Fundamentally, I find it problematic that sport is returning at a time when the country is still struggling to tackle the very real threat of a global pandemic. But I don’t make the rules.
Premier League football is on the cusp of bringing purpose to our desperately monotonous lockdown evenings and weekends, and I can’t help but be really bloody excited about it.
We’ve seen the return of top flight football in Germany over the last few weeks, and now in both Spain and Italy, once one of the worst affected countries of COVID-19. It’s been difficult to resist the charm of live sport on our screens again.
Obviously, it’s jarring to watch in many ways. The lack of stadium buzz, the bassy echo of every kick and most pertinently for me as a match-going fan is knowing I won’t experience any of these fixtures in person.
But nobody will. It’s either this or nothing, and I don’t know about you, but after three months of living the same day within the confines of my house, I’m very ready to have my life punctuated by football again.
The tragic of the cup
In particular, I saw swathes of Twitter users boldly declaring that they’d prefer Newcastle to lose against Man City in the FA Cup quarterfinal. I can’t relate to this in the slightest. I want Newcastle to win all the time.
The only time I’ve felt slightly conflicted is knowing a couple of back-to-back defeats would finally see off a dreadful manager (take your pick from the last three decades). But even then, 95% of me absolutely wanted a win, because it’s ingrained in me and forever will be.
The idea that a fellow fan would prefer us to lose simply because they can’t attend in person is the equivalent of taking your ball home from the park so nobody else can play. We might get comfortably thrashed anyway, but I want us to try to progress to the final so we have a shot of silverware. An FA Cup win is still a trophy regardless of how many Geordies are or aren’t in attendance. And trust me, I will still get blind drunk if the unthinkable happens.
I understand the sentiment: football isn’t the same without fans. I can’t disagree. But the idea that we’re being denied an experience is ludicrous when it was never going to be available in the first place.
What’s more unbelievable, is that the FA Cup provides guaranteed entry into European competition next year. Again, it’s highly unlikely we’d win it, but actively hoping we have no chance of getting into Europe next season is crackers.
It would boost our reputation, increase revenue and help us attract better talent in what could hopefully be an exciting new era for the football club.
🆕 Free Podcast | Controversial Opinions – Kenny Dalglish at #NUFC
Marc & Norman discuss the impact of Dalglish’s appointment. Ripping the squad apart within weeks, his task was clear – spend less, yet win titles.
Was he given enough time at Utd?
— True Faith – Newcastle United Fanzine&Podcast (@tfNUFC) June 14, 2020
It has been three months since we enjoyed Allan Saint-Maximin’s tumble celebration after scoring his impressive winner at St Mary’s. It’s even more remarkable to think that in actual game time, that goal was only 17 minutes ago.
What we face is a complete unknown. Form has been reset for every team, and empty stadiums will affect the mentality of individual players in very different ways. Injuries have been reset too. Let’s not forget, Martin Dubravka was injured for almost a month between March and April. His absence might’ve had huge ramifications on our season, but he’s now back and fully fit.
Additional substitutions will create more opportunities for fringe players, while also giving other players less game time. This new temporary measure will also allow more strategic flexibility too, and better managers will be more adept at utilising more players in a single game and deploying them in a variety of line-ups depending on the score. With the impending fixture frenzy, squad conditioning will play a huge part in how clubs perform over the coming weeks. These new variables are going to be fascinating to watch.
Where flat stadiums will be lacking, these new elements will add an interesting new dimension to the Newcastle’s remaining fixtures. We can bleat on all day about how this isn’t how football is supposed to be played, but the measures are the same for every single team. Better, shrewder managers will adapt to these new elements quicker and with more innovation, giving them a competitive edge.
The upside of playing these fixtures could be the difference between club staff keeping their jobs or being made redundant. In some extreme cases, this TV money being taken back out of the football economy could dictate whether certain football league clubs survive at all.
It still matters
I will miss the pre-match pints with True Faith pals, getting a Greggs at Haymarket, seeing my parents every home matchday, and losing control of my body in a soup of Geordie limbs when we score.
But I’ll still be able to feel the thrill of checking the team sheet at 2pm, the 90 minutes of torment, delight, anguish and injustice, the excitement of seeing the lads representing the badge once again and those few silent seconds of anticipation before kick-off knowing anything could unfold.
The fact that the fixture schedule is a quickfire bonanza of live matches is going to be incredible and will help restore a part of our identities as football fans.
It’s still Premier League football. It’s still Newcastle United. And it still matters.
Adam Widdrington (@AddingRandomWit)
Osei explains how KIO are working to rid football of racism & other forms of discriminationhttps://t.co/NWqYEYPTe3
— True Faith – Newcastle United Fanzine&Podcast (@tfNUFC) June 10, 2020