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Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley hopeful Isthmian League season can be completed without going into June

Folkestone manager Neil Cugley sees no need to extend the football season into June - provided matches resume next month.

A return date of December 19 has been scrapped following a vote of Step 3 and 4 clubs in the Isthmian League, Southern League and Northern Premier League.

Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley Picture: Barry Goodwin
Folkestone Invicta manager Neil Cugley Picture: Barry Goodwin

Overall, clubs voted overwhelmingly in favour of extending the suspension of play, with 76 per cent supporting the motion.

However, it was much closer in the Isthmian, with just 58 per cent backing the move to keep football on hold in light of the Covid-19 tier system.

A joint-statement from the leagues expressed hope for a January resumption, later mooting the possibility of extending the season into June.

But Cugley, whose side have played nine of their 42 Isthmian Premier games, believes there’s enough time for the campaign to finish on schedule in May.

He said: “All being well, I’m hoping we’ll get back playing in January.

“If that’s the case, we’ve got enough time to get the fixtures in.

“I think most clubs want to try and see if they can do it.

“I don’t like the idea of going into June, I’ve got to be honest.

“We should have just about enough time to get it done in May.

“It won’t be easy but it’s still five months and the players will all love playing twice a week instead of training.

“Fingers crossed, we get back in January.”

With Kent clubs in Tier 3, and unable to welcome fans, the possibility of resuming behind closed doors simply wasn’t an option.

Cugley said: “Being in Tier 3, we can’t do anything, so we voted to halt the action.

“It’s perhaps different for Tier 2 clubs but I just think it needed stopping.

“Our players are all furloughed anyway so we can’t bring them back for training or to play friendlies.”

The government have allocated £25 million to Sport England to fund non-league football, of which £14 million is for Steps 3 to 6.

A bail-out would be one way to get back playing sooner but the funding is “heavily weighted in favour of loans, not grants”, according to the leagues.

Cugley said: “I don’t think the government are keen to drop money into our standard.

“I think the hope is we can get playing in January, with fans back in, and there will be enough time to get the fixtures played.”

Cugley has largely left his players to their own devices since the second lockdown, speaking to them last week to update them on the league vote.

He doesn’t expect to see them again until the new year.

“I’m not a manager who keeps pestering them all the time,” said Cugley.

“I did speak to them last week but I won’t see them again until after Christmas.

“It’s disappointing in the sense that they’re good lads and I miss that side of it but let’s get Christmas done and hopefully get a date to come back and start our second pre-season.

“Normally you come back for pre-season in lovely sunshine and everyone’s been away on holiday.

“There won’t be the same buzz in January when it’s freezing cold and they’re coming down rubbish roads in the dark.”

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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