• Ian Richardson

Matlock's Phillips looks ahead with NPL season under threat

Matlock Town boss Paul Phillips says his attention is already on the 2021/22 season.


Phillips had feared since Christmas that the 2020/21 NPL campaign could suffer a second successive null and void verdict, and that now looks more than just a possibility with the country plunged into lockdown last week.


No matches are scheduled until March 6 at the earliest, with the Gladiators still having a huge number of games to play.


“We’re doing all that we can do now it looks as though the season’s done and dusted,” said Phillips.


“We’ve been speaking to the squad and everyone seems keen to stay. We’ll not be bringing in 12 to 14 new players as we did last summer, it’ll be more like three or four. The lads want to do next year what they wanted to do here this season.”



Matlock Town boss Paul Phillips fears the season may be over. Photo: Jez Tighe.


Matlock currently have two of their squad out on a month’s loan with Liam Hughes at Kettering Town and Reece Kendall at Guiseley.


The Trident Leagues met last week following news of the lockdown in England and a statement from the NPL followed advising that the league would be suspended until at least Saturday, March 6. It further said that clubs would be asked for their views relating to the conclusion of the season, the Trident Leagues’ board being of the opinion that the season should be declared null and void.


A lot of opinion about how the season could be concluded has been aired, the NPL having earlier in the season a contingency plan for the league to be possibly split in two if a January or later restart date was announced, but with the new strain of the virus taking hold, it is by no means certain that NPL football will return this season, especially as clubs have emphasised the need for fans to be admitted to watch matches.


With Matlock not even being able to train as a group under the Covid-19 restrictions, Phillips says life feels strange and being a passionate football person, he has been watching the televised games, including on Sunday, Marine’s home FA Cup tie with Tottenham Hotspur.


Phillips was named as the Mariners player of the season in his short spell at Crosby.


He said: “Marine’s a great club and it reminds me so much of us here at Matlock - well run behind the scenes and with great supporters. Watching them on Sunday in such a big FA Cup third round tie gives us the incentive to get through the qualifying rounds and have a taste of what Marine have enjoyed this season.”


Phillips is pleased that fans can watch elite games on television but questioned whether it was correct that the divisions directly above the NPL Premier, namely the National League North and South, do not have their players Covid tested.


He said: “There’s no testing in National League North, everything should be the same whether it’s the Premier League or National League - the virus doesn’t say it will not touch National League North players.”


The Gladiators boss also says that NPL clubs have not had the help they need to be able to keep their heads above water during the pandemic.


He added: “I think clubs at our level have been hung out to dry by the Government in terms of financial help. It’s been very difficult for a lot of clubs and we all know that a week’s wages at Premier League level would keep clubs in our league out of trouble.”