“Well we looked at it and thought there’s two ways you can see it. You can either sit there feeling sorry for yourselves and sulk, or you can try and make the best of a bad situation.”

Kieran Rabbitt, the AFC Monton chairman says enforced time off the pitch due to local and national lockdowns has given his club the chance to rebuild.

“We found that the volunteers were very keen to do lots of jobs that needed doing that we could still do under Covid restrictions that we maybe wouldn’t have had time to do when everything was up and running.

“We just took the chance to do a lot of work inside the club and outside the club. So, the club’s actually come out of it all in a better position than we were in before.”

Players losing interest during lockdowns and not returning to the club was a big worry for many Sunday league sides but Monton didn’t have any issues keeping everyone interested:

“We’ve not lost anybody which is great for us. I think it was all about communication and just keeping in touch with everyone and keeping it going.

“I’ve only heard of one team that’s folded but there’s more teams in our league this year than there were last year. So, the only problem now is finding all the referees to do all the games.”

Kieran also mentioned his pride of the club forming their own ladies team which kicked off their first season a few weeks ago.

Despite the club’s positive outlook on the situation Kieran says they did have some struggles:

“We still had bills to pay. The club runs on volunteers and only has a certain budget but we were kindly helped by the local council and the FA, particularly the FA who gave quite a few clubs grants to tie them over so that helped enormously.

“It was also a bit strange doing meetings over the phone and on zoom but we just wanted to keep going really. Obviously, it was just frustrating that we couldn’t do things because of the lockdowns and the restrictions. Even when we first started playing football again we still couldn’t use the showers and we couldn’t get changed in the changing rooms so that was very frustrating.”

Formed in 1916, AFC Monton currently operate two open age teams as well as sixteen junior teams with over 200 playing members along with 50 team managers, coaches and support staff all involved on a voluntary basis.

“You look back at the last 18 months and it was just very satisfying to finally be back. There wasn’t really any big celebration or anything it was just back to normal. But yeah it was very positive for everyone involved but also in the back of your mind Covid is still there so you know it’s not completely relaxed and back to normal because you never know what’s going to happen.”

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