Village club chairman sees ‘a great future’ for grassroots football after Covid-19 pandemic

The chairman of a village football club said he sees “a great future” for the grassroots game in Cambridgeshire as it looks to return from a second national lockdown.

Doddington United are finding their feet in the Cambridgeshire County League Premier Division once again after returning to competitive action in September following a two-year absence.

The club, which boasts two adult teams, attracted high interest from players across Fenland during pre-season and has managed to maintain this over the last five months.

“I think we have coped really well. It’s been good to have football back and in the present climate,” Roger Manchett, chairman of Doddington United, said.

“We’ve managed to get two teams back in the league after a two-year absence, which just goes to show there is still a huge demand for local football.”

Like with all other grassroots clubs, Doddington has had to adapt to Covid-19 guidelines in both training and on matchdays in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Measures such as closing changing rooms and adhering to social distancing where possible are in place at the club’s Recreation Ground home, something that Manchett admits has been challenging at times.

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“We don’t use changing rooms so we can eliminate any close contact indoors and all of our players have their own kit so they can turn up ready,” he said.

“We had to have four groups of six and two sessions a week to be able to accommodate everyone until the restrictions were lifted.

“I was a bit nervous at the start, but it soon became apparent from our first few training sessions that we would be okay.”

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Over recent seasons, many of the county’s amateur clubs including village sides have folded and a return to action has perhaps looked unlikely.

But with sponsorship and players eager to play again with restrictions on outdoor grassroots sport being lifted from December 3, there is a feeling that village football could be stronger than ever.

“All the clubs we’ve played so far all follow the guidelines to ensure everyone is as safe as the can be,” Manchett added.

“I’ve been involved in football in the area playing and coaching for over 30 years. It’s not just about football; it’s about team spirit and togetherness, looking out for your teammates, trust, discipline and friendship.

“I see a great future for village football; it brings so much to people.”

Doddington’s first-team are due to play Bluntisham Rangers Reserves in Division 3C while the reserves visit Outwell Swifts Reserves in Division 4C, both on Saturday, December 5.