Lancaster boss Mark Fell is puzzled by the Northern Premier League’s proposed later start date for next season

Boss Mark Fell has questioned why next season’s start date for clubs like Lancaster City will be two weeks after the rest of non-league.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 8:00 am
Jacob Gregory

The Dolly Blues received news this week that a provisional date of September 19 has been earmarked for the start of the new NPL Premier Division campaign.

While delighted that he can start making concrete plans in terms of preparations, Fell was puzzled why steps three and four in non-league will start later than everybody else.

Clubs in the National League have been given a provisional date of September 5 to begin the 2020/21 campaign, while so too have leagues such as the North West Counties.

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“I am delighted that we have now got a date,” said Fell. “It gives us something to plan towards. Although I will be honest, some of it does not make sense to me.

“The step one and two clubs and the step five clubs are scheduled to start on September 5 and I just find that remarkable.

“We know that next season is going to be tightly packed in terms of the fixtures.

“We have effectively lost a month of the season and it’s certainly one of the busiest months because you play Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday.

“We are missing eight or nine games there but we are still starting two weeks after all the other divisions.

“It’s madness in my eyes but this has always been the case where our league starts after everybody else.

“I don’t know why they do it. I would love for somebody to explain the reasons why because we play more games than everybody else.”

Despite that, Fell was pleased that a date has now been set to plan towards and it means City, who have been back in training since the end of last month, can now start stepping up their preparations.

So far, the players have been sticking to strict social distancing protocols since their return, but the government have now given their blessing to squads of up to 30 people resuming full contact training.

That means it will be all systems go for the City squad – which has been boosted by the return of former fans’ favourites Paul Dugdale and Jacob Gregory – this Saturday.

“We have now got something to go at,” said Fell. “We officially start pre-season training this weekend.

“It will be great to get back in and do some meaningful stuff. We have had the lads in already and done fitness work while sticking to socially distancing.

“But we will be able to do some proper stuff and it’s important that we have now got the opportunity to do that.”

Fell revealed that he was thrilled to welcome back Dugdale and Gregory.

Dugdale made 98 appearances for City before leaving for Clitheroe at the end of the 2018/19 season to team up with Phil Brown.

The 32-year-old is vastly experienced and brings the versatility of playing as either a left-back or centre-half.

Fleetwood-based Gregory was part of the championship-winning side in 2017. He then went onto play for Colne and Clitheroe. The ex-Fylde and Blackpool youngster, still only 24, is comfortable anywhere on the right-hand side.

“Paul is somebody I know all about,” said Fell. “He had some injury problems last season at Clitheroe.

“He will add great competition and give us some left-sided balance. In the shape that we played last season, he would have given us a left-sided centre-half option.

“I have liked Jacob for a long time. I have never actually worked with him. I tried to sign him when I was manager of Ramsbottom United.

“I watched him two or three times last season at Clitheroe and I always thought he was the best player every time.”