THE chairman of Stratton Juniors Football Club talked about how he has adapted training sessions and matches to keep his players safe during the pandemic.

Magnus Painter is glad to be back on the pitch after spending lockdown helping to feed vulnerable people all over Swindon.

The club’s teams started playing pre-season games and friendlies in August after relaxed government rules allowed the matches to resume for the first time since March.

The club’s management has set up pitchside hand sanitiser stations and staggered match and training session times to allow easier social distancing in the car park and field by the Meadowfield Community Centre on Addison Crescent.

With several home and away games now under their belt and weekly training going well, the teams are getting used to playing in such unusial circumstances.

Magnus said: “It’s all good at Stratton Juniors. We have been playing matches and training regularly at all ages, though some matches have been called off due to Covid cases.

“The club has two Covid officers monitoring the situation and we have lots of precautions in place.

“We have been busy with the community and received awards and certificates for the work we did during lockdown.”

When the pandemic first hit the UK, Magnus began cooking up 85 meals twice a week for a team of coaches and volunteers to deliver to elderly and vulnerable people around the parish and beyond.

Club secretary Paul Surridge helped organise the scheme which was well-received and had a lot of support.

Grants from the parish council and Wiltshire Community Foundation helped pay for the food as well as costs for the maintenance required during the months that the club’s facilities could not be used and matches were cancelled.

The parish council allowed the club to cook up hundreds of hot lunches in the kitchen of Grange Leisure and donations from members of the public helped pay for a new defibrillator near the pitch.

The Lord Lieutenant of Wiltshire Sarah Troughton wrote to the club to thank them for the “wonderful and important contribution [the club has] made to the community at large”.

She added: “During the past few months of the pandemic, the imaginative ideas, collaboration and generosity shown by many groups and individuals across Wiltshire and Swindon has been inspirational and uplifting.

“After this extraordinary and challenging period, let us hope for brighter times ahead.”

The Swindon Lions Club presented Stratton Juniors with a certificate of appreciation given in recognition of “how [they] have worked and supported the community at a time of crisis.”

Before play resumed, Stratton Juniors won Wiltshire FA’s club of the year award and Magnus himself won the volunteer of the year honour.

The club has 200 players representing teams ranging from under-6s to adults.