06:15PM, Thursday 10 September 2020
Slough Town's Neil Baker (left) and Jon Underwood (right)
Even with safety protocols in place, a shadow of uncertainty still looms over the 2020/21 National League South football season and whether clubs will be permitted to admit fans.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise once again, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made it illegal for groups of more than six to gather indoors or outdoors in England from Monday.
While an exception has been made for organised team sports, the announcement has raised question marks over plans to introduce supporters back into stadiums for sporting events from next month.
Mr Johnson said the Government would be reviewing the proposals in a speech on Wednesday.
Having now got their pre-season preparations well underway, Slough Town have been working hard to start their new campaign on October 3.
But following the news of the tighter restrictions imposed by the Government, Jon Underwood is fearing the worst.
“I don’t think our league can start,” said the Rebels boss.
“We’ve said all along that we need supporters in to start our season. The clubs will need that income and we rely on the revenue.
“I think the recent announcements have put a lot of uncertainty and doubt around that now. We’re going to have to watch very closely in the coming weeks and hope that there’s some positive news on allowing fans back in.
“If we are unable to, that’s going to prove a real challenge for us and everybody else in the league in this upcoming season.
“We were hoping for some positive news that we could get some fans in for the last few friendlies we’ve had but that doesn’t appear to be on the cards now.”
Whether the upcoming campaign is played in front of supporters or not, Underwood and joint-boss Neil Baker have focused on getting the Rebels back up to scratch with a handful of friendlies.
On Tuesday, they hosted Luton Town’s u23s at Arbour Park in what finished a goalless draw.
“We have started to step things up as we get closer to October 3,” added Underwood.
“We fixed up a game with Luton’s u23s on Tuesday. We were a little bit patched up in terms of who we played but we brought in a couple of players from our own u23s which was a real positive to get those involved. We also played a few more trialists.
“You never know how it’s going to go when you do that but at this stage you’re just looking for a team improvement in fitness and sharpness and that was all really good.
“These are, as everyone keeps saying, unprecedented times. You don’t really know what the right thing to do is as we have never been through this before.
“You just have to trust your gut instinct that you’re doing enough but not too much.
“I feel like we have got it right in terms of getting the players in the right shape. They look fit and fresh and we’ve not overdone it.
“We have four more friendlies now. We’re looking forward to those games as they’ll be really competitive and hopefully get us in the right condition to start the season.”
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