BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Charlton Athletic will be the first London club to have supporters back after the easing of lockdown restrictions – and Chris Gunter says it isn’t all about the boost that they will give the team.
The Addicks are able to have 2,000 fans at tonight’s League One match against Milton Keynes at The Valley.
And Gunter is hoping that Charlton’s players can help give their supporters some solace and normality in what has been a tough period for the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Yes, it’s going to give the players and clubs that extra motivation and atmosphere,” said the Wales international.
“It’s going to give us a huge boost. Our main job now when they come back is that we try and do well for them because they have missed out on so many things in normal life and football life in the last six months.
“It is up to us to give it back to them and make sure when they return they can go home with a smile on their face. Hopefully it takes away from some of the stresses and worries of normal life. I know for everyone it has been a horrendous time.
“Hopefully we can give even more hope and normality to people.”
Domestic football in the top four tiers has been behind closed doors since the start of March.
Charlton were one of the clubs selected as part of pilot matches with a crowd of 1,000 allowed when they played Doncaster in September. But shortly after that the government clamped down again on access to sporting events due to a rise in positive Covid-19 results.
“For me thinking of being a fan as a kid, I’d say that the most important things is for them to be able to come, watch and support the teams that they pour money into and have supported their whole lives,” said Gunter.
“It’s that they get to experience it – not just what it’s going to give to us as players.
“We’re still able to go out there. They have missed the most.
“Hopefully at some point they can get back into that routine that on a Friday they are getting ready to watch their club the next day.
“For us as players we’re in a little bit of a bubble that life is still a little bit normal in terms of we get to go and train every day and play in the games. The fans are the ones who are really missing out.
“It feels strange even saying it now that it has become normal [to play behind closed doors]. That’s really sad, because everyone knows it’s not the same.
“But as much as players and managers say it [fans returning] is needed by us, with everything that has gone on in the world in the last seven or eight months – the most important thing is that it is important for the fans.”
See Friday’s South London Press for an exclusive interview with Chris Gunter.
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