Coronavirus: Harrogate Town striker Jon Stead on what it's like for footballers training in isolation

Harrogate Town striker Jon Stead has been there and done it during a 17-year professional career that has seen him play more than 600 games in the Premier League, all three divisions of the Football League, and most recently the National League.
Harrogate Town striker Jon Stead in action against Torquay United. Picture: Matt KirkhamHarrogate Town striker Jon Stead in action against Torquay United. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Harrogate Town striker Jon Stead in action against Torquay United. Picture: Matt Kirkham

However, just like the majority of his professional colleagues all over the world, the ex-Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town and Bradford City frontman is now getting to grips with something he has never had to do before – training in isolation at home.

As football comes to terms with the increasing challenge which the coronavirus pandemic brings to global sport, many sportsmen and women are being urged to stay away from clubs and remain at home, swapping the training ground for the back garden.

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“It’s very strange, training at home on your own, but this situation is completely unprecedented,” the 36-year-old said.

“I miss the dressing room and being around the rest of the lads at the club massively, I just can’t wait to get going again, whenever that may be.

“We’ve all been given specific training programmes, with body-weight exercises, plyometrics and running targets over various distances.

“It’s just a case of watching what you eat and finding a way to make sure that you stay as fit as you can be for when the games re-start.”

Due to coronavirus, so much is changing for so many.

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Things once taken for granted, such as being able to purchase toilet rolls whenever you needed some, or watching the football club you support play on a Saturday afternoon are already beginning to seem like distant memories.

It goes without saying that this crisis is greater than any sport. People are dying and the lives of many others are at stake.

Yet, for those who love the beautiful game, a huge void has emerged.

Supporters are pining for some competitive action, while many of the players themselves are still trying to re-adjust to the culture shock of not being required to kick a ball in anger at what is traditionally the business end of the season.

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Stead added: “It’s almost like pre-season, but the big difference is that you’re trying to maintain fitness rather than re-discover it after having the summer off.

"Fortunately for me, there are plenty of hills within about two minutes of my house, so I've got everything I need, plus a couple of balls in the garden to keep me ticking over.

"At my age, you just don't want to be stiffening up or losing any mobility. As a club, we have so much to play for when we go back, so I need to be able to hit the ground running."

The bigger picture is not however lost on Stead, who realises that, training alone or not, he and his fellow professionals are in a better position that most.

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Only this week, Town's National League rivals Barnet announced that they were set to make 60 employees redundant due to the lack of cash-flow since the coronavirus shut-down began.

While the Bees' players' jobs are safe for the time being, all coaching, academy and operational staff have been handed notice of redundancy as part of 'emergency measures to preserve the club'.

"I think it's important to remember that as players we are fortunate that our livelihoods are secure at the moment, and we have to be very grateful for that," he added.

"We need to make sure that we do the business when we get back playing.

"It's not going to be easy when we start up again, but everyone is in exactly the same boat. I doubt any team is going to be firing on all cylinders from the word go."