Yesterday saw the announcement that the SWPL as well as SPFL 1 and 2 were waiting for, a return to football. However, those of us outside of the SPFL were met with an announcement if yet another meeting with SFA Chief Executive Ian Maxwell that will more than likely say that nothing has changed.
When football was suspended for us back in January, I was adamant that football needed to return for players wellbeing, both mental and physical. The issue of player wellbeing Is still a priority, it must be, however, the reason is now that we just want to know. Meetings have been held on a regular basis, but the answer has been the same “nothing has changed we will update you when we have more news”. This is now becoming the main cause of deteriorating mental health in football outside of the SPFL, the not knowing is really eating away at people and becoming a real problem.
We need a decision now, if we stand a chance of getting back to football before May and June or we will not be able to play until next season, then just tell us for the sake of everybody in football or even just a return to being able to train would be a bonus.
We are already planning for next season but the build up is going to be complicated to say the least. Whilst the English Premiership is a different world, we have to be aware of a major effect seen in the topflight in England of not having sufficient lead into the season, a major increase in injuries. Every club has seen an increase in the number of injuries, and it is a widely held belief that this is down to the short time between the late close to last season and the start to the current season and these players are training daily and have top medical teams behind them.
Take our boys at Carnoustie, we played our last game of the 2019/20 season a year ago this weekend since then they have played four friendlies and four league games, that is far from ideal physically but if we do not get back to playing then they will have played 8 games in the best part of 15 months, hardly conducive to physical or mental fitness.
On the mental side, there will be concerns over whether they are up to the task of competing on the pitch, a feeling that is stronger in our more experienced players. The older you get the questioning of if you are going to be able to get through another pre-season and season, this will without doubt be increased after such a long time without games.
Physically, bodies will need time to build up a basic level of fitness before any game specific training is even considered.
In an ideal situation, players will need a minimum of 6 weeks pre-season training but in an ideal world more like 8 weeks and if that is adapted then to start the season at the beginning of August then pre-season needs to begin at the start of June.
To make this possible then we need to decide now to give clubs the chance to plan for next season and to give players and all those involved with clubs a structure then they can work with rather than the repetitive nothingness coming from our governing body. Maybe the answer is to begin pre-season in mid-May with a start to competitive action mid-July to allow a smoother transition, reduce the need for midweek games and the impact of postponed games in the winter. Even if we had been playing this season, we would have arguably not played for 5 or 6 weeks anyway.
As I said we are already working towards next season, particularly off the park and there will be changes to Laing Park when we do return and with the effects of the vaccine taking hold it is hoped that this will be with supporters in the ground again and we will be making more information available when we have it.
Meanwhile, please stay safe, look after yourself and your loved ones, we will see you all soon.