Gemma Donnelly admits she could never have planned for what lay in store in Rovers Ladies’ first season of FA Women’s Championship football.
But the suspension of the 2019-20 season due to the Coronavirus crisis has, at least, provided her with an opportunity put plans in place to cope with the challenges of second-tier football better in the future.
After finally securing promotion to the Championship 12 months ago – on May 10th 2019 – Rovers have struggled to record a consistent run of results at the higher level.
However, their cause hasn’t been helped by squad selection issues, the series of storms that swamped parts of the UK and ultimately the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in countless fixtures being postponed.
But despite its challenges, Donnelly is staying positive and plans to learn lessons from the current campaign and use it as a platform to build from going forward.
“It’s been really tough,” said the Rovers Ladies boss. “The weather has had a really negative impact on our season, like for everybody else.
“This year has been a bit of a nightmare really, with the floods and then the postponement of games and now this.
“We anticipated there would be a lot of change in personnel, but perhaps I didn’t anticipate how many and the reasons why, but we’ve addressed that, as staff and players, and as a collective from a club perspective as well.
“So our first season in the Championship has certainly been very hit and miss, and we’ve been able to gain very little momentum, but from a plus side, it’s enabled us to really reflect on what we could have done better and improved on, what we’ve done quite well and, ultimately, it’s allowed me to reflect and ensure that I am planning accordingly for next season.
“In terms of what we can control, we’ll continue to work really hard with the players we currently have, ensure that we finish the campaign on a high and use this opportunity to plan properly for next season, to ensure that we’re much more competitive.”
And whilst uncertainty remains regarding the resumption of the 2019-20 season, Donnelly says she is planning accordingly, for whenever that may be.
“It’s really tough, because you’re trying to plan for eventualities, but nobody knows what that might be,” she added.
“What we do know is The FA want us to resume the league, when it’s good and proper to do so, but it’s difficult to suggest how long that might be, how many weeks we have to play those matches in, what happens with next season.
“So it’s hard to combine the relevant training intensity and ensure that players have that focus as well, because it’s incredibly hard to motivate them when they don’t actually know what’s going to happen.”