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Newmarket Town readying themselves for return of non-league football

It has been lying dormant since March due to Covid-19, but grassroots and non-league football has finally been provided with a pathway in which it can make a phased return.

The news came on Saturday when the Football Association announced its proposals had been given the green light by the government’s Department for Digital, Culture and Sport.

Full contact training in groups of up to 30 was permitted to start with immediate effect, while pre-season friendlies will be able to be played from August 1.

Newmarket Town FC
Newmarket Town FC

Leagues from Step 1-7, meanwhile, will get going at scheduled points in September, subject to where the country is in relation to its recovery from the pandemic.

The guidelines include a host of restrictions and safety measures, including the avoidance of goal celebrations, goalkeepers being encouraged to disinfect their gloves regularly in breaks and all players showering at home where possible.

The ‘new normal’ will take some getting used to for all concerned. But for Newmarket Town player-manager Michael Shinn, having some dates to work towards is the main thing.

“We’ve only been doing one session recently in small groups. It’s been more about keeping the lads together than anything else,” he said.

“But now we know some dates we can step that up to two sessions and get everyone involved. Having something to work towards is a big thing, especially for the players. We all want to be back playing.”

While Newmarket’s 2020/21 Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division campaign has been given a potential start date of September 5, it appears their season may get actually under way four days earlier in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup.

It tends to be that clubs play one or two league matches before entering the world’s oldest cup competition, but Shinn has no concerns regarding the switch.

“It isn’t going to be a problem for us with the FA Cup first” he added.

“The FA Cup is great in terms of the financial rewards, but the league is the most important thing to us.

“Of course we want to go as far as we can in the FA Cup, and if we win the first game that will give us confidence heading into the first league game.

“The main thing is we have a good season in the league and hopefully going a round or two will help set us up for that.”

In terms of friendlies, Newmarket will face Felixstowe & WaltonUtd (August 11, H), Heybridge Swifts (August 15, A) and Braintree Town (August 18, H). Other games are expected to be arranged in due course.

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