Sutton goalkeeper Nik Tzanev feels Hartlepool clash should have been postponed

By George Sessions, PA
PA Media: Sport

Sutton goalkeeper Nik Tzanev has admitted Saturday’s Vanarama National League game against Hartlepool probably should have been cancelled, with most other fixtures in the country and across the continent postponed following the coronavirus pandemic.

The on-loan AFC Wimbledon player helped the U’s pick up a point in front of 2,126 spectators at Gander Green Lane, with this match one of the few to take place in the capital.

On Friday, the Premier League and English Football League suspended football until April 3 at the earliest due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, but the National League allowed matches to continue.

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Only six National League fixtures went ahead on Saturday (George Sessions/PA)
Only six National League fixtures went ahead on Saturday (George Sessions/PA)

In the end, only six of the 12 scheduled games went ahead, with a number of clubs calling them off due to the coronavirus, and 23-year-old Tzanev conceded Sutton’s fixture with Hartlepool should perhaps have followed suit, with symptoms for the virus sometimes taking days to show.

Tzanev said: “It is a bit of a tricky situation because no one knows who has it or who hasn’t.

“I think it probably would have been for the best if the game was cancelled, just for a safety reason, but I’m sure we’re all fit and healthy. We’ll have to see where it goes, where it takes us.”

As things stand, Sutton are preparing to host AFC Fylde on Tuesday, although another National League meeting is expected to be held in the early part of next week.

The Sutton keeper added: “It is hard to prepare when everything else has been shut down around you and all the other leagues, even the one below us, have been cancelled. We’ll just stay in the positive mentality and take it from there.”

Hartlepool chief executive Mark Maguire insisted it was difficult to know what was right or wrong, but pointed to Cheltenham Festival hosting large crowds of people in the week.

With the National League likely to eventually be suspended, the Pools board member made the suggestion of cancelling Euro 2020 in order to ensure the 2019-20 season is finished.

“I think things probably will change next week,” Maguire said.

“The most sensible solution for football in the top five or six divisions now would be for the Euros to be cancelled and for there to be an extension of this season.

“We’ve got seven games left after today and essentially you could go Tuesday, Saturday and finish that in the space of four weeks.

“Even if that’s in late May or early June, you could do it in four weeks and almost have your pre-season now, as it were, for next year and have two seasons concurrently.

“That will mean you are looking after the welfare of the players, you’re getting the fixtures done and promotion/relegation, which is critical financially for some clubs, can happen. I think that would protect the integrity of the competition and is possible within the timescale.”

Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott conceded a suspension of all football activities at Gander Green Lane would be a “hugely difficult situation” for the south London club.

The U’s artificial pitch is hired out throughout the week, with a game taking place half an hour after the league match against Hartlepool had ended.

“If it stops us using our 3G pitch and hiring it out, which is busy all day and every day, and the social facilities here, if all that gets affected, we will have major problems financially,” Elliott told the PA news agency.

“Hopefully someone will come along and give some assistance. Who it will be and whether it will happen, I have no idea, but otherwise there will be a lot of clubs and businesses hugely affected and we will struggle to survive.”

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