Brian Stock talks Covid-19, the postponement of the upcoming fixture and the anticipation of getting the players back into training

Josh Barton (JB) : First of all, Brian, it’s been a while since we last spoke to each-other.

Brain Stock (BS): Yeah obviously with the whole squad, players and staff, going down with Covid, it’s been a while. It’s actually nice to see to someone and speak to them about football for a change. It’s been really disappointing over the last couple of weeks, but it’s the situation we were in and we had to deal with it.

JB: Like you’ve just said, players and staff have both gone down with Covid. Away from football, has this shown that Covid-19 is having a massive effect on people’s lives?

BS: Yes, and it’s obviously not only affected us, it’s impacted the people close to us, our families. Its shown that no matter how healthy you can be, it can impact a squad of players so quickly and so devastatingly in such a small space of time. From when I got the first phone call on Monday morning, it was then, almost a case of it was spiralling out of control. However, it is also something that we have dealt with very, very well and keeping everyone safe in this situation is paramount.

JB: It feels like a lifetime ago now, but Stockport County was our last game. A fantastic win away from home, and I suppose as a manager, that was a kick-start for you to continue and see what this team could do. However, there has been this enforced break. In terms of what you have been able to do, have you been able to keep the players ticking over in the best way that you can?

BS: Having only been in this job a few months, I look back and realise there was a turning point; it was against Oxford City, and I realised it the moment we had that reaction at half-time. The performances were second-to-none in the second half against Oxford, at the game against Bromley and the game against Stockport. Against Oxford City, decisions were made at half-time and even before half-time. I’m obviously judged on these decisions and I think people realised I wasn’t afraid to make them.

Having worked with the players over the season, it’s been hard. The schedule has been tough, and this is the second time we’ve had to deal with the Covid situation now. It’s not something that can be controlled and when it does happen, we can just do the best of our abilities to tame it as much as possible.

JB: The next game against Yeovil, has obviously been postponed. It was the only option really wasn’t it?

BS: It was. We had to look at everyone’s welfare, not only the players’ but the staff and everyone’s families. The fact that the squad haven’t trained for the last two weeks played a big part. We didn’t even know what the fitness of the players was going to be. It’s something that we’ve tried to monitor from home, with daily updates, but it’s been very difficult. Some of the players won’t have even kicked a football in 16 days and for them to go into a fixture in the National League and expect them to run around on a pitch, not knowing how they’d react, but luckily the league saw sense and postponed the game.

JB: You had a glittering career as a player. It probably goes without saying that you yourself have never had to face anything like this in your career so far.

BS: No, not at all. You’ve had to face suspensions and injuries but never anything like this. Our captain (Josh McQuoid), he had to isolate for 14 days, came back and made a very positive impact in the second half against Oxford City. So, when you look at the players that have been out across the course of the season so far, it has massively affected the squad. The last three of our performances, those players we’ve been missing, have made a massive impact on their return. We’re really looking forward to having the players back over the next couple of days, assess the situation and their fitness. Four or five of the players are still off and we’ve made the decision to keep them off, as well as two or three of the staff members. At the end of the day, we’re putting everyone’s safety first and we want to make sure that everyone is as fit as they can possibly be for the next fixture.

JB: It’s two weeks until we play Chesterfield, which is the next game to look forward to. When we last spoke, we said about the break in the fixtures, between Oxford City and Stockport, to really work with the players. I guess this gap can be used for the same reason.

BS: Yes, we had in everything in place. We were almost going to put on a mini pre-season, to help maintain the fitness of the lads. Contact time is very important, given the fact that we’re part-time. It was an opportunity to put some running into the legs of players. This again will be a similar situation, but this time we’re almost starting from scratch. We’re having to build our fitness up to where we want it to be, instead of just topping it up. It’s a challenging time, but it’s something that as staff members, we have put our heads together and come up with something positive in a very tricky situation.

JB: It feels strange saying this, but the supporters and the fans, you haven’t really met many yet. With the positive news of the vaccine and more rigorous testing, you would hope for some good news about their return soon. It must be something you’re looking forward to.

BS: I think it’s important for the fans to see the style of play that we’re trying to get the players to implement. If the fans were present over the last 2 or 3 games, they would have seen that we have made good progress in certain areas. Although we can stream the game, it’s just not the same atmosphere. I know that we’ve got good supporters, and at times we would have had to call upon them to make the difference in a few games that have been decided over 1 goal. So yes, we miss the fans, like any football club and we’re looking forward to their return, but until that point, we just need to keep on doing the best we can.

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