Josh Hancock, midfielder for Altrincham FC and head of commercial in Manchester for Bruntwood Works, explains how he juggles the two professions and how the Covid-19 lockdown is affecting day-to-day life.
Right now, I should be celebrating Altrincham FC’s promotion to the National League – the fifth tier of English football. Instead, I’m debating where I should go for my exercise today while social distancing. Due to the current crisis, the season has ended early, with us sitting in the play-off places after 33 games played. The league has cast votes to see which teams would like to continue but the future is uncertain, and the club is not alone in facing question marks over promotion.
I’m still training regularly and having to run 25km a week. It doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes it’s difficult to motivate yourself to turn out every day, especially when we don’t know for certain when the lockdown will end. Our WhatsApp group is now called the ‘Altrincham Running Club’ because, without being able to kick a ball together, it’s pretty much all we can do for the moment.
Yet despite the current disruption, some things remain the same, and this includes juggling semi-professional football with my full-time role at Bruntwood Works. I joined straight out of university nearly eight years ago, starting in the commercial team, before working my way up to head of commercial for Manchester.
The team at Bruntwood Works has been outstanding in the way that they’ve supported me over the years in balancing my role with my commitment to part-time football. Flexible working and a balanced lifestyle are two of our team’s core values, and that’s made it easy to fit in training or away games on the other side of the country that would ordinarily need me to leave work in the early afternoon to travel.
It also helps that for a long time, Bruntwood has supported agile working, which has naturally made the current transition to homeworking during lockdown smooth, with tools and support networks already long-established. We have access to The Bruntwood Collective, a digital platform which has around 11,000 of our customers and colleagues, so it’s easy to connect and feel part of a community. We’re also offering virtual fitness and training routines through Bruntwood Works’ partnerships with leading digital fitness providers Les Mills, physiotherapy and treatment advisors, Altius and personal trainers FORM, which has helped me find the motivation to complete home fitness.
Although working from home during lockdown has been relatively simple, I don’t think I’ll be alone in admitting I’m missing interacting with my team in person and connecting with customers face-to-face. The camaraderie and collaborative aspect of work in a physical workspace can never quite be fully replicated remotely, and it will be good when we can finally start to return in some way.
In terms of football, not knowing whether we’ll play again this season is also beginning to take its toll. Maintaining high fitness levels – let alone being match fit – is challenging at the best of times, and the routine of training every Tuesday and Thursday, with a game every Saturday and sometimes mid-week, is sorely missed.
Looking forward, it would be great to finish the season if we can. It had been brilliant so far for Altrincham, which included an FA Cup 2nd Round tie at the home of former winners, Portsmouth FC. I scored the equalising penalty, a career highlight, and we were all set to take them to a valuable replay at home until they scored from a corner. Even worse, I was supposed to be marking the player that scored their winner! Hero to zero in the space of five minutes, can you believe it?
It would be a shame if 29 weeks of hard graft wasn’t carried through to the end, but we’re still hopeful of resuming the play-offs when it’s safe for everyone to do so. Until then, it’s up to me to keep safe, fit and active, wearing both hats at Bruntwood Works and Altrincham FC.