David Hannant: The ups, downs and downs of Project Restart two weeks in

Emi Buendia and Manchester United's Diogo Dalot doing the behind closed doors shuffle - and not a fa

Emi Buendia and Manchester United's Diogo Dalot doing the behind closed doors shuffle - and not a fan there to see it Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Project Restart is well and truly, well, restarted, with City now three games into the brave new world of “football”.

With it now being a fortnight since the first games were played I feel I’ve had enough time to digest things and I’ve come up with a list of ups, downs, and more downs, of football without fans.

In the interest of not coming across as a complete harbinger of doom I have tried my very best to pick out some positives, but I’m going to be honest, I’ve really had to scrape the barrel. So I’ll get these out of the way first?

• UP: Fake crowd comedy

So many things about Project Restart have been truly absurd.


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Clubs and broadcasters have clearly acknowledged that fans add so much more to the game than just being bums in seats and have all had to be creative in trying to recreate at least a small part of this presence.

One thing broadcasters have done is create artificial crowd noise to provide soundtrack.

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I’ll give credit where credit is due, I respect the fact that these have not been totally generic - it’s been nice to hear On The Ball, City, for example.

However, this is far from the best thing about the fake crowd noise - it’s the comedy moments.

For example, when a shot resembles a backpass more than a shot, it probably doesn’t need an “oooft” - but I’m enjoying the fact it receives it.

All it needs to be perfect is a few more ironic cheers and the odd cry of “fooorwoood” to make it that little bit more authentic.

• UP: Footy talk is back

I will admit, short of winding up Liverpool fans with phony calls for the league to be null and void, footy chat pre-Project Restart had grown a little dry - there’s only so many times you can go over and over how things should restart.

At least with matches being played again, we can all have a good chin wag about how bad the football is, rather than how bad it is there isn’t football. Right, on to the downs... deep breath!

• DOWN: It’s flat, isn’t it?

Let’s be honest, my cat, who to my knowledge has no real grasp of football (other than being a cracking keeper) could have seen this one coming.

Football without fans was always going to be flat from the point of view of atmosphere - so it is no real surprise the quality of football has matched that.

This is not just Norwich City I am talking about; I’m yet to see a match that didn’t feel it was missing something - particularly first halves of games.

Part of this could be down to the heat, but it’s just lacked the kind of urgency you would expect.

From a City point of view, Saturday was a lot better - here’s hoping we recapture some of that drive for the final run-in.

• DOWN: home advantage

In his latest column, our head of sport Chris Lakey pointed to a debate the two of us had on Twitter about home advantage.

From the offset I have argued that in essence, Project Restart has eliminated all home advantage and I stand by that.

Lakers argued that it is the same for everyone and surely it should be worse for a team like Manchester United to lose crowds of 70,000 than it should be for City to lose their 27,000 capacity.

However, when clubs don’t have billions to splash on quality players, this home advantage can serve to mitigate for a lack of superstar quality.

And then there is the variation in the fixture lists, which means it isn’t quite the same for everyone.

Take one of City’s main rivals, West Ham. The home advantage they had earlier in the season clearly helped, as they swept us aside back in August.

They visit almost a year on and what could be a pivotal contest will be competed without City having the same advantage afforded to the Hammers in August. It’s a sham.

• DOWN: It’s not about us

While I’ve gone over what I see as sporting unfairness, the biggest down is this: it has made it abundantly clear how the football world views us, the fans. Basically as a side note.

This whole torrid affair has been, as Robin Sainty put it, just a hollow exercise of contract fulfilment. Yes, some effort has been made by clubs to include us, but the simple fact is this, the league sees us as an afterthought.

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