Ten points clear after a 14-match winning run, Jose Alvarez’s side seemed sure to win their 33rd title until Thursday’s FA edict to ‘expunge’ the season came through.
‘Yes, I’m a bit disappointed but it was expected in the current situation,’ said Alvarez. ‘They [the players] are gutted – but they understand. They know the circumstances and that the most important thing is to keep safe and listen to the government advice.’
Phil Corbet, chairman of the GFLM and once a title-winning coach at North, had nothing but sympathy for his old club.
‘I have total sympathy for them and also the likes of the Rangers U16s who were one point away from the title,’ said Corbet.
The day after the GFLM broke the news with the lead-in phrase ‘The Season That Never Was’, Corbet pointed out how clever the FA had been to use the word expunge as regards the 2019-20 league seasons between Step 3 to grassroots Step 7.
The definition of ‘expunged’ is to obliterate or remove completely (something unwanted or unpleasant), which most of this season has been with week after week of heavy rain and then the literally killer-blow, a Covid-19 outbreak.
‘Basically, that’s what happened to this season,’ Corbet added. ‘The guidance on the FA website is that the expunging of leagues from Steps 3 to 7 leaves the big boys alone.
‘It was mandatory – no room for negotiation.
‘As a board and in consultation with the GFA it was decided consistency throughout our leagues was the best course of action. All leagues have been treated in the same manner.’
Both North and Corbet’s GFLM board are already looking forward to a more straightforward 2020-21 season, whenever that starts.
Both North and Corbet’s GFLM board are already looking forward to a more straightforward 2020-21 season.
Alvarez, who wants to add depth to his squad, heaped praise on the GFLM.
‘I want to say a big thank-you for Phil and the board because they have done a magnificent job in difficult circumstances this season.
‘I know they had hoped to finish the season and perhaps play even in June and July, but they did not have any choice. They have done a brilliant job.’
As for his players, Alvarez said they would be back equally determined to nail that 33rd crown.
‘They have worked really hard this season.
‘I thought we could be around there [the top] and I thought that if we were around the top at Christmas we would have a chance. What they did since then was incredible – 14 wins on the road was a great achievement. They will come back next time and try and do it again.
‘If we can add two or three players it would be great because we have had only a hardcore of 15-16 this season.
‘They are already talking about next season and, hopefully, this will make them even more determined.’
North president Colin Kimber said that while disappointed, he felt more sorry for those who may lose their job or can’t earn a living in the current climate.
‘It would have been nice in my second year as president to pick up the Priaulx League trophy – I make no bones of that, but I feel sorry for everyone. We are all in the same boat and at the end of the day it is only a game.’
Corbet and his board will now have to decide how they can, most fairly, offer up three choices to play in next season’s Wheway Cup. But after the headaches of the past few months, the GFLM leader does not want to think too much about that quite yet.
‘Realistically, the earliest we could have started something again was June, possibly later, and the new season would be on top of you. We now move on and look forward to next season, whenever that starts.’