Warm-up with minnows the ideal solution when football returns – Sue Smith

We will have to be guided by the experts on the timing, but like a lot of people, I think the 2019-20 football season has to be finished.

IDEAL WORLD: Leeds United fans deserve to be there if the club secures its return to the Premier League whenever the season resumes. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It will not be as simple as just restarting the moment football gets the go-ahead, though.

I just do not think you can declare the season null and void or say: ‘Those are the final league positions and that’s that.’

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We have to finish the season however long it takes, and that is what the Football League and Premier League are trying to work towards. If it means playing three games a week, so be it.

Fans are likely to flock back to ensure sellout gates at games at all levels when football does finally return. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA

But you cannot just go from doing nothing or training on your own to suddenly playing competitive football.

The players will be ticking over at the minute but if we reach the stage where they are told to stay in for a certain amount of time it is not going to be the same sort of training intensity as you would get working together on the training ground.

When I was playing, they used to say that after a couple of weeks of doing nothing your fitness would dramatically dip, and it would take a couple more weeks to get back to that level.

I remember how difficult it was for me coming back after injuring my medial and cruciate ligaments on my Doncaster Rovers Belles debut in 2011.

Jack Redshaw's shot is saved by Jordan Holmes as FC Halifax Town faced Ebbsfleet United in National League at The Shay last weekend before falling into line with the bigger clubs on Monday. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

I had done all the work I was supposed to in the gym but it is the actual playing you cannot replicate. My touch was horrendous and I felt sluggish. My speeds were apparently okay, so it must have been a mental thing.

You do not want players coming back and picking up injuries straight away, particularly if they are playing extra games each week to clear the fixtures backlog, so they will need a mini-pre-season.

I was surprised the National League and Northern Premier League continued playing last weekend despite all the other postponements, not just across English football but world sport.

I would want to play because that is what you love to do and train for but they must have been scared not just for themselves but also if they picked anything up and took it back to family members who were at risk.

The Shay last weekend before Halifax Town took on Ebbsfleet. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

It shows, though, how worried the leagues were about the finances of their clubs, where gate receipts make up a far bigger chunk of their income.

So for the Premier League and Championship clubs to play “pre-season” games at non-league and lower grounds would provide a much-needed boost to help them get through this. By the time we get playing again, the appetite for football will probably mean a lot of matches would sell out.

There has been some talk about playing behind closed doors and if that is the only option, it might be what they have to do, but it is far from ideal.

When we went away with England, you would often play on a Saturday on television in front of a crowd but there would also be a behind-closed-doors game in the week, effectively for the B team. That midweek game was always really strange and a match you did not really want to play in.

NOW HEAR THIS: YP columnist Sue Smith

If Leeds United won promotion back to the Premier League after 16 years away, if Sheffield United qualified for Europe for the first time or Rotherham United won a league title for only the fourth time in their history, it would be a real shame if there were no fans in the stadium.

There is also the worry about whether they might just congregate elsewhere, as when Paris Saint-Germain’s fans gathered outside the stadium before this month’s behind-closed-doors Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund.

We may have to consider a shorter campaign next season, and might have to scrap the domestic cup competitions. This season’s FA Cup may have to go as well.

The women’s FA Cup final is still the highlight of the season in the way it used to be for the men, but even they might have to go without.

It would be really hard for those still in the competitions but finishing the league and finding out who has qualified for Europe is the most important thing.

Another difficult question for women’s football will be where you fit in the European Championships.

At the moment, it is due to be played in England in the summer of 2021, with Sheffield United and Rotherham United hosting matches. UEFA have decided the men’s European Championships – originally due for this summer – will be played then.

I would like to see football follow the lead of Wimbledon and the Olympics, and play the men’s and women’s competitions alongside one another.

We are always trying to get more people to watch women’s football and if the men can have the good tournament we all hope they do, it will add to the party atmosphere, with the competition ending at Wembley.

As it stands, the men’s final will be on July 11, and the women’s is not due to start until the 7th, so there would not be much overlap, and these tournaments spread out in the latter stages. Rotherham is due to host a women’s group game at noon on the day of the men’s final – what a great way to build up to it.

If that is not possible, the next best bet would be to put the women’s tournament back until the summer of 2022, when there is no men’s World Cup because it will be in Qatar in the winter.

The biggest concern for the top female players at the moment is preparing for the Olympics, which has not yet been cancelled.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson has been saying this week she cannot train as normal because the facilities are closed and Great Britain’s footballers will have similar problems.

You would not want to just postpone if there is a chance of going ahead safely when so many people have put so much work in both to organise it and train for it, but you want the Olympics to be an amazing showcase where everybody can produce their best.