Chris Lakey: Welcome back to the funny old game
- Credit: PA
One of the biggest questions of the summer is about to be answered... possibly.
Having spent weeks trying to decide whether we are referring to last season as the current season or the old season, and whether the new season is this season or next season, the arrival of the opening games of the campaign should mean we are firmly in Football Season 2020-2021.
I hesitate because the league games haven’t started. And also because, at the top of the non league ladder, there are still fixtures to complete from 2019-20 – the semi-finals and finals of the FA Vase and the FA Trophy. The finals will actually take place after the new season’s competitions begins.
What a muddle.
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Norwich City’s ‘season’ begins with a trip to Luton in the EFL Cup... and it has more than a pre-season friendly feel about it. The team that Daniel Farke puts out in what is supposed to be a serious competition will be nowhere near the preferred starting line-up for the Championship. For once, when he says, “we will field the strongest side available”, he will be speaking with absolute honest. Be fair, that’s not always been the case at this stage of the competition in the past, despite his or any other manager’s assertions.
The League Cup didn’t need a kicking: it’s a competition that has been dragged through a hedge backwards because it simply lacks the lustre of its big brother, the FA Cup, and the daddy of them all, the Premier League.
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But the scheduling of international games over this weekend has robbed teams of players that would ordinarily have been given a run-out this afternoon. Instead, a week before the Championship begins, when we’d normally see a half-decent Spanish side down at Carrow Road for the final warm-up test, we have players all over Europe playing games at different levels of importance and significance. The OCD side of me sees that as an unbalanced way to prepare.
But we all know why we have this congestion: a global pandemic which is unprecedented in modern times when sport is very much part of many people’s daily lives.
Vast amounts of money go into a sport watched by vast amounts of people, so no one was going to give an inch: the commercial partners involved in Championship, international and cup football all wanted their value for money. And who can blame them? But it took a global catastrophe to bring the chickens home to roost: the tail is wagging the dog. In a smorgasbord of mixed metaphors.
And all while the one component that brings it to life is missing: the fans. The very people Mr Carabao wants to sell his drinks to.
City will play at the cramped Kenilworth Road, which has lost its intimidatory advantage. The only fans watching football today will be at grounds in non league pyramid. Not just at the half decent non league grounds, but ones that sometimes struggle to get a three-figure crowd in. If there was a match at King’s Lynn Town, it would be behind closed doors, because Lynn are at an elite level. But a perfectly big ground to get plenty of fans in, safely.
Welcome back to the funny old game.