To say that the start to 2021 has been unusual would be, well, somewhat of an understatement with a combination of the weather, Covid and more weather meaning that the Blues haven’t taken to the field in anger since the away trip to Walsall, just under four weeks ago.
And the latest casualty in this bonkers month was Tuesday night’s trip to Newport which saw the team pull into a service station on the M5 as the likelihood of the match kicking off was eaten up with every mile travelled.
Speaking about the midweek postponement at his earlier than usual weekly press conference, manager Chris Beech said: “It’s not ideal, but I don’t think anything is ideal at the moment, to be honest with you.
“As I’ve often said, and I’ll continue to say it, you need to have adaptability amongst the players on the pitch, and you also need the mechanisms within your organisation to be able to deal with whatever comes your way.
“We’ve been in a unique position to have gone to a game and had it cancelled after eight minutes, to then go back and the floodlights don’t work, and we then have the call-off with the home game for Orient.
“We did what was right in that case, we cancelled early to make sure Leyton didn’t travel, and also for the rearranged fixture we listened to their thoughts on travel to try to make sure it leans more towards what sport is, which is a competitive and level playing field as we fitted it back into the fixture list.
“Obviously we lost the Newport game and the only thing that hasn’t been cancelled at the moment is my dentist’s appointment, which I’m actually a bit miffed about!”
“Overall it’s been a crazy situation because we’d lost the three games to Covid which, for different reasons, has been difficult to manage,” continued. “It does instigate personal opinion amongst a lot of things, because we were due to play football and represent ourselves within that period.
“That was taken away from us because it wasn’t a footprint, it was more like a stampede of infection from absolutely nothing. Then we have the issues of travel where you’re coming out of that period and for some of the lads their first day back at work was when they got on the bus to go to Newport.
“We had to think about how we were making that journey, normally we would have gone the day before but because of the situation we were in we felt it was better to go on the day.
“Within that we split it with the players being on the coach, sat distanced apart, while the staff, myself, Gav and Ross went separately as we followed the team. So, we had to plan all of that before we even sat down to think about Newport’s team and the strategies we would want to utilise to go up against them.
“We ended up sat in a service station south of Birmingham as we waited for the 12.30pm pitch inspection. I do believe we did ask for a 9am inspection, because we knew we were setting off then, but unfortunately it wasn’t put in place until a bit later in the day.”
A natural reaction from everybody to the postponement is frustration, so we wondered how the players had taken the news having got so far down the country.
“They are frustrated, and that’s pleasing to know, because it’s easier to not do anything,” he told us. “For them to have that energy to want to do something means we’re onto a good thing.
"I’m really pleased to feel that way, and I can’t wait myself – I’m fed up of ironing my shirt and not being able to put it on. But it is what it is. That great song – it’s on Capital Dance, I don’t know what it’s called, but ‘It Is What It Is.’
“Would we have handled it differently, I don’t know. We knew our game versus Leyton Orient was massively in doubt, so it was the right thing to do to allow them not to travel. I suppose we had the benefit of knowing they were coming the day before.
“But it did help us to make our decision with the downfall of snow we had, it was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to go away. Everybody runs clubs to how they run it, we run ours to how we run ours.
“People read into things, of course Labadie the skipper suspended, Sheehan the most creative, energised midfield player. But they have recruited a lot of players too and I have no doubt they’ll want to get them going.
“I keep saying, it is what it is, it got called off, we turned around south of Birmingham on the M5, very thankful we travelled on the day of the game, because normally we would have gone the day before.”
With all of that done and dusted it was on to the important business of preparing for Saturday, with those who had tested positive for Covid now given a clean bill of health.
“Even that hasn’t been straightforward,” he said. “We’ve had offsets of coronavirus rearing its head when the lads have done their 10 days of isolation.
“Negative players have come back positive, so they isolate then for another 10 days. That means they miss 20 days. There’s always differences within the difference, as you can see.
“We are working and doing things correctly to the point of everybody wearing their PPE and keeping their distance, it’s ridiculous the lengths we’re going to really. But that’s the kind of things we’re doing, to try and make sure we’re good to go.
“There is a seriousness to it, there’s a couple of the younger players, the youngest one, he’s still poorly, he’s surpassed his 10 days and hasn’t returned to training – he isn’t to the level of needing hospital treatment, but it’s a concern.
“We don’t know how it will affect players who’ve had it, moving forward. I can’t wait to get back going and then we can make the adjustments we need to play to the levels we want to.”
“But then training in itself has been tough,” he continued. “It’s been difficult with the rain, snow, frost and mixtures of all of them. On those occasions I agreed to train on our pitch it was actually frosted over, and we couldn’t use it.
“As I’ve said before, we’ve only managed to train outside once since the start of January, so that poses different questions and situations.
“One thing it does do is give people like George Tanner, Danny Devine and others who aren’t quite fit at the moment more games to attack, so there’s a positive and a benefit to it, as well as a negative.”
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