Along with Cumbria’s move to Tier 4 this week came a return to behind closed doors football as the country and the county looks to take a grip of a serious spike in coronavirus cases as the NHS once again struggles to deal with the crisis.
Having been one of the clubs lucky enough to have had the privilige of welcoming 2,000 fans into their stadium, there’s no doubt that it will feel strange to once again be playing in front of empty seats and terraces when Leyton Orient head north next week.
“I watch the national news, just like everyone else, and I know more people are getting tested, but the infection rate’s higher,” manager Chris Beech said. “To be fair, back in the day when it originally started, we could only go out for an hour.
“My players couldn’t train together, then you could only train in groups of five and have no contact. It’s all a little strange. I try not to think too much about that.
“It provides different questions, when you’re trying to peak perform. Being a footballer or in elite sport you have to try and prepare as best you can to perform at your elite and maximum level. Anything else is a distraction to that.
“You’ve almost got to ignore normal life to concentrate on representing yourself the best you can be, when the world seems a little bit mad. From that point onwards, we do have players that have had texts of track and trace, and the captain’s currently isolating.
“That’s tough on a small club like us. We’re not stocked with three left-backs who are all first-team players, we’re not like that as a club, we’ve got younger players, but it’s tough. You don’t get me talking about it much as we have to concentrate on what’s in front of us, which currently is Walsall.”
“I think we all understand why we’ve gone back to having no fans but it has been good to see them,” he added. “To the fans - a massive big thank you, from the players, because they do appreciate it.
“I want to thank the players for putting the team in a position for when the fans could come back in, they could share it with us. That’s another big thank you to the players, because we’re now back into that situation and adjusting again, in peculiar circumstances.
“Nobody, once it’s been and gone, values the difference, they only look at the result. People forget very quickly the circumstances so we have to concentrate on results, performance and looking after our traits that represent those fans, and then hopefully in the future, it’s great positive news about this vaccine, and hopefully in the future things will change.
“We just have to stick in there, see what the edge of spring brings us when it starts warming up, and the vaccine’s around more, and let’s hopefully be in a better place to have more than 2,000 great supporters in our stadium.”
"The fans seem very proud of their club and I think if they come back from the emotional side of that, they’ve got a lot of respect for the players and staff who are working in these real hard conditions to try and make it all possible,” he explained. “It’s been so difficult to prepare and get ready for some games, especially this time of year. I’m just so thankful of their support.
“I’ve said it from day one and will say it as long as I’m here, anybody who wants to wish you well, I’ve had a lot of good letters in December from some real caring supporters who’ve supported our club for 50-60 years, and they’re writing to me to back the effort, that’s something money doesn’t buy, that’s just a respect and relationship with people and I think we have to keep working on those traits; for me that’s what makes the world go round.
“That’s where my commitment comes from. Of course I have a lot of respect for the chairman. I feel like I can, although I’ve only ever met 2,000 of us since this period, but I try and relate to the lads and lasses that watch the game.
“They want to see that hard work, honesty, fast, attacking football, taking shots, taking players on. I loved playing football within teams like that, I like coaching, I really value trying to gain a win by doing it that way.
“I love and enjoy – although they’ve had a little dip, with two of my ex-managers Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce taking points off them – Liverpool. Not saying we’re like that, but those traits and attitudes to take players on, pass forwards, are things I enjoy.”