A FOOTBALL coach based in Oswestry believes it is vitally important for outdoor sports to be permitted at the end of next month after the UK Government outlined its roadmap out of lockdown.

Simon Walker, of Dragon Academy and Development Centre (ADC), insists lockdown has been a tough time for children who have been unable to enjoy sports with their friends due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Although Simon agrees that lockdown was necessary in response to the growing number of virus cases across the country after Christmas, he believes getting children active and enjoying sports with their friends again is hugely important, and was pleased to see plans announced for outdoor sports facilities to reopen on March 29.

"I think it's massively important," he said. "I've got two sons myself who are sports fanatics – they have really struggled with not just being unable to play sport, but to socialise through it too.

"I can see a massive difference in them. It has been really tough.

"The routine of going to training twice a week and having a game or two a week is hugely important for them."

Like many, Simon turned to technology to help him keep in touch with players and parents at Dragon ADC, and organised training sessions via Zoom.

He said: "We've been trying to do Zoom calls for training sessions just to keep contact with our players.

"The parents of my boys' friends have been giving us feedback telling us they can't wait for the training to restart for their children.

"I think it has been a rough ride for kids, but it was necessary to bring things to a stop with the way the pandemic was going."

He hopes young footballers and children who enjoy playing sport are able to return and pick up where they left off soon enough.

Simon added: "As for their development as players, they have lost 12 months really.

"I'm confident they will bounce back, but for players who were at under-16s, they may not be coming back to play youth football again.

"The problem in this area is that the jump from U16s football to men's football is difficult because there isn't an U18s or U19s league for them to use as a stepping stone.

"We had so many plans for drop-in centres for disabled football and walking football among other things, but we've just lost a year.

"I can't wait to get back to it as a coach."

The UK Government announced a roadmap out of lockdown on Monday evening, with measures starting to be lifted from March 8, with children going back to school.

Other announcements featured in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown included a reopening of non-essential retail from April 12.

On the same date, outdoor attractions including zoos and theme parks are expected to reopen with social distancing measures still in place.

Indoor leisure centres will reopen no earlier than April 12, but use will only be permitted for those in the same household as one another.

Further restrictions are set to be lifted on May 17, before it is hoped that the majority of social restrictions can be lifted no earlier than June 21.