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EFL sides set for plenty of midweek action for the 2020/21 season

Gillingham are set for a high number of midweek games next season and manager Steve Evans can’t wait.

Two proposed dates for starting a new season have been given to clubs to consider - August 29 and September 12 - and it’s expected they will get to vote on which they prefer. Clubs have also been asked for their opinions.

Gillingham taking on Portsmouth under the lights at Priestfield in January Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham taking on Portsmouth under the lights at Priestfield in January Picture: Ady Kerry

Evans is of the belief that a start date towards the end of September would suit clubs better, giving them ample time to prepare. The two proposed dates are either side of an international football weekend which would make for a messy start to a new season.

Clubs in the lower leagues would be losing players for international commitments possibly before the first game of the season if September 12 is the preferred option. August 29 would give teams little time to assemble their squads. Gillingham only have nine senior players contracted and two of those are available for transfer.

A later start would also give fans the best chance of attending. The government have this week given the green light for small number of supporters to attend community fixtures and it’s expected crowds will eventually be admitted at a percentage of a ground’s capacity. For the Gills, they could accommodate most of their season ticket holders at 25% capacity of Priestfield.

Gillingham manager Steve Evans loves a midweek fixture Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham manager Steve Evans loves a midweek fixture Picture: Ady Kerry

Clubs have already been warned that a September 12 date would mean up to 11 midweek games, including a run of three in a row, but Evans doesn’t think too many people will mind.

He said: “It’s only my opinion but I have always thought of the season starting around September 26 and the ramification of that is we get more midweek action.

“I don’t know a footballer and I don’t know a manager outside the Premier League or a supporter in the country who doesn’t love midweek games. Who doesn’t love Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Wednesday football? People love it, they look forward to it.

“Priestfield under the lights is very special so I would look forward to it.

“More midweek games may mean FA Cup games get played to a conclusion (rather than replays) but again I also believe when you play against so-called bigger teams the best chance to beat them is in the first game.”

Teams have been faced with at least three midweek games in the Football Trophy since the introduction of regionalised group games. Peterborough director of football has suggested playing these matches as part of a pre-season. He believes clubs will want to keep the competition because of the prize money involved.

The EFL will also have to consider the League Cup. The first round has in recent years been played around the first weekend of the season, again in midweek.

Gillingham striker Brandon Hanlan celebrates scoring a midweek winner at Blackpool Picture: Ady Kerry
Gillingham striker Brandon Hanlan celebrates scoring a midweek winner at Blackpool Picture: Ady Kerry

What the Gills desperately need is some certainty and a lack of start date is currently holding them back. Chairman Paul Scally doesn’t want to make contract offers without knowing the full picture.

Evans backs that stance and said: “We cannot go ahead with retention of players or making offers until we have a date, because if we did, it would be wholly irresponsible to do that.

“The strategy was set and we are only waiting on the date.

"The chairman has given me an idea of where we are coming from, in terms of budget etcetera, and as the chairman has said we are in really good shape compared to some and we need to remain that way.

“You only have to look at Wigan. We have had the demise of Bury, we had Bolton, now we have Wigan and they could come down starting with a 12 point disadvantage (after going into administration) next season. Wigan is not alone.

“Our chairman was in front with his thought process a lot quicker than what some were and it is easier when you own the club yourself and it’s easier to make a decision. I have been involved in the process with him all the way through. It is never ideal, it is not ideal for him, not ideal for me, but at the same token the football club must always come first.”

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