Bircham and Hemel not giving up on the season just yet

The National League South has been declared null and void but Hemel Hempstead Town are one of 18 clubs who want to find a way for the season to continue

Wednesday, 24th February 2021, 9:49 am
Hemel Hempstead Town boss Lee Bircham

Lee Bircham is hoping there will still be another twist in the tale after the National League South season was declared null and void last week.

Hemel Hempstead Town were one of the clubs who voted in favour of the season continuing but, in the end, the vote went in the other direction for Step 2 with teams deciding to end the campaign after the row over loans being provided for financial help instead of grants.

In the wake of the outcome, Hemel and 17 other clubs sent an open letter to National League CEO Mark Ives appealing to him to find a way to allow those teams to continue the season with promotion and play-offs still being on the table.

Bircham believes some clarification will be coming on that over the next week but, in the meantime, the Tudors boss remains bemused by how the vote went.

“I am still confused with it all,” said Bircham, whose team were sitting in 10th place in the National League South table.

“Being involved in sport all my life, to pull the plug on something when there are so many options available especially when there isn’t going to be any relegation or anything like that is strange.

“It’s not been done because of safety, it’s all to do with money and it just leaves an empty void.

“There are more important things happening in the world than sport, I know that. But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that you have worked hard for these six months for nothing.

“Did it really need to end? I am struggling with why we had to get to this point.

“I was in it a year ago with Berkhamsted when we were at the top end of the league and it felt bad then.

“Even though we are mid-table and have no real ambitions of going up this season, it still hurts from a sporting aspect because we are facing months until the next pre-season.

“But, as far as I know, it’s not over yet so we are still continuing with training until we have a definitive answer.

“It’s tough because, as a manager, you still have to motivate your players and you have to keep them going.

“I think it will become a bit clearer in the next week what’s going on but we have been told and the chairman has told us that it’s not over yet and to keep doing what we are doing.”

Regardless of how this season does end, the next campaign is already looking more promising after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ to lead the country out of the Covid-19 lockdown included the return of fans to stadia in May.

That should hopefully mean next season starts on time and with fans back in grounds.

But Bircham hopes clubs will take the time they now have to “get their house in order”.

“I hope, if anything, after all we have been through that clubs get their house in order,” he added.

“Some clubs are clearly run well and some aren’t and to have so many clubs who, after having funding, decide they have to stop because they can’t afford, that isn’t well run.

“I am sure they all have their own reasons but maybe clubs will run themselves a little bit better after all this.”