LOMAS ON STAGS: Covid is casting a shadow over optimism for the new season
With 'Freedom Day' arriving and Covid figures rising it's so hard to know how to feel about the new football season that is fast approaching.
We have had the hell of the disease for the past 16 months, and football has suffered one curtailed season and another played out behind-closed-doors. But with cases dropping, a whirlwind of vaccinations going into arms and then the sheer joy of the Euros, optimism was high.
Sadly now the Delta variant is proving a game-changer and is laying low many people who have been double-jabbed.
That optimism has again been replaced by fear of the unknown.
Many people are rightly staying very cautious and scared of the potential behaviour of those who do not understand that 'Freedom Day' does not mean it's all over.
With no limit to capacity now at football grounds it will be interesting to see how crowds behave and if football clubs try to introduce any rules to keep people safer.
Thankfully for most of us the beautiful game is a completely outdoor experience that helps avoiding Covid immensely. But there will still be many who choose to mask up and others who won't return until the latest wave has peaked.
Stags boss Nigel Clough said this week that the seven or so first teamers he has already lost to self-isolation may never be able to get back that 10 days of missed pre-season fitness work.
And, with cases massively rising, they are unlikely to be the last to be sidelined and quarantined.
With the season only a fortnight away and the changed rules it is going to be so hard for clubs not to have players 'pinged' or to pick up a bout of Covid, despite all the care they take on a daily basis.
With the impact of ending all restrictions unknown for another three or four weeks but figures predicted to soar, the worry also must be that teams will end up fielding weakened sides, lose key players for key games, and potentially see games called off again.
It is such an uncertain time, but it’s the same for everyone and we have to get on with it. Stags simply have to make a good start, hope they get their support back, and be in a good position for whatever lies ahead.