Hares boss describes ‘hardest period’ of his managerial career to date
- Credit: Archant
March Town boss Arran Duke believes adapting to new rules and regulations due to the Covid-19 pandemic has been “the hardest period” of his managerial career.
“It’s certainly something that’s tested me as a manager on very different levels I’ve ever dealt with before,” he admitted.
Duke’s men went into lockdown 2.0 second in Thurlow Nunn League, First Division North, and during that time as well as in the first shutdown, keeping the squad engaged has perhaps been key to their impressive form.
“It was all very unknown for everyone, but the biggest thing for me was trying to keep them engaged and still interacting with each other,” he said.
“I always say to try and keep involved, be around the squad and that’s been echoed in what we’ve done in lockdown.”
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From Zoom fitness sessions to group chats, players have remained in touch during weeks of inactivity on the pitch.
Togetherness during lockdown has not been an issue for Duke, but he has struggled to understand how best to imply this on matchdays in the midst of social distancing.
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“We’re not allowed to do team talks in the changing rooms; you have to have six in at a time,” he said.
“You want that togetherness in the changing room and those players interacting with each other, but that’s not happening.
“It’s taken me and Mark (Warren, assistant manager) a while to adjust. Mark’s been in dressing rooms at a very high level and to be in and out is very different. It is frustrating.”
Another perhaps frustrating theme for Duke is the potential for last-minute changes in match preparation, where games could be postponed hours before kick-off due to a positive Covid-19 case.
But despite the uncertainties, his team are ploughing on towards promotion in a league where the ex-Wisbech St Mary chief feels more fortunate compared to lower levels.
Duke said he will discuss with chairman Phil White about adjusting to the new Tier 2 restrictions on and off the field, but whatever happens, he is confident his players can pick themselves up once more.
“We could probably look at ourselves being fortunate because some of the restrictions at lower levels make it harder,” he added.
“We’ve got to build to refocus, despite being very disappointed last season, and that goes to the players, the board, supporters, everyone.
“The players have adjusted very well because we’re getting the results, so I have to give them full credit, and that togetherness is something we can’t afford to lose.”