Such is the volatile and ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, you can pick the phone up to someone and find that things have moved on by the time you put it back down again.

This is the world many have to live in now and it certainly applies to sporting clubs, such as those non-league concerns wondering when they will play again, and how they will be affected in the meantime.

Those running clubs are caught somewhere between fearing the worst, hoping for the best and, frankly, not knowing. “It’s very much up in the air at the moment,” said Penrith AFC’s long-serving chairman Brian “Billy” Williams when we spoke this week.

This was before football’s big cheeses sat around tables, or dialled in on conference calls. What happens at the top filters down and in the Northern League the concerns are, naturally, acute.

It has been widely argued that clubs at this sort of level will need help from the game’s richest to survive the suspension of games. Williams said: “Clubs have needed help at a certain level for a long time. This will probably be the death knell for some, I would think – those that have been struggling anyway.

“It’s going to be difficult. We have to wait and see what happens, because it changes day by day. We’re in the hands of what the FA says, and what direction the hierarchy in our particular league say we have to go in.”

Penrith, the same as most at their level, must live close to the line routinely. When the campaign was halted they were 19th in Northern League Division One, a point off the bottom, a team managed by Dave Hewson trying to find its way out of already tough times.

There is not much that Williams, as player, manager and chairman, has not seen at the club, whether at its old Southend Road home or now at Frenchfield Park. The implications of Covid-19 are, though, new and have entailed meetings behind the scenes to try to figure out the immediate way forward.

“In one respect,” he said, “our players are non-contract players, so it doesn’t affect us financially in that way. But what it does do is throw the whole season up in the air in terms of exactly where we are.

“We’ve still got nine league games to play, and our [Cumberland Cup semi-final] against Cleator Moor Celtic had to be knocked on the head on Tuesday." The night before, it was confirmed at the club that training, in line with the Government's advice on "social contact", would have to be postponed. “All clubs will be in the same situation," Williams said.

Much is heard about the professional game, and how lower-league clubs like Carlisle United have to try to get by. Those further down the pyramid, who depend on the support of their respective communities, must also face up to this strange present and future.

“It’s very difficult,” Williams added, “because we have games sponsored, and when games are off it means no finance coming into the club, yet you’ve still got the same expense regarding running the facility and keeping it going.

“We don’t know whether the season, if it resumes, can be condensed into two to three weeks, which would mean playing three or four times a week.

“We are suspended now until April 3, but by then it [the virus] could be at its peak, so I think it will take much longer than that. Our season was due to end on April 18, so I can see them having to extend the end of the season. Whether that will help is another thing.”

Williams and his colleagues met on Monday to look at the financial picture. “It’s a case of sitting down to see where we are financially, and try and forecast where we’re going to be. But you can hardly forecast 10 minutes in front of you at the minute.”

There are other frustrations which, Williams conceded, must appear like “small fry” to many, but which are part of the picture of steering a non-league club.

“This season’s been particularly difficult,” he said. “There’s been a fixtures situation in the Northern League which has been ridiculous. Of our last 10 games, we’ve had two at home, and that has a dramatic effect on our cashflow. There’s no consistency to what’s going on.”

Williams looks at small clubs a little higher up the chain, whose players are contracted, and wonders how ends can possibly be made to meet. “There’s a few who are going to be in a queer situation,” he said, but in all of this he and everyone else accepts the game is but one small concern in a time of much greater upheaval and worry.

“We always have to remember that everybody’s health is much more important than anything else," he said. It will be a much-changed normality indeed, in so many places, when the worst of this is over.