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Non-League clubs split in reaction to season cancellation

By Matt Maher | Non league | Published:

West Midlands non-league football clubs reacted with a mixture of disappointment and relief after the season was declared null and void.

Non-League managers' reactions have varied.

The FA yesterday confirmed there will be no more football played beneath National League level, with records expunged and no promotion or relegation applied.

Among hardest hit were Halesowen Town, where boss Paul Smith expressed his bitter disappointment after their promotion hopes were dashed by the FA.

The decision came as a hammer blow to the Yeltz, who sat second in Southern League Division One with a game in hand on leaders Berkhamsted when matches were halted due to the coronavirus. They would have finished top had the final table been determined on a points-per-game basis, as some clubs wanted.

Though Halesowen’s hopes of reaching Wembley in the FA Trophy remain alive, with the FA confirming their desire to complete the competition, Smith admitted the sudden end to what promised to be a truly memorable campaign was tough to take.

He said: “It’s bitterly disappointing for everyone at the club and if I thought too much about the ‘what ifs?’ it would probably tear me apart. I think the important thing is people remember just how good the season was up to the point it finished.

“If I am being honest, I don’t quite understand how a season which was 75 per cent complete can now have counted for nothing.

“But I guess the FA had to make a decision one way or another and there will have been clubs at the other end of the table quite happy with it.”

Elswehere, at Stafford Rangers the main emotion was relief as they were saved from a likely demotion. Boro sat bottom of the Northern Premier League, seven points adrift of safety when matches were halted by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Joint boss Alex Meechan said: “The crisis in the world is more important than what Stafford Rangers were facing in terms of relegation.

“But everything is done for a reason and the league has decided to determine the outcome and if we’ve benefited from that, then the fans and the whole football club deserve that.

“It’s been a horrendous nine months with everything we’ve faced. The club don’t have the finances to back ourselves in the transfer market so it leads us to hopefully have a fresh start.

“If we can get through this horrendous period as a nation then the football can come back and we can attack the season as a fresh start.”

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While Stafford got a reprieve, at Rushall Olympic the mood was one of despair as their season finished with Liam McDonald’s team in the play-off positions.

The Pics were also gearing up for semi-finals in both the Birmingham and Staffordshire Senior Cups, and quarters in both the Walsall Senior Cup and JW Hunt Cup.

McDonald said: “Personally, I’m devastated. I wanted to see if we could carry on in a few months.

“We were in fifth and in two semi-finals and two quarter-finals, so we had it all to play for.

“The lads kept fighting and I’m gutted for them, but in the grand scheme of things, football is not the priority right now.”

Hednesford boss Danny Glover admitted surprise the FA had not determined the final tables on a points-per-game basis.

The Pitmen finished the season sat mid-table in Southern League Central Division and Glover said: “It was a surprise, I thought they’d go the other route with points per game, but they felt this was the better way - but that has a bit of an effect on teams.

“Some teams have had a brilliant season and are not going to get anything for it, and some have had an off season and were ready for the league below and now they’re still here.

“It’s going to be a crazy few months.

“From our point of view it was a difficult time because we just started to get some results with a group of lads that wanted to be there.

“Now we have to try and keep most of the group together and get ready for the new season, whenever that will start.”

Chasetown sat 15th the Northern League South East Division. Scholars boss Mark Swann said: “The biggest thing is the welfare for us as human beings - who’d have thought it would come to this?

“I’d probably be saying things differently if we were in a promotion battle, or looking to get into the play-offs.

“I’d be spewing but with us, we weren’t going to go down or up.

“They had to make a decision, probably one they will never have to make again.

“I just proper feel for the teams they were going to get promoted, so I feel it should’ve been worked out on points per game.”

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher
@mjmarr_star

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.

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