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Interviews

INTERVIEW: Coley talks COVID, fixture pile-up and Pompey

Reds boss discusses current situation at the Wham Stadium

31 December 2020

John Coleman knows he is ‘obsessed with football’ but is the first to say it is low in priorities in the battle with Covid-19.

The Reds are looking ahead to their League One clash with fellow promotion rivals Portsmouth on Saturday which is under threat due to the adverse weather conditions, although the club is doing everything it can to try and get the game on.

Stanley had their two Christmas games postponed due to Covid in the opposition camp and have now had a two-week break since the 0-0 draw against Blackpool.

After having their own Covid outbreak in October/November, it means Stanley have only played 16 league games – most teams have played at least two more.

“With hindsight, knowing we haven’t played for a fortnight, you can say why didn’t they shut down football for a fortnight but it doesn’t work like that,” said the Reds boss.

“I know there were seven league One games off this week but we are in very unprecedented times and it’s a case of muddling along and trying to get it right as best you can.

“The one thing people are missing the point of a lot, as you get het up in your own life and obviously football is our livelihood, but people are dying of this disease.

“It’s getting worse rather than getting better at the moment and the forefront of everyone’s mind should be the families of people who are dying, the people who are on the front line – the doctors, nurses and numerous carers - who are having to battle this disease.

“Football should come way down the list when you think about the priorities. It is my life and I am obsessed with football but sometimes you have to have a reality check.”

Coleman is the first to admit football without fans is tough and he understands that football can help people cope in trying circumstances but he feels people need to look at the bigger picture.

“Truth be known, probably most people involved in football will agree, it’s not the same without the fans. As much as you try and be professional and you try and prepare right, and we do, and we have played some really good football this season as have other clubs as well, it’s not the same and I don’t think it ever will be.

“I know I am a football fan and I know how big a part of my life growing up it is, how much this club means to the community and you have to factor in all the other things, the loneliness of people, the depression, the mental health problems which can magnify in these situations, and football is sometimes a release from that and so I see how important it is in people’s lives.

“But let’s get things in order and the first thing is people living. People are dying and this new strain is affecting people differently, we have to control this first before we worry about football, I think so anyway.”

If football does continue, he admits he is worried about the build-up of games the Reds have to face in the league and the fact they are still in the Papa John’s Trophy.

“I think it was worked out that it was one every four days we have to play to get the fixtures in in time and that doesn’t account for any weather-related postponements.

“You only have to look at today, with a lot of places covered in snow with frost in the ground, so it’s very rare you get a season in the EFL where games don’t get called off for weather, particularly in League One and Two as we don’t have the benefit of undersoil heating.

“It is a worry and it is frustrating because we feel as if we are doing ok, we have got into the groove of playing decent football and that’s stopped and then we have a really big fixture pile-up.

“We have five games in hand on two teams and that’s going to be difficult to get them in just playing Saturday-Tuesday and you don’t want to get to the stage where you are playing Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday.

“A much as I love football, if you look at my managerial style, I don’t rotate or make many substitutions so it is a physically demanding task playing for Accrington. We pride ourselves on being very fit but it could take its toll playing three games a week.”

Coleman says the ‘logical conclusion’ is for the season to be extended but that in itself opens up problems.

“I was banging the drum last season about the season not going past 30th June and I think possibly something should have been put in place at the start of this season where contracts are automatically extended until the season finished rather than the 30th June as that’s a potential minefield again we are facing.

“With the advent of the Euros next year, lots of Championship teams will have players playing in the Euros, there will be some in League One and Two although not as many, and that really hampers you from extending the league too long. It’s not my job to make the solutions but someone is going to have to find something.”

Coleman is hoping that the Reds will run out onto the Wham Stadium on Saturday, facing second placed Portsmouth who are the joint highest scorers in the league. Stanley beat Pompey 4-1 at home last season – one of the best results of the campaign.

“It’s a chance for us to propel ourselves right in there with the chance to beat one of the top teams in the top standings.

“If it’s played we will give it our best shot.

“We had a terrific performance against them last year, I know that doesn’t have any bearing on this season, but we had a great win and I know our lads are desperate to win and play games.

“It’s good when you have a squad of players like that and they still all work hard in training. In training, we are shuffling from here to there, training on plastic thick with snow at times but the lads get on it.”

Meanwhile he says there will be playing incomings in January.

“We have got one or two irons in the fire and we will try and enhance the squad.

“We will have condensed games, so you run the risk of injuries, and I think something should be done about suspensions as clubs are going to be taxed as it is. I think they should extend bookings from five to eight so you aren’t losing players through suspensions as well as injuries.”

Newcastle loan winger Tom Allan is back from injury and defender Ross Sykes is back in contention.

The full pre-match interview video with John Coleman is available to watch on the club's official YouTube channel, CLICK HERE to find out more!


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