‘The mental health side of things, people need sport and people need people’ – Fleetlands boss Bessey insists football must adapt to pandemic life

Fleetlands  manager Rich Bessey. Picture: Chris MoorhouseFleetlands  manager Rich Bessey. Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Fleetlands manager Rich Bessey. Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Fleetlands boss Rich Bessey insists football must adapt to life with the pandemic and not allow a third successive season to be shortened.

The Coptermen agreed to call off their scheduled pre-season friendly at Wessex League Premier Division Bashley tonight because of a Covid-19 case within their squad.

But Bessey stressed clubs must do their very best to ensure a close to normal competitive 2021/22 season can be carried out.

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Woking loanee Owen Sims discovered he had Covid after a positive result in one of his weekly tests with the National League club.

Sims, 17, watched his Fleetlands team-mates from the sidelines as they suffered a 4-1 friendly defeat to Baffins Milton Rovers on Saturday.

The teenager contacted Bessey on Sunday to say he had returned a positive result and, after liaising with Bashley boss Paul Morris, the pair decided to call off the friendly as a precaution.

Bessey revealed it's the first time Feetlands have been impacted by a Covid-19 case but he says leagues cannot allow for another shortened season because of the pandemic.

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He said: 'I’ve got asthma, bad asthma, I’m double vaccinated at 35 years old so I’m big on safety and Covid. My dad had Covid and he was poorly so I totally get it, but the world has got to deal with it.

'The way I see it now it is part of life, if you choose to wear a mask or don’t then it’s up to you.

‘We’re in a situation where life must go on, business must go on; we can’t keep tip-toeing around people and saying, ‘because of Covid, because of Covid.’

‘For me, football has to carry on. We’ve said it before - the mental health side of things, people need sport and people need people.

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‘For instance, if we were in a league game this weekend and one of our players had Covid and he can’t play then others play. If there’s any symptoms then they can’t play.

‘We’re just going to have to deal with that. Obviously we could get into a situation where if a team gets Covid then what do you do? Do the reserves take it and the reserve game gets called off? I don’t know.

'I just don’t feel it’s right that we can cancel a season again.'

Despite being on the end of a 4-1 defeat against Shaun Wilkinson's Baffins on Saturday, Bessey was taking the positives.

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Jamie Wrapson got the Coptermen reply and Bessey insisted it was another satisfactory afternoon for him as his team continue to prepare for the Hampshire Premier League Senior Division season.

He said: 'The scoreline flatters them, I don’t mean to sound nasty to them, but we really held our own.

‘We went in 2-0 down (at half-time) and both of our goals were from direct mistakes from our players. We were really happy - I know it sounds strange, but they’re two divisions higher and they want to be Southern League.

‘We showed where we we’re at considering who we were missing as well, because we’ve still got none of our defenders available.

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‘We tested their keeper four or five times in the first half and we had the better of the chances. Their two chances fell from our mistakes.

‘As the game went on, I think they had 22 players, we had three substitutes.'