For months they have been in limbo but now Sheffield United’s players know they have a Premier League game on June 17, and most clubs in the top two divisions are due back a few days later.
But the football they come back to will be different.
Some players have been nervous about returning and I can completely understand why, but even my spirits have been lifted as a fan and a pundit.
When you play in a team sport you are used to training with other people and it will have been such a boost for the players once they were allowed to do that again. They will be really excited to get playing again.
When you stop playing, it is your team-mates and the togetherness you miss most. Training alone is not the same.
I have sympathy for players like Charlton Athletic’s Lyle Taylor who would rather not play the last nine games because their contract is up at the end of them. You would be so unlucky if you got a serious injury which stopped you getting a transfer and leaves you without the support of a club while you recover.
On that first weekend, teams will face the sides they were due to face in mid-March but the conditions will be totally different. It will suit some players more than others.
During my career, women’s football went from being a winter to a summer sport, and it does make things a bit different, especially if we have the sort of hot weather we have had in recent weeks.
It will be a far cry from when I played in Macao, where temperatures were 90F-plus and there was 90 per cent humidity, to get ready for the Women’s World Cup in China but even in our summer, 90 minutes will take it out of players not used to those conditions, and who have not played for months.
I used to prefer playing in warm conditions to being wrapped up in gloves and skins but you did have to change your game slightly.
In Macao, I was sweating and out of breath even in the warm-up, so I would try to preserve energy, warm up in the shade and be as hydrated as possible. The tempo of the matches that summer was slow and the distances covered were a lot less than in training in England yet our heart rates were much higher.
We played a game against Hong Kong Boys and although most of us only played for 45 minutes, I was in the “red zone” where you are close to maximum effort for about 40 of them!
That was an extreme example, but playing in English summer temperatures will still be tough for teams who play a high-intensity style, like Leeds United, and they will have to adapt.
Even in domestic football, we would have summer games where our manager told us we should only press the ball in patches, followed by maybe 10 minutes of sitting back.
As a winger, I was a runner, but you learned to pick your moments a bit more.
Luckily, Leeds have a coach in Marcelo Bielsa who has worked at World Cups and in hot countries. He will know how to adapt and identify the players who can do the job.
Playing behind closed doors will have an effect too.
I have had team-mates who would regularly be the best player in training then crumble in games and others who you wondered how they got picked on a weekend, but would respond to the crowd, whether they were being booed or cheered.
Those players might have to create their own pressure and the pre-match team talks will be massively important. For clubs like Sheffield United, hoping to qualify for Europe for the first time, there will be plenty riding on these games.
I do not worry about the Blades – they all seem very motivated. I cannot imagine them playing at less than 100 per cent during a kickabout in the back field, and I certainly cannot imagine Chris Wilder putting up with anyone who does not.
Motivation is only part of it. The players should all be fit, but it takes time to get your sharpness back.
Ideally, you would play some friendlies against teams of a similar style to your first few opponents, but Sheffield Wednesday manager Garry Monk has said the only warm-up games his players are likely to have will be against each other.
Maybe some will be looking at other teams thinking, ‘Well they’re doing it, why aren’t we?’
Monk thinks it is a risk inviting other players into the Owls’ sterile environment and I can understand but I worry it might be difficult going straight into high-tempo Championship games.
I used to find it mentally tough if I had not had a proper week’s intense training leading up to a game because I was carrying a niggle.
Speaking to sports psychologists made me realise it was completely irrational and sometimes I would have a brilliant game but I could totally understand if someone who had only had a couple of friendlies, let alone inter-club matches, since early March felt a bit apprehensive and under-prepared.
For everyone, it will be a step into the unknown.
The amount of time it was taking to abandon the Women’s Super League and Championship seasons was becoming a real frustration, but yesterday’s decision on promotion and relegation means clubs can now start to plan properly.
For Sheffield United and their manager Carla Ward, it means another season in the second tier.
The Football Association have decided to go ahead with promotion and relegation, decided on a points-per-game basis, and Liverpool and Aston Villa will be swapping places for next season.
The second-placed Blades were six points behind Villa with six matches to play when fixtures were suspended due to coronavirus.
The standard of women’s domestic football is getting higher every year, and there will be more full-time teams for the part-time Blades to compete with, so it will be tough to go one step further.
But with my old Lincoln team-mate Wardy in charge, I am confident Yorkshire’s highest-ranked women’s team will give it a really good go when women’s football resumes.
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