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HERALD EXPRESS - FANS' ZONE 25/07/2020




MORE POSITIVE SIGNS FOR FOOTBALL’S RETURN


Last week’s column speculated that the new National League season might not start in mid September as many are hoping and following the Prime Minister’s announcement that, all being well, spectators could be allowed into stadiums from October it seemed correct. This would be after, as I mentioned a week ago, a number of trial events: The World Snooker Championship, the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two county cricket matches have been selected while the FA have offered the Community Shield.

Almost 7,000 fans participated in the FSA/Non-League Paper survey with 77% planning to return to watching immediately the green light is given with 88% trusting their club to manage fans’ return safely. That’s a big boost for clubs desperate for income.

Further FA advice has also emerged in its phased return guidance: during July competitive training can begin with the overall group size limited to 30, including coaches. Then pre-season competitive matches can be played in August.

From September the National League system and the FA Cup can commence. This suggests that National League clubs will have to decide whether to start the season without spectators for the early games until October’s return of fans.

Let’s hope the National League board will set out a clear, agreeable road map in the coming weeks, for example with a reduced fixture list until crowds are allowed.

Meanwhile grass-roots footballers are even closer to re-starting providing there are no handshakes or spitting, regularly disinfected footballs and socially distanced spectating. Who would have guessed that this welcome move will have pleased the 102,000 grass -roots teams and the 1.4 million affiliated players across the country?

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One other decision that is needed concerns the number of subs to be allowed. When football returned the International Football Association Board (IFAB) introduced a new rule allowing teams five substitutes.

The IFAB has now announced that what was thought to be a temporary arrangement can now be continued into the new season and it will be up to each individual league whether to apply the rule. So a good idea to be used or not?

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Another entertaining Johnson & Mee ‘Inside Plainmoor’ show last week with the Boss confirming that he has five new players committed with one more likely and news of names being released is getting closer.

There is no doubting the manager’s target - and the club’s - which is to return to the EFL as Johnson says, “ I’m building a team to compete in League 2.” To this end he’s made an effort to bring in at least three very experienced lads. Johnson rightly argues that there is little difference between the top of the National League and the standard in League 2.

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Contributors to this column ‘voted’ Ben Whitfield as their Player of the Season so it was good to see this confirmed in the official process - congratulations to Ben and also to the Young Player, Ben Wynter.

Last year TUST promoted the inaugural Ian Twitchin Trophy awarded in memory of a highly regarded Gull to the player who played the most games in a season; the first winner being Liam Davis presented with his trophy in Boots & Laces. This year’s recipient is Kyle Cameron.

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In the last month BBC Breakfast highlighted the story of Jack Leslie, a black footballer who scored 137 goals in 13 seasons for Plymouth Argyle and who was denied an England cap because of his colour. TUST is one third of the Devon Supporters Trust Group and together with the trusts from Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City have given their collective support to the campaign to raise funds - currently £75,000- for a statue to be erected in honour of Jack.

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Anybody looking forward to the World Cup 2022? Well maybe not everyone but for those wanting to plan ahead, there’ll be four group stage matches to watch daily at 10am, 1pm, 4pm and 7pm starting on November 21 with the final a week before Christmas Day.

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These are bizarre times, for confirmation just look at the new offers from two National League club shops. Notts County have the ultimate Party Pack for their play-off semi-final at home to Barnet  on BT Sport- ‘to create a vibrant atmosphere in your living room’ - consisting of balloons, 3 metre bunting, 2 ‘Bang-Bang’ sticks, Draw-string bag, 2 bags of popcorn and a bottle opener!

Closer to home the Gulls’ club shop have an official TUFC black face covering. A reminder of the times we are living in to comply with Covid-19 protocols.

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Popular choices for which National League club to join Barrow in the EFL from the play-offs are Notts County from the list of ex-League teams and Boreham Wood who have never been there.

Boreham Wood are a stage nearer having seen off FC Halifax and with Yeovil falling at home to Barnet we know who will be our Boxing Day/ New Year’s Day local derbies.

You can still vote for the team you’d like to see promoted - Notts County currently- at: fanszone.tu@gmail.com

As always to 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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