What to expect from the 2020/21 Derby Men’s Football club season
In an ever-changing world, which has seen the introduction of face masks and two-meter distances from one another, one regularity amongst the chaos has been sport. Not only was it a distraction from the struggles that isolation came with, but it also brought back routine to a quarantined lifestyle – something which definitely could have used a bit of structure.
However, this isn’t the Premier League. Instead this is British Universities and College Sports Leagues (BUCS), and unfortunately, the BUCS leagues took a similar approach to the lower tiers of English football and took the decision to end all remaining fixtures of the 2019-20 season.
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Despite the announcement, it was a relatively successful season across the board for all five University of Derby Men’s Football teams, with four out of five teams finishing in the top three of their respective leagues.
However, the 2020/21 season is shaping up to be a very different one. BUCS will not be conducting any competitive fixtures for Men’s football this season. Starting January 2021, BUCS will resume organised, yet non-competitive games. This only applies to Derby Men’s Firsts however, and not the remaining four teams.
Amongst all the uncertainty, newly elected club president, Daniel Lawlor-Potton, has taken initiative and entered three teams under the University’s name into the infamous Sunday League football. For the upcoming season, Derby Men’s Football Club will be competing in the Midlands Regional Alliance Division One, and the Premier Division and Division Two of the Long Eaton Sunday League.
When speaking to Lawlor-Potton on the expectations for next season, he remained optimistic on the prospect of all three teams playing Sunday League football.
“We’ve managed to make it work with the three leagues, so hopefully we can do well in that. We’ve been told that the standard is still relatively decent so we should hopefully have a good bit of competition. There’s no reason to think we can’t win every league,” he said.
The style of football the club hopes will generate three league titles, stems from first team manager John McGrath. His direct yet patient approach almost led to two consecutive league titles. However, the team were narrowly beaten on goal difference to miss out on their second league title in a row.
“The philosophy of each team is really down to the managers that run it. I know Macca [John McGrath], he’s an ex-pro and he likes possessional football, he doesn’t like direct football. He likes playing it about until you see a ball in behind or an opening in the final third. He likes keeping it. He doesn’t like playing backwards, he likes going forwards, but he always likes close range short passing options until there’s the potential to play in behind. With regards to the other managers, I think they try and play the same,” said Lawlor-Potton on the club’s style of football.
The club president was not naive to the fact that they may have to adjust their approach for Sunday league football.
“Given we are playing on Sunday league surfaces this year, we may have to adapt those tactics a little bit because the 4G at Kedleston Road is not the same as a grass pitch on a December morning in Derby,” Lawlor-Potton humorously said.
“We will try and keep it possessional because that is how we know but our players aren’t always the most physical, so we are not always looking to be direct, long ball because we probably won’t win those battles most of the time,” he continued.
Not only has there been some major changes to the leagues, but Derby Men’s Football will oversee some major changes to the squad. Due to the large number of third years and international students in the squad last season, the current squad remains light and in need of some fresh faces.
Each year the club holds trials in a bid to better the squad. Although this is a yearly thing, there is added emphasis on the importance these trials hold. To put this into perspective, the first team only have three returning players, meaning there is almost an entire squad to fill.
Talking about the trials Lawlor-Potton said: “So trials are coming up this week and we’ve still got a lot of interest, we’ve got the same sort of interest as we’ve had in the previous years which is good because we were worried we would get a lot of dropping in interest given the current climate and people not really bothering.”
Despite the pandemic, interest is still sky high with an estimation of around 190 people attending trials this year. After close examination, that figure will be whittled down to approximately 30 to 50 players who will join the squad as soon as possible.
With a large proportion of people expected to trial, extra measures have been taken to ensure the compliance with the Governments social distancing rules.
All trialists will have allocated a time slot in which they can arrive and depart to allow players to leave one by one. On arrival, all players will also be required to wear a face mask, whilst following the two-meter markings on the floor. These procedures will continue throughout the season.
All three leagues that the University has been entered into are already underway, with some teams having already played six games.
Derby Men’s Seconds joined the party and kickstarted their Sunday League adventure in the Midlands Regional Alliance with a 1-0 win at home to Hilton Harriers Seniors Reserves. A first half goal from Tino Mtangadura sealed the three points for the University.
The third and fourth team who play in the Long Eaton Sunday League Premier Division and Division One respectively, will play their inaugural fixtures the following week on October 18th, and hope to build on the winning start set by the second team.
Written by Sports Editor: Mark Bodey