With the FAW recently announcing the start date for the 2021/22 JD Cymru South, Welsh Cup and Nathaniel MG Cup for July, Brandon Arthur caught up with Port Talbot Town FC manager Mark Pike for an update on preparations, dealing with the pandemic and last season’s curtailment.

How happy are you to finally have a start date for the 2021/22 season?

It’s been a long time coming. We were bitterly disappointed with the curtailment, especially after being given elite status to play in the Nathaniel MG Cup match in December when the pandemic was at its worst locally. I do totally understand it and fully respect the decisions made. We now put the year behind us and look forward to an exciting season ahead. 

How is the squad shaping up ahead of the new season?

The squad remains pretty much the same. I have added in a few new faces to freshen us up a bit. I’m just looking forward to working with a great group of players and now the training program will certainly be different than previous years gone by, but it has to be given we have been out of competitive action for over twelve months bar one game.

How excited are you get started with pre-season? 

We start the hard work very soon and we have got a number of games scheduled which start at the end of June. We did have a few key games we had planned for pre-season, but they will have to be cancelled as they conflict with the earlier season start.

Has it been difficult to keep players motivated over the extended period without play?

I think I speak for every manager and coach when I say that this last twelve months has been a real test. It’s been so hard, especially after getting multiple programs together, being promised a start date and then it being moved. Players were certainly getting frustrated but in all fairness to them they trained on their own with a program given to them and they just got on with it, but it just isn’t the same. I am really proud of this lot. They are a fantastic and tight-knit group and I hope it remains like this for quite a while to come.

Was it disappointing to have last season curtailed after just one cup match?

It was really disappointing but as I said earlier the frustrating thing about it is that we planned and prepared at least four times, but decisions were made to cancel. These lads have had four pre-seasons in a single season. In hindsight decisions should have been made for the right reasons back in December. But it is in the past now and we look forward to the new season and getting that underway

Are you glad we will get a full thirty-game season if conditions allow? 

The thought of a fifteen-game season was going to be very tough. With the FAW announcing that we start a few weeks earlier this season, I think it gives us a very good chance of finishing it.

What can we expect to see from PTT next season? 

In all fairness nothing different to any other season. We have got a great bunch. The togetherness in this group is phenomenal and it’s a very tight-knit group with the majority local lads. The few who are not local have been involved at the club’s academy, so they know the club inside out, they know our history and they know what it means to play for the club. We will be hard working, play in the right areas and with a will to win each game. 

Are you hopeful that when the season does start, we will have fans in the ground?

I bloody hope so! The fans we have are the best. Their appreciation of this group of lads is phenomenal and I just hope more supporters will return and get behind them. I can speak for all of the players here by saying that there is a great rapport with our fans and players and long may that continue.