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HERALD EXPRESS - FANS' ZONE 18/07/2020




FOOTBALL AND THE YELLOW ARMY RETURNING TO PLAINMOOR?  HOPES ARE RISING


As the weeks go by Gary Johnson’s anticipation of the return to pre-season training visibly increases as he is clearly relishing the opportunity to meet up with his players and support staff.  I’m sure he’d rather be zooming down the M5 to Torquay (observing the speed limit, naturally) rather than the virtual version talking to everyone via a screen.

Likewise the Yellow Army are looking forward to the day we’ll be allowed to step inside Plainmoor.  Well matters seem to be moving in the right direction.  It’s encouraging to learn that various sporting bodies, including the Premier League, met last week with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to discuss plans for a digital health passport system which would allow fans back into stadiums.  It is even hoped there could be a test event either later this month or in August, to establish whether a system using testing and antibody data could give fans a viable individual health passport to ensure they are not carrying the virus.

The likelihood is that the return of fans would be gradual and limited - one third of capacity has been mooted ( but is that ground capacity or seating capacity?) - but could start by the end of September and probably wearing masks to deter shouting and singing! Hopefully clapping would be allowed otherwise a match wouldn’t be a lot different from watching TV matches without the added crowd noise!

If all this goes to plan it suggests the National League season wouldn’t start until late September rather than the dates 5th or 12th which have been mentioned because the FA have confirmed no non-league fixtures are to be played behind closed doors.

There was better news for grass roots football when the Government allowed, from the weekend, the FA to set out a timetable for the return of amateur local competition including five-a side football.

Supporters, too, are to be allowed to attend community fixtures in small numbers; there are, of course, rules to follow but this is a step in the right direction.

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In his weekly ‘Inside Plainmoor’ Zoom chat Gary Johnson talked about his role as manager of the club, in bringing everyone - players, supporters, directors, press - together. He explained how much he enjoys working with players and his coaches, developing their careers: ‘’ You’ll enhance your career by playing for me.”  His enthusiasm and love for the game is self-evident and as he says, “ It takes over your life.”

During the months of lockdown the Boss has continually underlined the influence of the Yellow Army on the team - “positive support is worth a goal a game” - as he stresses the importance of the manager having an affinity with supporters.  Johnson states, “Our fans are top of the league” and jokes, “ the team needs to catch up!”

To this end he confirmed that three players are committed to joining with the possibility of news of these ‘pre-contracts’ being released soon. With three others expected he’ll be working with a squad of 18.

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Now what on earth could link the Gulls with Blyth Spartans, albeit a rather tenuous link?  Blyth Spartans, who finished in the bottom two of National North, were founded by Fred Stoker, the club’s first secretary before forming a practice as a distinguished physician in London’s Harley Street. He thought it appropriate to name the club after the Greek Spartan Army, hoping the players would go into ‘battle’ when on the pitch.

And the link? Both the Gulls and Blyth Spartans were formed in 1899. The Gulls rebranded last season with the 1899 logo and merchandise while Blyth have the 1899 Club.

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A few stories have caught my eye recently: after being out of the game for some time as he recovered from bowel cancer, it was good to see that Angus MacDonald was back playing for Hull in the Championship since football resumed.

There we were thinking that the ‘new’ drinks breaks introduced in each half were for the benefit of the players and a team talk with the manager; they’re actually for ground staff to disinfect the goal posts and corner flags!

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When the EFL finally decided the outcome of the League 2 season confirming Stevenage’s relegation, this column wondered if there would be a twist. Might the relegated club be Macclesfield and miss out the National League altogether?

Well the EFL has appealed against the sanctions imposed on Macclesfield and surely the result of the adjudication on this must be heard soon. In the name of fairness, not to mention for planning ahead, which club will be playing non-league football next season?

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Last week’s question - who would you like to see join Barrow in the EFL from the Play-Offs? - continues, the first of which - Boreham Wood v FC Halifax - is this Friday. Send your team 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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