‘I don’t think those who made the decision realise how important grassroots football is’ – Dan Bateman

Dan Bateman. Photo: Neil Graham.
Dan Bateman. Photo: Neil Graham.

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Wokingham & Emmbrook are sitting proudly at the top of the Uhlsport Hellenic League with an unbeaten record – but even tougher challenges await them.

Joint-manager Dan Bateman told Football in Berkshire: “We have shown more consistency this season than we did last year. We haven’t dropped points to the weaker teams so far like we did last season, but we’ve still got some big tests ahead of us.

“The way the league is panning out at present, we have only played one of the teams we are expecting to see among the top four at the finish and we certainly see ourselves being bang in the mix.

“Risborough Rangers are probably the team to beat. They have a decent budget and a good squad. If a team can finish above them, then they will win the league, but they are there to be taken and we have put ourselves in a good position to do that.”

Jake White is the Hellenic League Division One East’s top scorer. Photo: Neil Graham.

In the meantime, Bateman and fellow team boss Matt Eggleston are urging their players to stay sharp before matches resume, hopefully, next month.

“This (second lockdown) is frustrating as we are top of the league and playing well,” said Bateman.

“I understand why they have done it (suspended grassroots football), but I think it could have been managed in a way that would enable us to carry on. I don’t think those who made the decision realise how important grassroots football is for many people. We have just got to deal with it, but it is going to be difficult.”

Like most other leagues, the Hellenic are hoping to resume fixtures before Christmas, providing the lockdown is not extended.

“I think the league are going to give us a two-week window for teams to get match fit again and play friendlies, but in my view, you can’t get fit in just a fortnight,” added Bateman, who is urging players to work-out at home.

“When things get back to normal, you will be able to see a difference between those lads who have worked hard by themselves and those who haven’t. This applies to all teams and I think that could mean seeing a few strange results when matches resume.”

Dan Bateman. Photo: Neil Graham.
Dan Bateman. Photo: Neil Graham.

The Lowther Road club have provided some guidelines for their players, with Bateman revealing: “We have a fitness coach who has come up with some fitness plans for the lads to follow over the next few weeks, but at the end of the day it is up to them to what they do.

“At the moment we are top of the league and unbeaten, and we want to stay there, but to do that we need the lads to put the work in during the break. If they don’t do it, when they come back they will be up against it.

“So we have to make sure we have that discipline and be in the best possible place when we come back.”

In addition to the first team, Wokingham & Emmbrook Reserves are also unbeaten in Hellenic Division 2 East, while the development and Allied Counties League teams are also doing well.

“To have four sides all doing well is great for the club,” added Bateman. “

“There are teams in the area having to fold because they haven’t enough players, but we are fielding four teams and it is good to see the club thriving, we now need to keep it going.”

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