Football set to interrupt talk of politics and purse strings at Eastbourne

Politics and finance packages. Board meetings and National League crisis plans. And meanwhile, almost unnoticed, the football goes on.

Amid all the National League uncertainty, Eastbourne Borough are playing well - tomorrow they host Slough / Picture: Lydia Redman
Amid all the National League uncertainty, Eastbourne Borough are playing well - tomorrow they host Slough / Picture: Lydia Redman

Eastbourne Borough welcome Slough Town to the Lane this weekend (at least we hope it does after the latest twist in this week's National League crisis), as the rounds of National League fixtures roll on. It’s football, Jim, as we are getting to know it – an empty echoing ground with masks, temperature testing and one-way systems.

A live stream, watched remotely in your living room, is a poor substitute for live spectators, enjoying that matchday terrace experience of catching up with your mates.

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The Sports have not been untouched by Covid-19. Over the New Year, at least one player and one member of the coaching staff came through an unpleasant bout of the Virus, but it could have been worse. Players have obediently settled into unfamiliar routines and a New Uncertainty.

Developments off the field this week leave the season hanging by a thread, and leave club officials feeling betrayed. Financial support – which was never taken for granted but was expected, and planned for in good faith, has been whisked away. It is rather like being on a cross-Channel ferry when suddenly, in mid-crossing, the captain announces over the tannoy that, sorry folks, we’ve run out of fuel and we will just have to drift for a while.

But the Sports must make the best of it. Ironically, this is Borough’s best and most promising season for ages, even if the fans can view it only via a video camera perched on a gantry above the North Stand. The league is competitive, and goodness, Danny Bloor’s men are certainly competing. Their win one-lose one midwinter spell continued last week, with an under-powered home defeat followed instantly by an outstanding away victory.

Maidstone United had nicked the points 3-2 at the Lane in midweek, thanks mainly to some flabby home defending. But four days later a terrific team performance earned that eye-catching 2-1 win at Havant, with literally every player making a valid claim for Man of the Match.

This weekend, the visitors are mid-table, under-achieving Slough Town – but the Rebels will arrive without joint manager Neil Baker. Neil is one of the nicest and most respected men in non-league football, but he has stepped back from football for a while, to focus on caring for his father, who is in advanced stages of incurable cancer.

What was that Bill Shankly line about football being much more important than life and death? We know it isn’t true. In our battles on the football pitch, we take each other on, tackle for tackle, pass for pass, shot for shot. But in the vastly greater battles for life, for health, for humanity, we walk together, shoulder to shoulder and stride for stride.