Tuesday, May 26 2020


Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Update: May, 14/2020 - 08:00


NOT HAPPY: Manchester City's Raheem Sterling has expressed concerns over Project Restart. AFP Photo.

Paul Kennedy

Ineptitude is a terrible trait to have when you are in a position of power. And right now, it seems those in charge of English football are flapping away in a state of panic without the faintest idea of what they are doing.

The latest announcement claims the Premier League will return on June 12, apparently. I hope it does, but there’s a niggling doubt in the back of my mind that is screaming, "not a snowball’s chance in Hell".

Project Restart, to give it its catchy title, has been umming and ahing since the get go with plans drawn up, changed, redrawn up, and then changed again.

The whole thing is as indecisive and ambiguous as a Boris Johnson speech and while I do believe, and hope, the matches will start again and there will be a conclusion to the Premier League at some point in the future, I just think the deadline set is too soon.

And here’s why.

It is still not clear if games will be played at neutral grounds or not, with some clubs in the bottom half saying this would be unfair. Some players, including Man City’s Raheem Sterling, are expressing fears of returning to action too soon and I’m sorry to say, its player power that rules the roost in the Premier League.

And is three weeks or so really long enough for players to get back to match fitness, especially when most of them have been cooped up at home trying to keep in shape by running around the garden and playing keepie-up with toilet rolls?

Except of course Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, who thought the best way to keep in trim was to hire two, er, female personal trainers to put him through his paces one evening.

Then there’s the games themselves. What if a few hours before kick-off, a player or coach of a team tests positive for the coronavirus? If that happens, then there’s no way the game should go ahead.

The top of the table is not the problem. Liverpool have won it, that is not in doubt. The problem lies at the bottom with the relegation scrap.

If, say for example, Aston Villa’s best player this season, Jack Grealish tests positive, then would this just be classed as a normal ‘injury’ to rule him out of that match? Or would it be deemed enough to cancel the game all together?

There is also the issue of what if Liverpool are allowed to play their home games at home, would thousands of supporters starved of league success for so long congregate outside Anfield just to savour a slice of the atmosphere?

Liverpool say this will not happen and their supporters will abide by the rules and keep a distance. I wouldn’t bank on it.

Getting down to brass tacks in all this, I think it is not an exaggeration to say COVID-19 in some shape or form is going to be around for an awful long time, so there needs to be a workaround.

We cannot start, then stop again. We can’t play two games, then postpone the next four. We cannot allow teams to play at home, then move to neutral grounds further down the line.

In Germany this weekend, the Bundesliga will restart, but on Wednesday, a rise in both deaths and infections was reported.

Coronavirus is ruling our lives right now, and if we want our lives to return to some sort of normality, then we need those in power who set the rules to not dither, not delay, and be as decisive as possible. Otherwise, the game could be doomed. VNS





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