11:59AM, Friday 08 May 2020
Ryan Upward has admitted he’s starting to get anxious over how he’ll make ends meet in the coming months, having slipped through the cracks of the government’s COVID-19 relief scheme.
Maidenhead United’s longest serving squad member is currently out of contract at York Road, and his mixed performances for the Magpies last season means he’s unsure if manager Alan Devonshire will reward him with a new contract next season.
Upward has also taken a step back from his work as a window cleaner.
He’s been trying to stick to the government’s social distancing guidelines so has put away his ladder and mop for the time being. However, a loophole in the government’s relief scheme means he isn’t able to claim back money for lost income, and he expects he’ll have to return to work in the coming weeks, potentially placing himself – and others – at risk of catching the virus.
“I haven’t been working, but I think I’m going to be forced to go back because the government scheme doesn’t cover my situation,” he said. “There’s a loop hole that I fall through.
“I will need to start earning some money because I’ve got a mortgage to pay and my girlfriend isn’t working either, she’s a hairdresser. I was trying to follow the government guidelines and, if they wanted us to stay in so badly, I would have thought they’d cover self employed people like me.
“But, because I don’t earn over 50 per cent of my income through window cleaning, I’m not covered by the scheme. I just feel I’m being discriminated against. My football contract finished at the end of April so I’ve got no money coming in.
“I don’t really want to risk it. I’ll be working in the open but there’s always a chance something might happen. I’m not worried about myself getting the virus, I’m prepared to go out and earn the money, but I don’t want to risk passing it on to others or my family.”
“It is getting to me a little bit. I’m anxious about how I’m going to make ends meet when things are back up and running. How am I going to be able to pay my mortgage and provide for my girlfriend? This is not of my doing and it’s out of my control. The government have advised us to do this thing (social distancing) but I’m not covered.
“Taxes will also go sky high after this as the government tries to earn back some of this money. They aren’t just going to give it away. There’s always the small print to be read.
“I am upset about it but I’m just a little fish in a big ocean and I don’t have a say in this situation.”
Upward was one of only a handful of players kept on by Devonshire when he replaced Johnson Hippolyte as manager five years ago. In that time he’s gone from the fringes of the first team to being a key cog in the Magpies machine, regularly earning his place in the side when many felt he might fall by the wayside. A scrapper, a battler, but also a fine footballer, he’s had some exceptional seasons in the past few years, but he admits the last one wasn’t one of his best.
“I joked on twitter I might be clubless,” he said. “I didn’t extend my contract at the beginning of last season because I needed to see how it would work with the club moving towards being full time. I wanted to see if I could adapt, and, it was going well. There was a good balance.
“I didn’t even get the chance to talk about a new contract. I’m sure I can call the gaffer and discuss it with him at some point, but at the moment, everything is up in the air. Everyone’s contract is going to be up. Hopefully I’ve done enough for the gaffer to sign me up again next season because I know I didn’t have the best of seasons. I wasn’t on form. There were a lot of changes in my life, with moving out and getting a mortgage, and I didn’t play as well as I could have done on the pitch. I was disappointed this year, I didn’t really get going. I’ve been loyal to the club and they’ve shown their loyalty to me over the years, through the ups and downs.”
If he is given another contract it’s far from certain when Upward and his teammates will be returning to pre-season training. The season has now been officially ended, and it seems likely the Magpies will remain a National League side come next season – whatever method is used to determine promotion and relegations.
“They’re talking about the football season potentially restarting in November,” said Upward. “That’s absolutely ridiculous. What are we going to do until then. I’m not getting any younger, I’m 28 this month and I want to be playing as much as possible. Hopefully things will be sorted. Arsenal have been allowed back in to train on their own this week and perhaps the numbers have peaked with the virus and things will get back to normal in a few months.
“I don’t see how you can relegate teams unless they’re already mathematically down. Even with promotion it’s difficult. Harrogate were only four points behind Barrow in our league, and they still had to play them so that would have been very close.
“Perhaps we could have promotion for the automatic spots and have two extra teams in all the leagues. And then, over the next few seasons, you could relegate an extra team or something.
“I think null and void is probably the best option, because relegation would be very harsh. However, clubs going for promotion are going to be distraught if that’s the case. Football is important. But at the end of the day, family and health comes first.”
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