FRUSTRATION is strong among football clubs after the way their seasons have ended abruptly during the coronavirus pandemic.

The FA ruled, subject to ratification, late last week that the 2019-20 campaign is now over and playing records expunged for teams on step three and below of the National League System, as well as the women’s and wider grassroots game.

This impacts on Witton Albion in the BetVictor Northern Premier League, as well as 1874 Northwich, Northwich Victoria, Winsford United and Barnton in the North West Counties League, plus lower down the order in the likes of the Cheshire Football League.

Meanwhile, it looks as though it could be the end of April before decisions are taken regarding this season’s conclusion for the currently suspended Premier League, English Football League and the National League.

It is not the move in these difficult and unprecedented times to suspend or ultimately cancel the ‘non- league’ season that has brought about a backlash from some quarters, but the timing, process and final reckoning that has left clubs, players, managers and fans feeling let down, bitter and even undervalued.

The North West Counties League, as well as clubs up and down the country, have written to the FA to challenge the decision regarding a season that was due to end late April/early May ¬- one with approximately a quarter of the campaign’s matches remaining.

Locally, 1874 Northwich can feel hardest hit by the circumstances, having looked set to win the Premier Division title and gain promotion, while also continuing the defence of the Macron Cup after reaching the semi-finals.

“We understand totally, and I’ve got no issues that society is much more important than football at the moment,” said 1874 Northwich co-manager Wayne Goodison.

“But it is just frustrating that it came to a stop, which we agreed with, and then very quickly it’s escalated from ‘let’s wait and see what happens’ to 10 days later everything’s done and dusted.

“That’s where the main frustration comes in.

“Bottom line is, for the integrity of any competition and we’ve said this all along, you need to complete the season.

“I’m not saying it’s the right or wrong decision taken by the FA, but once you decide you’re not going to even attempt to complete it there’s probably not a great deal else you can do.”

There have been suggestions of how the season, if ended now, could have been concluded differently so that playing records were not declared null and void and written out of the history books.

“If you go points per game, or like somebody else said with a pools panel, at the end of it all you’re still not playing all the games. And the idea of the league competition is you play everybody home and away and we’ve not been able to do that.”

But would final positions have felt hollow had a calculation been used to determine outcomes?

Goodison said: “I think that as well. I think no matter which way you look at it, it would always have been ‘you never know’.

“We could have lost all our remaining games, because that’s football, but we could have won them all as well.

“A combination of results elsewhere could have meant we could have lost them all and still got promoted. There’s so many imponderables.

“It’s a quarter of the season in real terms, and nobody knows how it was going to work out.

“The ones I really feel sorry for are the players. It’s been their efforts.

“We came back on June 18 last year for pre-season and there were a lot of things we spoke about, and agreed, and the players said what they wanted to do to try and be as successful as they could this season.

“And they’re the ones that have performed and been consistent all season, and to just dismiss it like this I think is poor.

“I don’t want to get into it too much with how the FA have responded, but I think there have been efforts of players up and down the country and to just chalk it off like this is poor.

“We spoke to the players, and every one of them has been absolutely superb this season. Collectively and individually they’ve had great seasons, been really consistent.

“The record, whether it is expunged or not, doesn’t lie. We’ve lost two games so far all season, we’ve got the best goals for, best goals against, most points, got the best disciplinary record, so they’ve clearly done something right all season.

“I hope that once the disappointment dissipates a little bit then they will all be able to look at it and say we had a really good year that year and hopefully they’ll want to try and repeat it and do it all again next season.”

Goodison feels there is a psychological impact on players to be conscious of.

“For some lads, they’ll handle it better than others,” he said.

“Some might really struggle with it, trying to get their heads around being denied the chance to do something.

“We’ve spoken to them. Obviously they’re disappointed, not that the season was suspended or stopped, but that everything happened so quickly and there was no patience shown to wait and see what happens in a few weeks’ time.

“And I think that comes to mind for us especially because two years ago we played 21 games in five weeks. Nobody moaned about that then, so why could we not wait and play nine games in, for example, three weeks in two months’ time.

“I think the players are kind of frustrated and bemused about that.

“Once some restrictions are lifted we’ll get them all together and have a discussion about what we think about it all and hopefully reset and get people ready to start pre-season, whenever that is.”

Next season, 1874 are going to feel as though they have some unfinished business but will the squad be the same?

“We’d already started talking with players about next season, depending on what league we were in, what did they think, what did they want to do, did they have any thoughts,” said Goodison.

“All the feedback then was really positive. Since then we’ve kind of only briefly mentioned that.

“They’ve all indicated they want to stay and would like to go around and do it all again.

“But, if the season starts when it should start, five months is a long period between now and the start of a new season. If it gets put back, it could be six months, or seven, we don’t know at the moment.

“So we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few months. People’s situations might change with work, players may get offers from clubs elsewhere. We just don’t know.

“All we can do, and all we ever have done, is we’ll have honest conversations with them. And if they indicate to us they want to stay then we’ll take that at face value and hopefully it stays that way as we get nearer to the start of pre-season and the new season whenever it is.

“And let’s have it right, there is unfinished business, there’s no two ways about that. We’ve not been able to finish off what we and the players started nine months ago.

“They’ve committed two nights a week training, games, work, family commitments, all sorts of things, to get to this point and then it’s been taken away from them.

“So it is unfinished business but next season is a totally different one.

“We’re under no illusions that we can’t just roll back in next season and think it would all be the same.

“We’re going to have to earn the right to perform as well as we have done this season. But I think they are a little bit of that mindset at the moment, which is understandable.”

Goodison added: “That’s another thing, we don’t know where this is going to lead to from an economic point of view for people and that might have a baring on not just our players but players and clubs up and down the league.

“Nobody knows, which again leads me back. The nagging thing that leads me back is that I don’t understand why there’s not been more patience shown to say ‘let’s just wait and see over the next few weeks’. What’s the rush to make a decision they’ve made within 10 days when the EFL and Premier League have said they’ll wait until the end of April. We could have done that quite easily. It just doesn’t add up and I don’t understand it.

“The more you see since the FA put the statement out, our league especially have not agreed with what they’ve put out about it being a consensus. There’s been no consultation by the sounds of it with the leagues.

“Why not talk to people who make up the whole of non-league. They can do that quite easily in this day and age through emails and such to canvas opinion.

“Things that any of us don’t know, is if there’s some information that’s come down to the FA to say ‘Look, no matter what you think we aren’t going back to football for a long time’.

“And if that’s the case, and they say that, then everybody would say fine, we understand, of course we’re disappointed, but we’re not frustrated because we’ve got the answer. We might not like the answer, it might be something painful, but at least we know.

“It’s not just with this, but the whole reporting of the pandemic. I think we’re not always told what we should be told, and we’re not given the truth on things.

“There’s so many things with this and stuff in general where people say I’m not really sure with what’s going on about that, is that right or not right?”

Goodison has been heartened by some of the messages he and fellow co-manager Paul Bowyer have received.

“What has been quite nice, after that statement was put out, both ‘Bow’ and I have had messages from other clubs, rival fans, rival managers and players, who have messaged us and said they felt for us on the decision that’s been made,” he said.

“Again that just shows how good non-league is and again how I think we’ve been undervalued as to what non-league as a whole and an entity contributes to society.”