Thurlow Nunn League shouldn't return until fans can, says Wroxham chief
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
Wroxham boss Jordan Southgate believes the only way football can realistically return at Thurlow Nunn level is when fans can return to watch games.
Southgate acknowledges there is a wider picture to consider than just football when making these decisions but feels that without supporters clubs won’t be able to sustain themselves.
Clubs at non-elite level have been prevented from playing games since before Christmas and there appears little likelihood of them returning any time soon, prompting fears among some the season could be abandoned.
“If we can’t have fans then we shouldn’t play,” said Southgate. “Wroxham is a self-funded club so if we were to have no fans, we have no income and we still have to pay the players, the referees, the lights and all the other things you have to pay for then we wouldn’t survive.
“It’s really difficult to plan – all I know that when we were playing from September through to December we had no cases and we all followed the rules.
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“There’s a wider picture than non league football at the minute and once these next few months are out the way we can get back to playing and doing what we love.”
Southgate’s Yachtsmen have been in superb form this season winning all 10 of their league matches so far to top the Premier Division table.
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However, their last league game was on December 12 – a 3-2 win over Brantham Athletic – and Southgate has been trying to largely manage the first team remotely since then.
He admits it has been challenging given they have no idea if, or when, the season will return.
“It’s so unknown and you don’t know how much load to give the players,” he added to Wroxham's YouTube channel Wroxham FC TV. “We have to keep them prepared, the FA or the league could say on March 1 that we’re out of lockdown and we could have a game in three days.
“We don’t know so it’s difficult to plan and prepare. But everyone is in the same position – we set the lads some stuff to do every two weeks and then we review it. We trust them to get on with so if and when they do return they are as fit as can be.”
The frustration for the Yachtsmen is that they have been a club thriving both on and off the pitch in recent years under chairman Lee Robson and Southgate’s leadership.
“When I took over there were 80/90 people coming to each game, now we regularly get over 200 and last season we had a couple over 1,000,” added Southgate. “The whole club has improved and that’s reflected in the league table. I think the year we took over the club had finished 13th.
“We are top of the league at the minute and we got to the quarter final of the Vase last year. The club has improved – the U18s has got a good squad, the reserves are doing really well and we’ve got the women’s set up now.
“We’ve got all the other age groups going through the system. When the chairman took over there was three teams and I think we are close to 15 or 16 now and that’s a credit to everyone at the club.”
But it’s at first team level Southgate has had the most impact alongside assistant and Norwich City legend Adam Drury. When they arrived at the helm two-and-a-half years ago Wroxham were in mid-table outfit but they have steadily rebuilt the first team and are aiming to gain promotion to step four as soon as possible.
“We want to get promotion – that's what we want. The plan was within four to five seasons to get promoted and that’s still the plan. We’re in season three and we’re on course albeit 10 games in. There’s some very good teams in this league but that’s the plan and if we can do it then it would be great. If we don’t then we’ll have another go next year.”
The Norwich City factor is not something Wroxham boss Jordan Southgate takes for granted at Trafford Park.
With Adam Drury as his assistant and being able to call upon the likes of Grant Holt and Simon Lappin, Southgate is grateful for the rich Canaries’ seam running through the Yachtsmen.
Southgate first got to know Drury in his coaching role at the Community Sports Foundation (CSF). The pair hit it off in their learning and when Southgate was offered the Wroxham first team job there was only one man he wanted next to him and Drury has been key in attracting former City players to the club.
“I guess firstly having Adam Drury with me helped. He was someone I grew up watching all the time as a season ticket holder at Norwich.
“Ads came into work and he got paired up with me to learn coaching styles and we kind of hit it off.
“When I got the job the first person I thought of to be my assistant was Ads. As soon as he came in we started planning and we got the deal done for Laps. Then Holty came in during the season – and there have been other players that we’ve discussed.
“Having those three at the club is phenomenal. The backing we’ve had from the chairman and the way the players have taken to them has just taken the club to a new level.
“In terms of listening to me... they’re footballers by trade and they listen to the manager whether it’s me or anyone else they’ve got a job to do when they cross the white line.
“They’ve got the utmost respect for me and the other players and they’re there to win games.”
At 28 Southgate is regarded as a young manager. However, having started out in coaching semi-professionally at 24 he feels he has the experience to kick on.
“Management never really crossed my mind growing up,” he said. “I played football from about seven to 20 when I had to stop through injury as I got some news from the hospital from one of my scans which wasn’t nice.
“I had a few years trying to get myself fixed and I started managing Wroxham Reserves when I was 24 so I suppose I am relatively young to be a manager but in terms of managerial experience I’ve got three-and-a-half to four years of semi pro experience and that’s without what I do for a day job.
“Age wise I am young but in terms of experience I don’t think I am.”