Preston North End: A year on from English football's restart after lockdown

Today is a significant anniversary in English football in terms of life in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sunday, 20th June 2021, 8:00 am

On June 20 last year, the Championship and Premier League restarted after a pause of more than three months. Football had closed down on March 13, initially for a period of three weeks but one which was to stretch much further.

The game has still not returned to normal fully, by reason of the remainder of the 2019/20 season and all of the 2020/21 campaign being played behind closed doors – bar a couple of games for a handful of clubs when the tier system was in place.

Preston North End were to restart against Luton Town at Kenilworth Road.

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Preston North End and Luton Town players applause NHS workers ahead of he restart game at Kenilworth Road in June 2020
Preston North End and Luton Town players applause NHS workers ahead of he restart game at Kenilworth Road in June 2020

They drew 1-1, Scott Sinclair firing them ahead early in the second half before a late Hatters equalisers pegged them back.

It was a first experience of the squad travelling on two coaches, of changing in a hospitality lounge converted into a dressing room to meet social distancing rules.

Reflecting on the restart period and time since, PNE advisor Peter Ridsdale told the Lancashire Post: “When we started back a year ago it was a big relief. We’d had a mini pre-season after that surreal period of the club being closed and everyone being at home.

“We did find it challenging though. We had been in the top six that season all the way through to lockdown but we couldn’t find our form after it.

Scott Sinclair (right) is congratulated by Daniel Johnson and Tom Barkhuizen after scoring for PNE against Luton

“You look back to last summer and we couldn’t for example give Tom Clarke a proper farewell.

“In normal circumstances we would have had supporters inside Deepdale to say goodbye to him. It’s things like that which got hit.

“A year on and it is starting to feel like we are getting back to normal. There was the Euros game in Budapest last week with 60,000 in the stadium.

“We are starting to see crowds back at Wembley, not in the same numbers as there were in Budapest, but it’s a start.

Activity on the North End bench at Luton a year ago

“If you look at the lockdown period, our home record has suffered without fans.

“In 2019/20 we didn’t lose a home league game until West Bromwich beat us in December 2019. We had a bit of a dip after that, picked up again, but after lockdown the home form was appalling.

“With a decent home record in 2019/20 we could have made the play-offs and you could even argue the same for 2020/21.

"Since June last year football not has been normal on a daily basis. Without supporters it is not the game we all love.

"We are desperate to get supporters back in, to return to how things were."

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