Charlotte Potts is supposed to be lining up at center back on Saturday, taking her usual position in the heart of the defense for Sunderland Ladies in their chase for the FA Women’s National League Northern Premier title.
As you might have guessed, Potts and her teammates won’t be taking the pitch at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground to face Nottingham Forest, as the FAWNL has suspended play amid the coronavirus pandemic. But Sunderland did play last Sunday, notching a 4-2 win over Stoke City to take an 11-point lead in the division.
The Sunderland-Stoke City game was played as scheduled, even though two days earlier, men’s soccer in England was suspended. That led to a surreal situation in which the women were the only game in town — even though they were not entirely sure that they were going ahead with the game at all.
“I had a very strong feeling it was going to be called off until Saturday afternoon, when I saw a couple of other local men’s (non-league) games still go ahead,” Potts told Deadspin in an email. “I saw that the crowds for their games were bigger than usual, people were desperate to get their football fix. Social media has its pros and cons but I was seeing how serious this was getting, that this whole season might be put on hold for months.”
She continued: “When we arrived at the ground, we were unsure what crowd we were attracting as we received good luck messages from fans who come to every game unable to make it. So for those who braved the circumstances we knew we had to put a show on, and that we did.”
Watching the highlights from Sunday’s game, it’s clear that nothing close to a social distancing protocol was in effect, but then, it took until Friday for the British government to get serious about such measures — a full week after the biggest sports league in the country shut its doors.
For Potts, this is worrisome. She has her own coaching business, focusing on strength and conditioning, coaches at Gateshead College alongside Sunderland Ladies manager Melanie Copeland, and does some work for the educational charity Show Racism The Red Card.
Since Sunderland is in the third tier of the English women’s pyramid, players do not have contracts. That means that their already stressful lives just became more so.
“It’s a difficult situation, for me personally I have no stability due to working self employed while playing non-contracted,” Potts said. “I choose to work less, to train more. It has certainly made me self-reflect and think about all the sacrifices I have made for sport, I should at least have some stability when it comes to situations like this.”
“As for making choices in the month ahead, we don’t know what is going to happen in the next coming days/weeks, never mind months. I think this crisis is teaching people to live in the moment. We can look and think of all the steps ahead but we only have control over what will happen now.”
What happened Friday was fourth place for Potts in a Twitter toilet paper challenge among the Sunderland team, as she kept a roll in the air for 23 kicks. Keira Ramshaw showed why she’s the Sunderland captain by winning with an astounding 65.
“At the moment it still doesn’t feel real,” Potts said. “I wanted to finish the season with amazing stats, so if the season was to end now, it wouldn’t make us feel like we’ve fully accomplished our goal. My biggest concern is that our season ends up void.”