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Updated: Aug 31, 2023

In a sharp contrast to our usual Blogs - detailing teams, scorers and occasional moments of controversy we thought we would delve into a time that it's so easy to overlook in our history March 2020 and the first real recognition of the effects the global pandemic hitting our nation and game and specifically Our Club The views expressed in this Blog are quite personal and not those of SHWFC necessarily

March 23rd was the key date in UK when in two quite different places, two leaders underwent extensive testing before they arrived at two quite differing measures El Presidente went under sedation before his operation to fully replace his right knee Elsewhere PM Bozo Johnson appeared on national TV, whilst appearing to be still sedated, to announce a series of measures that would restrict Joe Public in their day to day lives As we later learned these measures applied only to select 99% of the population whilst 'the Chaps' went about partying and plundering the economy El Presidente didn't get where he is today without a spot of plundering but his scale of jakery was trivial compared to that meted out nationally

The biggest measure that hit walking footballers was the closure of meeting places and restriction of numbers assembling Overnight our game was shut down for the foreseeable future The death toll from COVID in UK continued to mount with widespread fear that this was serious and sweeping through the populace Older people were considered especially vulnerable Our membership with an average age over 60 was part of this threatened segment of the population The country was locked down with the only consolation being we were all in it together (mostly), the spring weather was particularly mild going on pleasant It was great weather for walking exercise, albeit in restricted family numbers

Many people adapted quickly to working from home as DIY and gardening projects became the 'go to' diversions Our Club adopted Zoom meetings as a way to conduct Executive Committee sessions and WhatsApp as its communication weapon of choice

One especially vital lifeline to keep spirits up was the Social WhatsApp group We learned that some of our crew relied on this medium for news entertainment and sanity Andy Houghton introduced his first WhatsApp quiz and others, notably Alain McKie, were enthusiastic followers This diet of obscure questions of football trivia helped a lot of us remain on an even keel when the stress of lockdown was at its worse

Privately some struggled with their mental well-being shut away from all but immediate family So the quiz content gradually softened to include a funnier type of theme Looking back as a Club in its darkest hour we formed new unbreakable bonds (that still endure) during this period of international crisis

Restrictions were partially lifted in mid June with complex 2 metre distancing, no contact and above all pubs remaining out of bounds A group of 10 hearty souls met in Sherdley Park on Monday 15th June to see if training drills could be safely completed The grass pitch was much too long and the temperature much too high for the football purists but it was a start and we vowed to return to our regular Wednesday night 7-8pm slot again on Sherdley's wide acres For week two we acquired some pop-up posts to enable games of a fashion to be staged We quickly discovered that the pop-up net was no match for the shooting power of our players Week by week numbers gradually increased in these far from perfect circumstances The willingness of members to endure their temperatures being taken using El Presidente's Acme Electronic Thermometer and subject themselves to intimate questioning by Health & Safety Guru/future Treasurer Les Victor Meldrew meant we met the barmy conditions to safely play

Our Treasurer Alex Jackson disinfected cash taken and wore gloves to prevent passing any COVID germs on to his Wife (who was very vulnerable with pre-existing health concerns)

The WFA issued a Protocol to help Clubs remind their way to return to play Our members generally were unaffected by COVID and only too ready to enjoy their chance to play once again Time and again individuals were warned the activity was undertaken at their own risk And all from two metres distance

Further restrictions were lifted by September enabling Sutton to stage outdoor sessions and for us to introduce our first Monday session at Ruskin Sports Village There was another brief lockdown as Autumn became Winter Under lights our numbers thrived but still no pubs were allowed to open The Ruskin sessions were possible thanks to a grant secured from Sport England Our then Secretary Michaylo Fedyk and El Presidente beavered away with local Council assistance to ensure the application was successful We'd also secured a Grant from the Lord Lieutenant at this time, so we were building our reputation as a competent and well run Walking Football outfit The news that we'd won a prize of new kit from Harry's was probably the icing on the cake in 2020

The country was down the pan perhaps but SHWFC was primed for take off if only we were fully free of the public assembly regulations

In that time we learned that our new kit supplied by Razor brand Harry's would be shipped to El Presidente Palazzo in November The arrival of a fabulous Umbro kit plus lots of other football and toiletry products was a real boost Kit was dispensed at the next session Whilst in some cases players who were not at that last session had to secretly meet at Lea Green Station car park to receive their booty Gatherings were somewhat restricted still at this point indeed there was talk of a renewed lock down for Christmas But Restrictions were lifted briefly prior to the Festive period to allow another couple of sessions

Those of us who were present enjoyed some magical Walking Football and then the questionably illegal tailgate party at the last session before the Christmas shutdown Bottles of lager and IPA were passed illicitly around, whilst the warm glow of Club mates genuinely pleased to be in the company of friends kept the sub-zero temperature at bay It was a heartening experience, a token gesture of Christmas cheer but it certainly made one appreciate their health and their friendships

Compared with Partygate ours was a minor transgression but significant fillip for all those involved

It was a pivotal time in our history Firm friendships were forged despite everything thrown at the public by the Pandemic We learned later that Health Secretary Hancock really did have his hands full during the crisis, photographs of Ms Coladangelo in his steely grip circulated leading to his swift career change to 'Z list Celebrity' Bozo stumbled on until one gaffe too many tested the resolve of his Party's men in grey suits' The key figures in Government might have had questionable authority but Our Club battled through it all

If there's lessons to learn it's that good will always eventually triumph That spirit and camaraderie so evident during this bewildering time in our history meant we thrived when some normality resumed SHWFC continued to flourish and hopefully always will

Enjoy your Club if you was there you've earned it!

Reflections* - Diana Ross & The Supremes or

Reflections* Of My Life - Marmalade

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