Sidmouth Town boss speaks on all things ‘pre-season’

Sidmouth Town away at Exmouth for a pre-season friendly. Ref shsp 29 19TI 7439. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Town away at Exmouth for a pre-season friendly. Ref shsp 29 19TI 7439. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth Town boss Danny Burwood has been involved in football for many years and is widely respected across the game, writes Steve Birley.

Sidmouth Town at home to Brixham. Ref shsp 07 20TI 8037. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Town at home to Brixham. Ref shsp 07 20TI 8037. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Like all football folk, the arrival of July usually means that the pre-season period - and lots of hard work - begins.

However, this year, in light of the on-going Coronavirus pandemic, the 2019 pre-season is anything but ‘normal’.

The Vikings’ player-boss says: “July is traditionally the start of a long season. It’s a time when we welcome the lads back and we all get to work to try and be ready for the new season. “Indeed, there’s usually the opening pre-season games being played in the first two weeks of July, but this year it is all so very different.”

Although some teams have returned to training - Ottery St Mary have already held three sessions, albeit under the guidelines laid down by the government - Town’s players are yet to be called in by Burwood and his assistant Paul Pocock.

Sidmouth Town at home to Cullompton. Ref shsp 38 19TI 0048. Picture: Terry Ife

Sidmouth Town at home to Cullompton. Ref shsp 38 19TI 0048. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

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The Town boss explained saying: “It’s been a hard one to call. With no one able to tell us when the season might begin in earnest we are very much in the realms of uncertainty.

“In our case I have told the players to keep themselves busy with personal fitness routines and I know a few of them have been getting together for small sessions, but until we can return to a full group I don’t see the point of adding to players general woes with regard to safety and the pandemic.

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“‘Pokey’ [number two, Paul Pocock] and I have had many a chat on the phone about our plans for the coming season. We have invited a number of players to come along and join us when we do get the green light to resume what we consider ‘normal’ pre-season group work.

“The one thing that does stand out when talking to players is just how much everyone is itching to get back into action!”

“From a personal point of view, I have always embraced pre-season and regard it as an essential part of any football season.

“Fitness and team bonding are big parts of the pre-season period.”

The Town boss is confident that, when the players do return, he will be welcoming back all of last season’s squad, as well as some new faces.

He says: “I am chuffed that all last year’s players have indicated that they are returning.

“We had some tough times last season and so it’s a huge boost to our planning that all the lads are bang up for more! It really does underline the togetherness we have created at Manstone Lane.”

On the subject of the club’s home, Burwood says: “I was at the club recently and have to say that the work that Ken Mortimore has done on the playing surface is quite simply superb. He has given us a billiard table to play on! If we can bring in the players we’d like to complement what we had last year then we will be more than OK heading into the new season.”

On the new season and just when it might start, Burwood says: “It really is in the lap of the gods. I hear talk of a September start, but then I also hear some suggesting a new season may not start until later in the year.

“If the season is going to start this year then I’d like to think that it’d be so we can get a full campaign in, even it, under a worst-case scenario, it was to mean sacrificing cup competitions. A later start to the season would leave us at the mercy of another bad winter - just look how the wet weather played havoc with last season!

“One thing I would say is that we have to start with supporters being able to attend matches. Like all football folk I have been watching the return of the Premiership without fans and I don’t like it. I think it is also important that any ‘start’ for football at our level needs to be with clubhouses open. Football without supporters is very alien to me. “

Burwood is delighted that the Town Reserves will be managed in the coming season by Mark O’Connor.

He says: “That’s a huge signing in terms of continuing to develop players and prepare them to step up and play in the first team.”

On the in-coming player front, Burwood has one returning player and one confirmed in-coming. He explained saying: “We have signed Jack Rawlings who is an exceptional young player who will do very well for us and I am delighted that Will Jenkins has returned home after his time away travelling and he will be a big player for us when we do get back to playing.

“Despite the Coronavirus pandemic, there will still be the teams that throw money at it, but we have a terrific conveyor belt of home-grown players and we seem to have developed some terrific player-loyalty in recent years.

“Football in a post Coronavirus age may well appear a little different, but at the end of the day it is all about 11 versus 11 and, while there will be teams we come up against who have bigger budgets and big name players, I will always fancy out chances of being able to compete with them. I love a challenge and I can’t wait for the new season to begin - whenever that might be!

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