Monday 24th August 2020
IT’S four months to Christmas – but for Dumbarton, tonight may feel just a bit like December 24.
Tomorrow, for the first time in over five months, there is football in the calendar.
It may not be football as they know it, it may not be training as they know it. But they’ll have the chance to have a ball at their feet, among friends.
It’s been a situation that even after 30 more than years in management, Jim Duffy knows is unique.
He is as keen as anybody to get to the training pitch and end a close season like no other.
This time last year, Dumbarton had just played their ninth competitive fixture of season 2019/20. The first competitive outing of the 2020/21 campaign remains six weeks away.
Although it will be a very different training session, it’s one that all at DFC are looking forward to.
Speaking to www.dumbartonfootballclub.com, Jim said: “It has been such a long time coming. It’s not been unusual circumstances we’ve found ourselves in – it’s been unique circumstances in terms of players being off for so long.
“Everybody is looking forward to getting back out and getting their lives going again, although there’s no doubt it will be very different.
“The players can’t have a shower after they finish training, and you have to try as often as possible during the session to remain socially distant.
“Normally when there is a sit-down chat, or working in pairs, or doing stretching exercises, you have somebody closer to you, but those won’t happen during the initial period.
“Players will be temperature-checked before they come into training and there will be no dressing room facilities, so it will be quite strange for everybody, including me.”
With 10 of last season’s squad retained, and striker Denny Johnstone recruited, a positive start has been made to assembling the player pool for the coming season.
The manager is well aware of the need to make further additions, although at least the first couple of training sessions will be exclusively for players signed to date.
The forthcoming training sessions may also shape the future of assistant manager Barry Smith, whose deal expired at the end of last season.
He has yet to commit his future anywhere, but Dumbarton will have his services during pre-season.
Jim continued: “We don’t want to look at players during the initial period – we want to give ourselves an opportunity to get used to the new routine.
“The training balls have to be sanitised and the players have to bring all their own kit, so not having as many players will make it a bit easier for us to bed in.
“We may have a couple in with us on Saturday, but not tomorrow or Thursday.
“We haven’t looked at too many other options because financially, it’s a very difficult situation for everybody, as with no supporters, there is no income.
“We are not in any rush but we know we need players. We don’t have a huge pool that could come in and help us because of the financial viability.
Barry Smith – copyright Fullarton Photos 2020
“Barry will come down and help us with pre-season training and we will take it from there. We are training at Dumbarton so as he lives in Dundee, it’s a bit of a journey for him three times a week.
“But he’s a fantastic professional and a fantastic guy, and he’s willing to do it. He won’t get home until midnight and we can’t offer him a lot, so there are things we have to consider.
“We will look at it in a few weeks’ time. He’ll certainly be around in the short term, but whether that can continue in the long term, I’m not sure at the moment.”
Friendly matches are also on the agenda, at least tentatively, and the gaffer has a schedule lined up before the competitive action starts against Dunfermline Athletic on Tuesday, October 6 in the first Betfred Cup tie.
He added: “We’ve planned the pre-season as we would normally and are waiting on the go-ahead for four games which we have pencilled in before the Betfred Cup starts.
“Sometimes when you have almost a completely new group, as we did last year, you would use games to have a look at players.
“This time we’ve retained a nucleus from last season, so we will probably add another three or four players, and have games lined up.
“That should be enough to have us ready to start.”