Rebels re­turn feels dif­fer­ent

Slough Town squad back in train­ing ahead of crunch play-off elim­i­na­tor with Dart­ford

Windsor & Eton Express - - Sport -

This week’s re­turn to train­ing felt ‘very dif­fer­ent’ for the Rebels play­ers and man­age­ment team, but de­spite be­ing dis­con­certed by the pro­to­cols in place, Neil Baker said ex­cite­ment was start­ing to build ahead of next week­end’s play­off tie with Dart­ford.

The Rebels fi­nally have a date in the diary for their clash with the Darts and say the tie, which will kick off at 3pm on Sun­day, July 19, will be streamed live for fans.

Af­ter sev­eral months away from the train­ing ground the Rebels squad got down to some hard work from Satur­day, af­ter all tested neg­a­tive for COVID19. They’ll have six ses­sions to­gether be­fore step­ping onto the field for their elim­i­na­tor tie on July 19, but only got their first taste of full-con­tact foot­ball again last night (Thurs­day) when they took part in an in-house match.

They’ll also play a friendly against Na­tional League North side Brack­ley Town to­mor­row (Satur­day). Brack­ley are tak­ing part in the NLN play­offs and will host Gateshead next week­end.

Re­flect­ing on the first few ses­sions, Baker ad­mit­ted it had felt any­thing but nor­mal.

“No, it’s very dif­fer­ent,” he said. “With the var­i­ous pro­to­cols and non con­tact stuff, it’s dif­fer­ent. We can’t use the chang­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

“You come into the ground one way and go out an­other, there are one-way sys­tems in place and it’s only when you get out onto the field that there’s a bit of nor­mal­ity.

“We’ve also had to keep the first cou­ple of ses­sions non­con­tact which is to do with the league and Gov­ern­ment pro­to­col in terms of the re­turn of com­pet­i­tive foot­ball. You have to come back in a con­trolled fash­ion. If it had been down to choice we’d have been straight back into con­tact foot­ball but it’s a Gov­ern­ment di­rec­tive that we’ve had to ad­here to. It’s been a lit­tle bit re­stric­tive be­cause ev­ery­one’s in the same place but you’re work­ing in smaller groups. You feel like you’re to­gether but you’re not ac­tu­ally train­ing to­gether. But it’s still ex­cit­ing.

“Tues­day was good. We felt we got a lot out of it and the lads are in rea­son­able shape so we can’t com­plain about that.

“The de­sire is there from the play­ers and we’ve just got to trans­fer that into the game it­self.”

Baker added: “All the clubs will have their match-day pro­to­cols. We’ve had to li­aise with Brack­ley and both clubs are hav­ing to do things to make sure the game goes ahead. I think there are other games lined up as well and that most teams (in the play-offs) will be play­ing this week­end.

“I think the strange part is we’re only get­ting one friendly match in.

“We’re play­ing Brack­ley on

Satur­day and that’s it. Nor­mally you’d get five, six or seven games pos­si­bly to get your­self up to match speed.

“And more of­ten than not you don’t re­ally get go­ing un­til a month into the sea­son, that's when peo­ple are re­ally on it.

“So the fact that we’ve had three and a half months off, it’s longer than we’ve ever had off be­fore, it’s very dif­fer­ent.

“I don’t think there’s any way of know­ing how you’re go­ing to be. It’s go­ing to be purely down to ‘can you get the in­ten­sity into your game?’

“Be­cause I think we’ve seen in the Pre­mier League, get­ting that in­ten­sity, when there’s no one in the ground, is dif­fi­cult.

“You’re try­ing to get out of the men­tal­ity that it’s a train­ing game. Which is pos­si­bly how it might feel. We just have to try and get the play­ers men­tally right and hope that they can get through.”

The mea­sures, and fi­nan­cial costs, cur­rently be­ing ab­sorbed by Slough Town are just about man­age­able in the short term to cover two or three play-off matches, but Baker says Gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions will need to be eased sig­nif­i­cantly for there to be any re­al­is­tic prospect of the new sea­son start­ing again in either Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber.

He added: “This Satur­day the play­ers will be com­ing down in their own kit. They’ll be given that be­fore hand and will have to wash it af­ter­wards.

“It’s very dif­fer­ent and that’s why there has to be much more change in terms of the Gov­ern­ment re­stric­tions be­fore there’s any real re­turn to foot­ball at our level. Play-offs are dif­fer­ent be­cause you’re talk­ing about two or three games but to con­sider start­ing a sea­son with the cur­rent re­stric­tions in place, I don’t think that’s work­able.

“Test­ing for the new sea­son just won’t hap­pen. While test­ing is needed foot­ball at our level won’t start. There’s no ques­tion about that.

“From our point of view we’re still in the 2019/20 sea­son, we’re not even think­ing about the 2020/21 sea­son and that will be the case un­til we either get pro­moted or we’re out of the play­offs. Then we’ll have to wait on Gov­ern­ment direc­tives.”

Club stal­wart War­ren Har­ris will be keen to help the Rebels to an­other pro­mo­tion.

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