Durham Women manager Lee Sanders is certain the players will be relishing a return to competitive action after the opening fixtures for the 2020/21 FA Women’s Championship season were confirmed.
The Wildcats will travel to Liverpool on the opening day of the season before welcoming Lewes to the North East the following week
.And Sanders is looking ahead with confidence after the work the players and staff have put in as the new campaign approaches.
“Everybody will just be glad to get out there and get back to competitive football,” he said.
“Obviously we’re going through the friendly cycle at the moment, and that’s great, but you can’t replicate that competitive edge.
“We say year in, year out that the Championship is the toughest league in the women’s pyramid to get out of and it has got tougher every year.
“But at the end of the day, we’re always there or thereabouts and we’ll be there again this season. Our aim is promotion, there’s no point playing if not to win, and if we’re going to achieve that then we have to accept that every game will be a tough game from the off – no matter who we play, no matter when we play them.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a team that’s come down from the Super League with the badge and everything that goes with it, or if it’s someone who’s been in the Championship for one season, every game is going to be tough.”
Durham’s early season games are set to be played behind closed doors, but Sanders is hopeful that the ever-changing picture could enable supporters to attend fixtures in the near future.
“It’s obviously disappointing that the fans may not be able to be in the ground for our first few home games,” he admitted.
“But things are changing in the country all the time and hopefully we can welcome supporters back sooner rather than later.”
And with the Wildcats now in the deep end of pre-season, the manager was quick to praise the players and coaching staff for their hard work over recent months.
“The players have worked ever so hard over the lockdown period under tough circumstances, but their commitment has been unbelievable, they are physically in great shape and are ready to come back to competitive football.
“Simon (Sports Science), Tom (S & C) and Nat (Physio), Dawn (Welfare), Dougal and Graeme (Doctors) were tremendous looking after the players and have made sure they’ve been able to keep on top of their strength and fitness and supported their general well-being too.
“Steph, from a lead coaching capacity, has done a great job with Dan and Chris to get the messages across of how we want to play and improve as a squad since we’ve returned, and we’ve all pulled together as a team – so hopefully we’re in the best place possible to go on and challenge again this season.”