PICKERING Town chairman Wayne Taylor has paid tribute to the local community, fans and sponsors for their help throughout this coronavirus-affected season.

As is the case for clubs across the country, Pickering have been hit by the knock-on effects of the pandemic, which has precipitated two national lockdowns and various restrictions on everyday life.

Football at all levels has returned to pitches much later than usual - the Pikes’ Northern Premier League north/west division campaign kicked off in mid-September - and in front of reduced-capacity crowds.

This has resulted in the loss of income from channels that are otherwise hugely important for non-league sides, such as gate receipts and food and drink.

As the country went into a second lockdown in November, amateur football was put back on hold. Pickering’s return fixture on December 5 was postponed following deliberations about extending the pause.

The league have now announced that games up to and including December 19 will be called off, adding to clubs’ financial pressures.

But Taylor is optimistic about the Pikes’ future - and has hailed outside contributions to that positivity.

“It’s hard to say what we’ll be like come the end of the season but we’re okay, our head’s above water,” he said. “Myself and the committee have been trying to run the club as best we can and I’m confident we’ll still have our heads above water when we finish the season.

“We’re not going to be rolling in money but we’ll survive.

“We’re a tight-knit community and I can’t thank the supporters enough for their donations and helping us through organised things like raffles and everything else.

“Them and our sponsors have been fantastic to us and it’s because of them that we will be able to survive and, if need be, start 2021/22.

“Without the support of Pickering as a town, supporters and sponsors, we wouldn’t have survived this.

“I have to thank them from the bottom of my heart for all the donations and everything everybody has done for the club because without them, there wouldn’t be a Pickering Town Football Club."

On Monday (December 7), the NPL released a statement outlining their decision to continue the break.

It reads: “All league matches up to and including Saturday December 19 have now been postponed.

“Following on from the announcement last week, about the Trident Leagues and its clubs voting to continue the season pause, the NPL confirmed that all league games on December 5 and 12 had been postponed, and this has now been extended until at least December 19.

“However, please note that if in the interim, the Government make any changes to the current tier restrictions that allows the return of fans to all NPL fixtures, the league will approve the reinstatement of any scheduled matches where both clubs are in agreement.”

This means that, unless the necessary conditions are satisfied or the pause is further extended, Pickering’s next fixture will be on Boxing Day at home to Marske United.

A potential advantage to having competitive fixtures put on ice for a few weeks longer is that the team will be able to get back into group training, which they were unable to do under lockdown conditions.

But something Taylor definitely wants to avoid is the season being curtailed and voided like the 2019/20 campaign.

Asked how he feels about the current pause, Taylor said: “The word I’m going to use is ‘frustrating’. Everybody’s biting at the bit to get back into football and finish the season.

“I think it will benefit us but if the league says we can have crowds back, we can start again. We’re relying on the Government’s announcement on the 16th.

“Personally, I just want to start playing football again.

“Hopefully the lads are looking after themselves and doing a bit to keep fitness ticking over.

“Football has been in the blood all our life. It’s like taking your legs away with no football. We’re all missing it.

“The season needs to get kicked off as soon as possible to be able to finish. If we’re allowed back after the 19th, we need to be straight back into it. There’s not enough of the season left to finish it if you start having another two weeks to give the lads training.

“We need to start playing as soon as possible. It’s a level playing field for everybody. Everybody’s in the same boat. Let’s get back into it and get the season finished. It would be a shame for the season to have to be null and void.

“We’ve had long enough without football.”