Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cuts past Liverpool midfielder Fabinho during the English FA Community Shield that Arsenal won on penalties. AFP/VNA Photo.
It hardly seems like any time has passed since Jordan Henderson lifted the Premier League trophy for Liverpool and Bayern Munich were crowned Champions of Europe, and low and behold, the start of the new season is just around the corner.
After the forced break caused by COVID-19, footballers have hardly had any time to relax on holiday (just ask Harry Maguire) and it’s back to a shortened pre-season schedule and boom, the season kicks off next week.
So everything back to normal, right? Nope, you couldn’t be more wrong.
Last week in a preseason encounter Brighton played host to Chelsea and although the match was nothing more than just a kick-about, this was an important game.
Brighton took the decision to allow a few thousands of supporters into the stadium and on Saturday, as Liverpool play Blackpool in another preseason match, it is rumoured a small selection of supporters will be allowed into Anfield.
But let’s face facts here, because of the resurgence of coronavirus and the increased inability to both control it and for the general public to behave responsibly, I firmly believe the days of sell-out crowds at football matches are a long way away. I’d even stick my neck on the line and suggest it won’t be until next year that things are back to resembling normal.
And this will be a major problem.
Thousands of supporters all over England have splashed out oodles of cash on season tickets for next season, and it’s very likely they will be refunded for the games they are unable to attend.
For most Premier League clubs who are knee deep in dosh, this won’t be that much of a problem, they will have seen the writing on the wall and budgeted accordingly, you would hope. But for some of the poorer top flight clubs, and especially for those teams in the lower leagues, the consequences could be catastrophic.
The top and bottom of this is, a pandemic bringing the entire world to a grinding halt is not something anyone in sport, particularly football, could ever have predicted.
So yes, on one hand I’m delighted the season is about to start and I’ll go back to staying up at daft o’clock Vietnamese time just to watch my team, but normal? Nah, not a chance. We are nowhere near.
And speaking from a personal point of view I feel this will be a serious problem for a number of teams, particularly Liverpool.
While there’s no doubt they were the best side by a country mile last season, you cannot underestimate the important role played by the supporters.
Ten, five, three or even one minute left with the scores level, Liverpool on numerous occasions managed to find a winner, and no doubt they were spurred on by the fans.
But since the season restarted there were a few occasions when playing in front of an empty stadium clearly had an effect. Burnley at home for example. The scores level with 20 minutes or so to play, Liverpool just couldn’t find that extra gear without any supporters to cheer them on. The same could be said for the Community Shield final a week or so ago.
It’s going to be a tough season for all teams, both on and off the pitch, but nobody will be suffering more than the supporters themselves. VNS