign Chesterfield keeper Shwan Jalal recently, that they can’t register any new players who weren’t already signed up by March 16. And last week Barnet released four key squad players.


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With all kinds of businesses shedding employees as the repercussions of lockdown bite, it was probably not a shock that an EFL club went into administration last week, although nobody might have guessed it would be Wigan Athletic, being the first of many more predicted.

These are depressing times for football supporters with their local team the life-blood of their communities, as a vital focal point for friends and families to meet.


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When Clarke Osborne took over the club one of his stated goals was to build a new stadium for use in 2020. Last October he scrapped plans for a 10,000 seater arena at Nightingale Park stating that should the club return to the EFL in the next few years it would be at Plainmoor.

Torbay Council has recently submitted a bid to Network Rail and the Department of Transport for a new Torquay Gateway railway station at Edginswell, for a share of a £20 million to fund it.

The project, which could be completed by 2024, would include over 500 homes, commercial space, a school and in the Local Plan the Council expects to facilitate ‘ a suitable range of recreational, leisure and tourism facilities’.

With a new railway station could this include a new stadium for Torquay United?


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With Gary Johnson continuing to confirm he’s after two or three experienced players on his shopping list, what chance for his hopes of re-signing some previous loan players - Connor Lemonheigh- Evans maybe - now that his son, Lee, has lost his job at Bristol City?


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Regular readers of this column will know I’ve been pressing the club to hold Player of the Season and Young Player awards so it is good to learn that voting is now open. Check the club’s official site for details.

Maybe the other frequent topic - season tickets - will be addressed soon. Talking of which Yeovil Town’s Ticket Office manager contacted me last week with an update of their policy: any outstanding amount owed on season tickets has been automatically credited to supporters’ accounts which can be used against future ticket purchases; there’s also an option to donate the value to the club or have a refund. Seems pretty clear and straightforward underlining the relationship between club and supporters.

To this end the Non-League Paper has teamed up with the Football Supporters’ Association to launch a ‘return to football’ survey which will allow supporters to share their views on the game’s restart by going to: bit.ly/non-league-survey.  It’s very quick and easy to complete so please contribute. Results on July 19.


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Last week’s fun question asked how many clubs has Neil Warnock managed? Congratulations if you answered 18. Starting in 1980 at Gainsborough Trinity, there’s a long list, including Torquay United in 1993 and now Middlesborough.

Who would you like to see take the second promotion place to the EFL? A return for former League clubs, Notts County or Yeovil Town or Barnet or maybe FC Halifax Town? Or perhaps one out of Boreham Wood and Harrogate Town who have never been in the Football League?  Send me your choice to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com


To all the Yellow Army stay safe.


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Nick Brodrick, TUST board member and Supporter Liaison Officer, writes a weekly column for the Herald Express under the heading "Fans' Zone". Keep an eye out for next weeks edition in the paper on Wednesday.


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