(From the Belfast Telegraph) Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael Ingham has given a fascinating insight into what it was like playing football at non-league level in England on Saturday when all Premier League and Football League matches were off due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ingham revealed that players bumped elbows after the game as opposed to shaking hands, adding that prior to kick-off there was confusion and questions in the dressing room about Covid-19.
While football across the board in Northern Ireland and Scotland was cancelled last week until the start of April at least, many lower-level English fixtures went ahead as normal including a Northern Premier League encounter between Ingham’s Tadcaster Albion and Workington.
The latter won 4-2 but in years to come Belfast man Ingham will remember the surreal circumstances surrounding the game rather than the result.
Ex-Cliftonville hero Ingham, speaking from York where he lives, explained: “Below League Two, which is in the Football League, there are different governing bodies for the various lower leagues in England and the body in charge of our league said to go ahead.
“Northern Ireland and Scotland put blanket bans on their football through to grassroots levels and we thought that may happen here. When it was decided games in our league would go on, individual games started to be called off because, for example, one club just decided to cancel their game.
“We went ahead with our match and from a club point of view I can understand why that happened.
“On a personal level I didn’t mind playing the game of football but my concern like a lot of footballers would be picking something up and then perhaps being in contact with an elderly family member or a young kid who is vulnerable. That would be very hard to deal with.”