'Players who want it are playing for the right reasons'.... Non-league boss upbeat over football's return

The sun sets at Summer Road, Walsham-le-Willows... On another non-league season Photo: NICK GARNHAM

The return of non-league - for a full season - can't come soon enough - Credit: Archant

Brantham Atheltic boss Michael Brothers is confident non-league football can bounce back stronger than ever from the Covid pandemic.

While some clubs are already back playing friendlies, cup competitions and mini-leagues, the start of what everyone hopes will be a full and completed season begins in August.

And Brothers can't wait. It having been a time of reflection on the sport he and so many thousands enjoy.

Brantham Athletic's joint player/manager, Michael Brothers, in action on Saturday. Picture: PAUL VOL

Brantham boss Michael Brothers. Confident non-league will bounce back. Photo: PAUL VOLLER - Credit: Archant

"For me personally it's been very strange," the 35-year-old, who has helped guide the Thurlow Nunn Premier Blue Imps to a couple of impressive recent seasons before null and void cancelled them.

"Since leaving Colchester United youth team at 17, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday has been football. To all of a sudden it not being there, and not through choice, it's been a bit of a surreal feeling."

Brothers isn't alone on that thought but admits it is nice to at least get back to a bit of training, even if Brantham aren't looking at playing friendlies right now.

FURLOUGH saved our football clubs

"I think it's going to be an interesting next few months to be honest," he said.

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"We are doing a little bit of training once a week, but mainly just to get the players back, get them out of the house and get back socially because we haven't been able to do so.

A lot of effort has been made to keep fans safe at non-league grounds This photo is from last season

It will be nice to have fans back at the start of next season. - Credit: Archant

"Another reason is to see if players still want to do it. I'm sure any player with family could be in a position where they've been at home more, do they suddenly want to be out three times a week at football?

"Through lockdown, as a club we've had group chats, done 5k challenges, some have done more than others. Some have been working their socks off through lockdown and some quite frankly have done nothing. We won't be alone on that front."

So, does he think non-league can come back stronger?

James Buckle, Ben Garnham and Michael Brothers

James Buckle, Ben Garnham and Michael Brothers - Credit: Archant

"Yes, I do. For me the players who do continue and want it are playing because they want to - for the right reasons," he said.

"Because even if you have been furloughed you haven't been getting paid your full amount so if you're playing just for money, you haven't been getting that.

"So if you are looking forward to playing, it proves you don't just want money, you want football.


"I think more people will support local clubs, more people will come out to watch and that could be a big bonus as well."

Brothers says Brantham are resisting the thought of playing friendlies in April as he just gets his players back on the training pitch.

"As a manager, right now, if I'm honest, I don't really know who is going to be at the club," he said.

The Felixstowe & Walton defence holds firm at Canvey Island, from earlier in the season. The non-lea

The Felixstowe & Walton defence holds firm at Canvey Island, from earlier in the season. The non-league season is set to be 'null and void'. Picture: THOMAS BRADFORD - Credit: Archant

"Five players could come back training and think it's not for them now and we have to rebuild. I think because of furlough a lot of clubs are perhaps three quarters through their building process.

"Our plan at Brantham is to have a bit of training for four weeks now, once a week, the social side as much as anything is important. Maybe have a couple of inhouse friendlies in May, a few weeks off then start pre-season mid-end June."

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