The noises coming from those in charge of football are that they hope to return to competitive action at some point in June.
It seems optimistic, given the current state of the coronavirus crisis, particularly with leagues across the continent gradually calling off their seasons, but one obstacle that hasn’t really been talked about enough is what the players actually think about returning, even if it is behind closed doors.
At the moment it appears as if players are being pressurised into getting back on the pitch to satisfy outside interests, but as Charlton assistant manager Johnnie Jackson pointed out on the Totally Football League Show this week, some players might not be that enthusiastic about the prospect.
“I think there will be a mixed bag,” Jackson said. “You’re talking about a group of 20, 22 fellas – there will be some, probably the younger ones, who are maybe a bit blasé about it who just want to get back playing football. Then you’ll have older ones, with children or pregnant partners perhaps who are naturally more apprehensive.
“You’ll have ones who are out of contract who have their own agendas and issues, if we go beyond June – which if we get back playing is a certainty. Can you force people to play? The Premier League is saying we’ll just run contracts on, but players might not want their contracts to be run on – some might, some won’t. Some clubs – ours especially – probably won’t have funds to run contracts on.
“It’s all very well and good for the Premier League to say ‘we’ll just run these on, we’ll [finish the season] when it’s safe, whether that’s in September, October whenever that is.’ For clubs further down, it’s just not viable.
“We all want to get back playing, and the fairest way to finish the league is to play it out, but the longer this situation goes on, the less and less viable that becomes.
“The timeframe the Premier League are putting on it, to be back in early June, just seems a complete pipe dream to me. The things that need to be in place before we can even think about that – the testing, the logistics, where it’s going to be – when the numbers come in every day about how many people are dying…it just seems wholly unrealistic to me.
“I’m trying not to be pessimistic, because I’d love to get back playing, but there has to be a cut-off at some stage. If we’re not back playing by this time, or if we’re not going to be finished by this time, then we need to start preparing for the future. At the moment, the uncertainty is going to kill a lot of football clubs down the pyramid.”
Things are particularly troublesome at Charlton, given the power struggle in their boardroom that would be problematic at any time, without everything else to cope with.
Threats and squabbles between Matt Southall, the theoretical chairman, and Tahnoon Nimer, the theoretical majority shareholder, rumble on, and Jackson sounds angry about how it is impacting everyone else at the club.
“We’re not really any clearer [about what the current situation is]. Obviously it’s been a mess behind the scenes, and I think the disappointing thing is the way it’s been played out publicly. These things should be kept in-house and only certain people should be privy to it.
“The fact there’s been a back and forth in the public eye, tit-for-tat and oneupmanship, I don’t think it paints the club in a very good light. The people at the club – the players, staff, people behind the scenes – are all good people who don’t deserve to be dragged through the mud, if you like.
“The situation is uncertain, and there’s not much we can do about that, other than hope really. We’ve all played our part – some of the staff have been furloughed, some of us have taken [wage] deferrals just to help the club through this time, which we would’ve done under normal circumstances, but throw in a bit of a power struggle…it’s not helped.
“The people on the ground that are serving the football club, are all trying to do their best for the club, and we need that reciprocated from above.”
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