Atherton Colls boss Brad Cooke is planning on a return to football with his side in a social capacity as soon as the Government’s coronavirus-related restrictions allow.

Last month’s verdict of a curtailed Northern Premier League season by the Football Association means that Cooke has now overseen two campaigns at the Skuna Stadium, both of which were ultimately incomplete.

Unable to play since October, and with a very limited amount of training sessions with the players since then, the manager is looking forward to rounding his troops up with some friendly competition to be had.

He said: “When we’re allowed to train according to the Government’s direction, I’m going to get the lads together and just have head tennis tournaments, five-a-side games and the like so that we can have a laugh and socialise with one another again.

“These little sessions are important for everyone physically and mentally.

“I’ve got newer players like Joel (Amado), Louis (Myers) and Jack (Lenehan) who signed towards the back end of the season that’s recently been curtailed and it’s important for them to gel properly with their team-mates although they do know some of the lads already.

“In the same sense, I’ve got the more experienced lads in the squad who need to get back to socialising with their colleagues too first and foremost, before anything serious begins.

“It’s great to build friendships and relationships, and that’s what I want to do.

“I want to get everyone together and be able to start smiling again because I think everyone’s missed that over the last few months especially.”

While the Black and Whites will enjoy being able to kick a ball around as a team for the first time at all since before Christmas, there’s no doubt that the management team have their sights set on success in the next campaign. A date for the league’s restart of August 14 was confirmed by the Northern Premier League’s board last week and Cooke has it firmly circled on his calendar already.

He said: “In early June, we’ll start pre-season ahead of the new campaign and we have the rubber stamp now on a date of August 14 as to when that will actually get underway which is a big plus.

“It’s a date now for us to work towards and to plan our sessions around. Hopefully this time when we do get underway, we’ll be able to complete a full season and it’ll actually be my first full season in the dugout too.

“If everything goes to plan, we’ll only have to blink and we’ll be back to playing games.

“That’s what everyone wants surrounding the club, both the staff – players and management included – and the fans.”