FOLLOWING a lengthy hiatus, due to COVID-19, Singleton Strikers FC will resume its quest for glory in the NEW FM Northern League One competition next month.
The local footballers recently returned to the training arena at Civic Park, thanks to government approval, with the under-10/11 SAP, under-13, under-14, under-15, under-18, reserve and first grade teams all in full swing.
And, it was a welcome sight for club secretary Warren Gillespie.
"The guys haven't seen each other for three months," he said.
"Everyone's glad to be back; although our sessions are a bit different at the moment.
"We, like most sports, had to adopt a COVID-19 plan with strict social distancing measures - and the players have taken it all in their stride.
"However, training in groups of 20, as opposed to 10, certainly makes it easier for the coaches."
Unlike their senior sporting counterparts in town, the Greyhounds (league), Bulls (union) and Roosters (AFL), the Strikers had already contested two rounds of their premiership tilt before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
That fortnight period allowed them to secure a piece of history, too, with three sets of brothers donning the "maroon and white" strip.
Muswellbrook siblings Joel and Jake Barner and Hayden and Lachlan Nicol joined Jackson and Brad Cox in the starting line-up.
"It's never happened before [in firsts], so it was pretty unique," Gillespie said.
"They're all integral members of the playing group."
Singleton dropped its opening fixture to the Cessnock City Hornets FC 3-1 but responded with a gutsy 0-all draw with West Wallsend SFC in the next outing.
"That was a quality game of football," Gillespie said.
"It's a shame the season shut down just afterwards because momentum is everything [in sport].
"During the forced break, we lost a couple of players throughout the grades.
"But, all-in-all, we've kept most of the squads together.
"Now, everyone's busting to get on the field again.
"Unfortunately, there is a downside.
"The after effects of COVID-19 will have a financial impact on the club.
"Thankfully, we're all working together to mitigate the loss.
"We'll need to spend our money more wisely; however we can only control what we've got here."
The Strikers next face Toronto Awaba FC at Howe Park on Saturday, July 11.
It also becomes a must-win match for the hosts, especially with a shortened season in 2020.
"I'm expecting a tough, physical battle," Gillespie said.
"But, I think our speed and skill will set up the victory.
"We're only playing 15 rounds this year, with a finals series.
"So it's important to secure the points at home.
"I know it's a late finish to the season.
"However, we're just glad to be back in action."
Gillespie added the future looked bright for the talented Strikers under the watchful eye of new coach Brendan Slade.
"He's fitted in really well after stints at West Wallsend SFC and Belmore Swansea United FC, who won the title in 2019," he said.
"We've assembled a strong squad, with plenty of depth.
"There's competition for places, which is what the club needed.
"We're aiming for the semis [in 2020] while building a good culture and having some fun along the way.
"And, so far, all the signs appear promising."