08:00PM, Thursday 25 February 2021
Before their campaign was officially declared null and void last week, Slough Town boss Jon Underwood had scoffed at the idea of potentially continuing the season with the club’s u23s players.
As a ‘safer and financially viable’ means to carrying on, teams in the National League North and National League South proposed to play their younger members of the club to fulfil their remaining fixtures.
For Underwood, this wasn’t something Slough were prepared to do, with the Rebels boss affirming how negative the decision could have been to the integrity of the competition.
“As a way for us to carry the season on, there were all sorts of arguments thrown out there,” he said.
“People were suggesting we furlough all our players and just put a load of kids out for free.
“But this is supposed to be elite football, and elite football is not about putting together a scratch team of kids who will play for nothing, just to complete a season in front of no supporters.
“Personally, I just don’t see that is an acceptable way to finish a season.
“I think the clubs that were shouting the loudest for that were those at the top of the league who would welcome playing against an u23 team every week and walk their way to promotion.
“Well, why would we have done that?
“The phrase that gets used a lot is ‘the integrity of the competition’ and I think putting a team of kids out damages that.”
“The sad thing is there’s been a fair bit of fighting between clubs,” added Underwood.
“It’s a real shame because none of us knew we would ever be in this situation.
“Every club is different in terms of financial stability, the backing you have, and what you can and can’t do.
“Unfortunately some clubs, or some people within clubs, have not respected some of the other teams' decisions.
“I think we all have a duty to respect every club's opinion and, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that all clubs survive.”
Underwood and joint boss Neil Baker will now turn their attention to next season after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced all COVID-19 restrictions in England will end on June 21.
The Rebels management have said they will return to training with the players 'at the appropriate time', and are hopeful fans, of some capacity, will be allowed to fill Arbour Park's terraces in the new campaign.
“It's going to be a long gap until we play again now which isn't good for anyone involved in football,” said Underwood. “But we''re just going to have to get our heads around that and look forward to next season.”
“We're hoping things go smoothly over the coming months and we can get supporters back in for next season which is what we desperately want and need.”
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