In a season where the term ‘behind-closed-doors’ became the norm, the current easing of Covid restrictions and the running of large-scale test events are raising hopes, albeit cautiously, that fans will be back where they should be when the 21/22 campaign kicks off.
Players and coaching staff alike have given over some part of their pre and post-match interviews throughout the last year to to talk how things just doesn’t feel the same, and how they’ve had to adapt and get used to the echo of their own voices as tackles were contested and goals were scored.
Speaking about what the return of supporters will mean to the players, assistant boss Gav Skelton said: “The fans make a massive difference. Football is a very emotional game, even in training you want to win, and I’m as bad as anybody in getting caught up in the emotion.
“Without crowds this season the games almost felt like strange reserve games during the build-up, but the lads are professional and they did things properly for us despite that.
“We had to get used to it, but there’s nothing like the atmosphere a crowd creates; the shouting when you get a corner and things like that.
“When you win it heightens the feeling of euphoria and we’re all looking forward to having that back. Once something’s taken away you realise how much you miss it so, fingers crossed, everybody’s itching to get back.”
On the impact a crowd can have during the 90 minutes, he commented: “I think there’s certain games that we’ve drawn at home that we might have gone on to win by the odd goal with the crowd in here behind us, but I’m sure other teams will say the same.
“There’s always a shout from the Paddock after two minutes, ‘same old rubbish’ so let’s hope it’s not that shout that we’re hearing! But you do miss that interaction with the crowd, a lot of it’s in good humour, they give the away bench a bit of stick and it can be a massive boost to us.
“When you saw the games where we had a small amount of fans back in, you could see the results we had. Hopefully it’s a positive roar again next season.”
“People love their football up here and I’m sure they’ll be desperate to get back in and, touching wood, it will be magnificent,” he continued. “It gets the juices flowing, and I’m sure the atmosphere will be even better than it was through December.
“We know if we start well it will be a really positive place to be and a place more fans will want to come to. We’ve said it so many times before, we want people here but we’re the ones who have to give them reasons to want to keep coming back.
“Those games before Christmas were a taste of that, and you could hear the noise two thousand made. Imagine that if there was even more of them.
“That’s why we’re hoping all goes well with the games that are getting fans in now, so that we can welcome people back and get going in a more normal environment next season.”