Ian Clarke: We all want our football back - but we MUST be patient and not put lives at risk
PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:32 23 April 2020
Breaking news - I saw some real live football at the weekend.
I was walking my dog in our local park and a dad and his two lads were having a kick around in a makeshift goal.
In normal times it’s a common sight and a scenario I’d take very little notice of.
But I found myself taking more interest than usual (obviously at a safe distance), much is my hunger for real life action.
In the short period I was making my way round the park’s perimeter, there were a few shots, a couple of goals, a decent save and a weighty tackle or two (clearly from brotherly love!)
A little while earlier I’d joined other City fans in joyously re-living City’s play-off semi-final victory over Ipswich from five years ago which the club showed in full on Youtube.
You can never get enough of that Wes penalty, Redmond’s crucial second, Jerome’s cherry on the cake and those celebrations at the end as we prepared for the first trip to Wembley for 30 years.
It’s been great to revel in nostalgia in recent weeks - especially looking back to days like that one at Carrow Road - but there’s no doubt we’re missing real live action (and with the respect to the eager family in Dereham I mean more than being a spectator to their kickabout).
So where do we go from here?
Of all of the many tough crises football has faced over the years, this has surely got to be the most serious.
We are approaching seven weeks since football was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Clearly there are lots of talks going on behind the scenes involving the Premier League, EFL, Football Association, broadcasters and football authorities from other countries.
It seems the Premier League are desperate to play the remaining games of this season as the cost of cancelling it could be up to £1bn.
Sky, BT and overseas rights holders have already paid the PL for their full season’s broadcast rights, despite a quarter of the season campaign being left to play.
So scrapping the campaign will mean broadcasters will look to recoup millions.
One option to complete the season is a World Cup-style camp, with clubs congregating in a neutral location to play out the remainder of the season behind closed doors, with only those personnel essential to staging and broadcasting the games allowed to attend.
That is being looked at, along with resuming the season as soon the government declares it safe to do so - with the likelihood of all games played with no fans in attendance.
It seems that the only other alternative is to declare the current campaign null and void and begin the 2020/21 season whenever it’s possible.
I love football, I really want to see action again, I still dream of an FA Cup final at Wembley and feel the Canaries could string a run together to stay in the top flight.
But, I feel so passionately that nothing should happen that puts anyone at risk or leaves the possibility open to a further spike of the disease.
We have all watched in horror as the true extent of this terrible virus has emerged.
I’m sure we all know people who have lost their lives or said goodbye to loved ones or been unwell.
Someone I know lost one relative to Covid-19 and couldn’t see another family member in her final days due to restrictions.
A former work colleague’s partner was also taken in recent days and she was unable to say farewell.
We simply must be patient for the return of football before any restrictions are lifted.
The Brighton chief executive Paul Barber spoke very openly a few days ago when he revealed that the Amex Stadium was being used for a drive-through testing centre which brought the reality home to him.
“It’s hard to say, but when I hear a death rate of 900 people a day and rising football seems a very, very long way away,” said Barber.
Of course I know all the arguments about the huge amounts of money in the game, the broadcasting and players’ contracts and the impact on clubs.
The whole country and indeed the whole world is taking a huge hit.
Hundreds of billions of pounds is being used to support people and firms and the government rightly insists nothing can change until the risk of a further peak is hugely reduced.
If we have to sit tight and wait for football for weeks and months to come, then that’s a price we have to pay to save lives.
I think finishing the season - whenever that is safe - is the right thing to do. Next season can be adjusted accordingly and everyone will have to make sacrifices along the way.
Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
Our club is great
A constant theme of my column since lockdown has been stories of warmth and kindness from players and officials at Norwich City.
And I make no excuse for continuing it this week.
A season ticket holder I know suffered a serious heart attack a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately he is doing well and recovering but he went through a worrying time.
The club was contacted to see if they could help cheer him up.
It took less than four hours for chief operating officer Ben Kensell to return with a lovely minute-long message of best wishes from Canaries’ keeper Tim Krul.
City legend Grant Holt also sent a message.
It cheered him and his son - also a Carrow Road season ticket holder - up no end in a really tough period,
We know the Canaries haven’t got any football at the moment but they didn’t have to do that and it was a great gesture, further highlighting how great our club is and how they really value the supporters.
Let’s all laugh at Ipswich
So Ipswich Town have offered 5000 free tickets to NHS staff at Portman Road next season.
An NHS spokesman said: “Haven’t those poor people suffered enough already....?”
Sorry, I couldn’t resist sharing that and we have to keep chuckling in these tough times.
It reminded me of a story I heard from an Ipswich fan I know.
He said: “My dog is mad on the Tractor Boys and loves watching them.
“When they get the ball he jumps up and barks excitedly.
“When they go in the other team’s half, he spins around and around.
“When they get a corner, he stands on two legs and shouts Paul Lambert’s name.
“When they score a goal, he does a somersault and sings the Ipswich anthem.”
I said: “My word, that’s impressive. So what does the dog do when Ipswich beat Norwich.”
He paused and replied: “Dunno, I’ve only had him for 10 years.....”