The 1874 Column – By Matt Waters

1874 Northwich co-manager Paul Bowyer is calling for ‘clarity’ from the authorities ahead of Saturday’s start to the North West Counties League season.

Uncertainty continues to overshadow semi-professional football, which includes the club's Macron Cup Final appearance against Runcorn Town in Halton last Saturday being called off the night before due to rising rates of Covid-19 locally.

Bowyer, who has been with 1874 since the club's inception, said: “It should be one rule for everybody.

"Just look back at Saturday, we’ve got the leagues above us playing, the county leagues below us playing but not ourselves and we were probably one of the only games postponed.

"From our perspective we don’t see how other leagues can start if ours gets postponed due to local lockdown situations. It now has to be one rule for everybody.”

Football's return has been abnormal, whether that be from supporters on the sidelines, the players on the pitch and how the managers assemble a squad for a season with so much uncertainty.

Bowyer said he and Wayne Goodison have found it “extremely difficult and challenging” over the past few months adhering to new rules while creating challenging sessions for the players.

“The issue we have found is that it’s essentially down to what the individual club’s interpretation of what the rules are," he added.

"There’s no straightforward guidance for clubs to follow, in terms of players going into dressing rooms which is now different to what it was due to the rule of six.

"We’re asked to wear masks some games on the touchlines and others not. Essentially what we have seen is honest morale decisions made by clubs as to what they think is right.

"To help move things in the right direction we all need to work together and establish how we move forward.”

After jointly taking over alongside Goodison back in 2017, Bowyer added that he feels sorry for the supporters with the current situation.

“I think people forget how much football means to supporters of all clubs at this level," he said.

"For a club like ourselves, we’re so lucky to have the support and volunteers we do and I feel sorry for them in this situation.

"They want to be seeing us week in week out cheering us on and it could be back to square one again.

"Football at this level is about the volunteers and a lot of people have been placed out of their comfort zones whether it be organising track and trace or the day to day running of clubs.

"Everyone is working so hard for football to return, but what we don’t want to see is a stop-start season.”

Bowyer said he believes it is crucial that the squad stays extremely close.

“It’s no secret this season that clubs are going to use bigger squads and it’s the same for us," he said.

"We’ve spoken to the lads and it’s crucial we all stick together. We believe we can challenge again this season and every single one of them will play a big part in that.”