The southside’s newest roving reporter, Mick Kane, caught up with long-serving defender Grant Evans to talk about how life has been treating him under lockdown, a return to football action and his thoughts on the new seasons set up.
Grant Evans signed for his local club back in 2016, and has so far made 87 appearances for Pollok, scoring 3 goals. Despite being a tough tackler, Evans shows us a different side in our latest interview as he discusses mental health awareness.
“It’s been alright,” Evans said about life under lockdown. “Obviously been tough for everyone. I’ve worked through most of it, only had three weeks off during it, so that’s kept me busy.
“I think its been tough with no football, a lot of the boys have been suffering, just missing the changing room, the banter, getting together and the fitness as well. You see it everywhere, everybody out doing their 5k’s, running but you can’t beat the football, the competitiveness. The sooner it comes back the better.”
As the lockdown restrictions are beginning to be lifted more and more, football seems set to return sooner rather than later for the lower leagues.
“As far as I have heard, going to be back in (training) August at some point.” Evans said. “Speaking to the manager, Murdie was saying start off a couple of nights a week to get the boys back into it, as its still quite a while away from playing games. Don’t want to get everyone back too early.
“The most important thing is everybody’s health and safety. The wellbeing of the players is the most important thing, so once we get the greenlight then everyone is ready to crack on with it.”
As Evans mentioned, wellbeing of the players is important and that includes their mental health wellbeing, which could be taking a hit under the lockdown restrictions.
“I think everybody suffers from kind of mental health issues,” Evans explained. “Whether its a wee bit of anxiety, getting down now and again. Think a lot of folk (will be struggling) maybe living themselves, all ages and I think everyone will be suffering just now.
“I was saying to the manager the other day, there’s a lot of guys come to watch junior football. You go to a lot of the grounds , a lot of them are older. That’s what they look forward to all week, that’s there day out. Come down watch the game, go to the pub after the game, have a wee talk about it, whether iys a good or bad result. Probably be slagging me!
“I think everyone is suffering, I think kids are suffering being cooped up all the time. Personally its been hard as well. Nothing to do on your days off, trying to keep yourself ticking over, running. Keeping fit is a great way of keeping your mental health in check. Not being able to do that, not being able to interact with the boys has been difficult. I think if everyone starts opening up a wee bit, talking to each other then that goes a long way to help. I think everyone is more aware about it now, you see a lot of clubs getting involved in stuff like that and its encouraging to see.”
Football can often seem a tough macho environment where opening up about problems is not the done thing, Evans agrees.
“Definitely, its not easy. Football always been seen as a butch sport. Its not easy for people opening up. I’m not saying everybody has issues but I suffer from anxiety and I think a lot of people do. Its about communicating, talking and just opening up. Then you see others and you realise you’re not the only one. You speak to the guy next to you, ‘oh aye, I get that as well.’ I think its important. I’ve always been quite open about it. I don’t suffer really bad from it but I do. Times like this its not great.”
Lockdown brought an early end to the West junior leagues as the creation of the new West of Scotland Football League came into being. What expectations does Evans have of the new league?
“I don’t know, its exciting.” Evans said. “At the start I was a bit not sure. Now that its set in stone its exciting, really exciting. A lot of games to be played, 38 league games from October onwards, its going to be tough. I don’t know if they will look at that. Going to be tough, players playing a lot of games.
“Can’t complain you don’t have football then football comes back, you have too much! Its important there was a change as a lot of teams were getting stagnant, lots of teams wanting to progress. A lot of teams are spending money, bringing in big players so they are going for it. Looking forward to it.”
With rumours that seven teams could be relegated there is no doubt the league will be competitive.
“Seven down to trim the league, going to be difficult.” Evans said. “If you are in a dogfight, finish seventh from bottom, you think you have done alright but your getting relegated. Going to be really tough. Its going to be tough for us, lot of competitive teams, we will be looking at the top of the table. There’s a lot of teams strengthening, Talbot, the usual, Darvel, Beith, Glenafton, usually a surprise team comes up. Going to be really competitive and interesting.”
With Pollok now having a potential route into SPFL football, we could be in for an interesting few years ahead.
“At the start I was like, the big junior teams like to compete for stuff evey year, the league, the cups. I just thought you go into the Lowland its going to be so hard to go up then to get into the leagues.” Evans explained. “But now that I’ve sat back and read up on it, looked at other teams, peoples opinions and perspectives on it, its exciting. Obviously a long way away but imagine in ten years time, Pollok in the SPFL leagues. Its exciting.”
Evans ended by saying what he hopes for the season ahead.
“Hopefully be up there challenging, stay injury free. See how we go.”