How AFC Bournemouth got match ready during lockdown
PUBLISHED: 11:07 17 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:07 17 June 2020
AFC Bournemouth’s Club Ambassador and First Team Coach Steve ‘Fletch’ Fletcher discusses the return of Premier League football and training during lockdown for the Cherries
The first phase of the Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’ – which, all being well, will see the resumption of the 2019/20 season on 17 June (subject to Government approval) - got underway on Tuesday 19 May when AFC Bournemouth’s players returned to our training ground for the first time since the division was suspended in March.
In accordance with the league’s guidelines, our players trained in groups of five or less, in non-contact activities and observed social distancing. Phase two of the Restart, which permitted close-contact training, was approved a week later. After each training session, corner-flags, balls, goalposts and even playing surfaces have been disinfected.
While there is a provisional date for the Premier League’s return, matches will only go ahead when the powers that be deem it safe to do so. The games will take place behind closed doors which only players, selected staff and a small number of other officials and professionals will be allowed to attend. As with the Bundesliga in Germany, which returned in May, anyone other than the players on the pitch will be socially distanced at the games. In my 836 professional appearances I’ve never experienced a behind-closed doors competitive match. It will also be a ‘first’ for most of our players and coaching staff.
If – and hopefully, when - the 2019/20 season resumes, there are many permutations to resolve. We’re right in the mix in terms of where we are in the table, and the relegation battle. We have nine fixtures in which to maintain our top-flight status, so we must be prepared. Back on 13 March, every player was sent home with an individual training programme to help maintain a certain level of fitness. This was prepared by Dan Hodges, our Head of Sports Science. During a traditional ‘offseason’, when players get five or six weeks off training, they follow a similar programme to keep in shape. This is followed by five weeks of pre-season training so they will be match ready for the new season.
Our players were away from the training ground for over eight weeks, so this return to playing will be quite unlike any other. There will be a great deal of importance on the players being physically ready because of the demanding nature of the competition ahead. That will obviously be an issue for all clubs.
I want to pay tribute to players up and down the country who have been fantastic in their response to this pandemic. The ‘Players Together’ initiative has seen large amounts of money distributed to those on the NHS frontline and other key workers. We have also seen individual players, including those at AFC Bournemouth, donating additional money and/or equipment to people and organisations in need, as well as picking-up the phone to speak to supporters who might be struggling during these challenging times.
AFC Bournemouth’s next match is at home to Crystal Palace on 20 June find out more here . Follow them on Twitter for the latest updates and see an interview with their manager Eddie Howe about their tough training regime and playing beind closed doors on their Facebook page