Wokingham & Emmbrook joint-manager Dan Bateman is urging his players to maintain their fitness levels during the four-week lockdown while believing there are some difficult times ahead. If they don't, then they could let down their team-mates and the club. Writes Dave Wright
Bateman and Matt Eggleston's unbeaten side are setting a strong early pace in the uhlsport Hellenic League Division One East and they naturally want them to stay ahead of the pack.
"This (second lockdown) is frustrating as we are top of the league and playing well," said Bateman (pictured), who is not entirely convinced that all grassroots football should be suspended for at least a month. I understand why they have done it, but I think it could have been managed in a way that would enable us to carry on. I don't think those who made the decision realise how important grassroots football is for many people. "We have just got to deal with it, but it is going to be difficult."
Like most other leagues, the Hellenic are hoping to resume fixtures before Christmas, providing the lockdown is not extended. "I think the league are going to give us a two-week window for teams to get match fit again and play friendlies, but in my view, you can't get fit in just a fortnight," added Bateman, who is urging players to work-out at home. When things get back to normal, you will be able to see a difference between those lads who have worked hard by themselves and those who haven't. This applies to all teams and I think that could mean seeing a few strange results when matches resume."
Wokingham have provided some guidelines for their players, with Bateman revealing: "We have a fitness coach who has come up with some fitness plans for the lads to follow over the next few weeks, but at the end of the day it is up to them to what they do. "At the moment we are top of the league and unbeaten, and we want to stay there, but to do that we need the lads to put the work in during the break. If they don't do it, when they come back they will be up against it. So we have to make sure we have that discipline and be in the best possible place when we come back."
Bateman said his team have so far shown more consistency this season than they did last year when they finished fourth in the final standings. "We haven't dropped points to the weaker teams so far like we did last season, but we've still got some big tests ahead of us," he said. "The way the league is panning out at present, we have only played one of the teams we are expecting to see among the top four at the finish and we certainly see ourselves being bang in the mix. Risborough Rangers are probably the team to beat. They have a decent budget and a good squad. If a team can finish above them, then they will win the league, but they are there to be taken and we have put ourselves in a good position to do that."
In addition to the first team, Wokingham & Emmbrook Reserves are also unbeaten in Uhlsport Hellenic Division 2 East, while the development and Allied Counties League teams are also doing well.
"To have four sides all doing well is great for the club," added Bateman. "There are teams in the area having to fold because they haven't enough players, but we are fielding four teams and it is good to see the club thriving, we now need to keep it going.