Coventry City manager Mark Robins is hopeful Sky Blues fans will be allowed back to watch their team sooner rather than later.
Football supporters were allowed into a Premier League stadium for the first time in almost six months, as 2,500 watched Saturday’s friendly between Brighton and Chelsea.
Seagulls followers were able to attend the game at the Amex Stadium as part of a government trial event for the return of fans to stadiums for matches.
Fans at the Amex were seated in a manner that respected social distancing protocol and were required to wear masks at all times except when they were at their seat.
The game was part of a number of pilot events announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for a phased return of spectators following the ban on mass gatherings introduced in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Robins ’s new-look squad have played all their pre-season friendlies behind closed doors in empty stadiums ahead of the new campaign which is set to start without supporters.
Asked if the players are getting used to performing with no fans, the manager said: “I don’t think they’ll ever get used to playing with no fans. It’s something to endure at the minute. Everyone is desperate to get fans back.
“And just watching the Brighton v Chelsea game on Saturday with supporters back in the stadium, I think that is something that’s not before time and just brilliant to see again.
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“The supporters were spaced out in the stadium and it was just great to see fans there.”
So is he hopeful fans will be allowed back soon?
“Absolutely,” he told CoventryLive.
“There’s talk of it happening, which is fantastic. And as long as this trend in terms of the infections and certainly the deaths of people can recede to zero that will be brilliant.
“We’re all trying to get back to normality and trying to do the right thing. It feels like it’s been a long, long time now. Summer has finished and we’re into Autumn, and it’s just ridiculous.
“So as soon as we can get back into a structure, which is what we have tried to do in pre-season by giving them that structure back. It’s been a really difficult spell but we’re looking forward to the start of the season now and getting on with things.
“The amount of games we have got, we haven’t got time to think about things.”
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said the weekend marked “an important milestone” in the recovery of sport.
He added: “I am doing everything I can to get fans back in the stands, following the teams and enjoying the sports they love. Sport’s economic health depends on their return to stadiums, too.”
As to whether Robins thinks having no fans at games in the meantime could prove to be a bit of a leveller, particularly at tough away fixtures where opponents are often buoyed by an extremely vocal partisan home crowd, he said: “I don’t think so.
“I am not even looking at it. The big thing for us is we just want to get back playing.
“We’re in another league and it’s a step up, and we’re looking to keep improving. That’s the big thing; how much can we improve on last season?
“We have lost some key players and we have tried to recruit really well, and I think we have done, and we’ll continue in the same vein.
“I’m really pleased with the way we are shaping up at the minute but it’s really early and I don’t think we’ll get anywhere near until we’re into the season.”
He added: “You look at the September games and they’re interesting but also you have to weigh up that the Championship teams from last season and the Premier League clubs that have come down have all played they last ten or 11 games of last season, some more than that, to get to this stage.
“So it’s going to be interesting because it’s totally different to before. But it’s something we have to adapt to and look forward to, which I think we all are because it’s a brilliant challenge.”