THE prospect of the non-league football season being played to a finish now appears to have gone beyond remote.

There are still those of the persuasion, however, that players’ will to avoid a second consecutive null-and-void season would see them power through what would be an extraordinary fixture backlog.

In the North West Counties League Premier Division, for example, some teams have played as little as three matches – leaving a staggering 35 to fit in between the as-yet-unknown date “non-elite” sport will be permitted again under Covid rules and the end of May.

1874 Northwich are uniquely qualified to talk about the massive physical effort that would take, having done something similar during the 2017-18 season.

A combination of their run to the FA Vase semi-finals and the poor weather left them with 23 games to play within 30 days in order to fulfil their fixtures.

As co-manager Wayne Goodison says, asking several entire divisions to do the same is a logistical non-starter.

“I’ve seen some managers on social media saying “players just love to play, they will play four nights a week if they have to, let’s just get it done.”

“We had this three seasons ago – we had to play 24 games in 28 days or something ridiculous like that.

“We did plan for that, we signed more players on. We spoke to lads who had said they were fine for Tuesdays and Thursdays but would struggle on Wednesdays with work, childcare and things like that.

“Then you’ve got the effects of injuries, which we did pick up.

“We got to the last week or so and it just wasn’t fun anymore. It was a real hard slog to get these games in and the lads were out on their feet.

“Physically, it had a massive effect the year after without a doubt.

“If you tried to do that with every club in the league, you’ve got to account for volunteers, fans, referees that all have to fit around that. The infrastructure would not cope.”

The FA are currently canvassing opinions from clubs as to what the next steps should be, with the country in a national lockdown until mid-February at the earliest.

The 2019-20 season was declared null and void last March when the pandemic first struck, denying 1874 – runaway leaders of the division – the promotion they were about to seal.

Should this campaign go the same way without any indication of a framework to avoid it happening again, Goodison believes the game is in danger of losing players through growing disillusionment.

“With all that’s gone on, players will look at it and ask themselves whether they want to put themselves through everything to have nothing come through at the end of it,” he said.

“A lot of people think they just bowl up on a Saturday morning to play football but it’s just not the case. They commit to training, pre-season, travelling all over for midweek matches.

“In theory, we would have won the league last season. What happened happened, we get it was unprecedented times and that’s fine, but there was nothing put in place.

“We had 10 months to put some kind of process in but people don’t know what’s going on so the arguments start about what happens going forward.

“If they then null and void this season again and we get through next season uninterrupted – and there’s no guarantee of that happening at the moment – it’s then three seasons of a players’ career that has gone before you get any sort of reward.

“It’s going to push some people out of the game and I think it has already. A couple of ours may start thinking that way.”