On Monday morning the Notts County players returned to Meadow Lane in the sunshine, socially distanced and in small sided groups, to finally get back to training after more than three months of lockdown imposed through government restrictions due to coronavirus.
14th March 2020 was the last time Notts County players took the turf at the famous stadium where in front of almost 5,000 they thumped Eastleigh 4-0 thanks to a brace by Kyle Wootton and one each for Kristian Dennis and Cal Roberts. How that seems so long ago.
Since then, the National League has become a ticking time bomb of hastily made decision making and not knowing what the future will hold, all eventually revealed last week with the clubs vote to close the season as it is and simply rush through the playoff situation of which Notts thankfully (sitting in third place at the time of close), could still have a chance to gain promotion in.
Next up is the winners of Yeovil Town and Barnet in a semi-final that would take County one step closer to promotion but Notts will have to wait until late July until they play their first of two potential matches and it’s going to be a difficult few weeks in order to get their players fit and ready ahead of such a crucial game in the future of the club.
On Monday amidst blistering summer conditions Notts captain Michael Doyle stated “It feels like a typical first day back of pre-season, roasting but we’re delighted to be back and given the opportunity”
Assistant Manager Neil Cox stated “first week of training we have to keep as far apart as we can really” highlighting the difficulties in ‘stage one’ boundaries that don’t allow groups of any more than five or six together. “Stage two involves a little bit more contact where you can have bigger groups with bigger games and bigger areas where you can start to get better fitness into the players legs” Cox stated “next week we’ll see more passing, longer distancing and getting closer to people, starting really to getting training back to normal”.
Cox furthered “We are trying to get a friendly game in but it all depends on playoff dates and who’s available at the time we can play”
As the Notts players braved the conditions this week in baking heat no doubt a few cobwebs will have been blown away and by next week concentration is very much on ball work and getting the squad up to scratch as the club count down towards their playoff game ever-nears.
One frustration is that Notts won’t be able to play competitively prior to their clash against either Yeovil or Barnet who will have had a game that might give them the edge, but having one less match to play towards promotion is one that Notts will no doubt not want to swap. Key now is keeping fitness and focus high towards their achievable target which will hopefully see Notts back in the Football League come Autumn.
*Main image @Official_NCFC the Notts players back in training this week in hot temperature.