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Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 34 - You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

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This week's "Accrington Observer" column...

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

I’m not entirely sure if Joni Mitchell is a massive fan of English football, but the portentous lyrics to “Big Yellow Taxi” certainly ring true in these potentially apocalyptic times. Events move quickly around these parts and last week, the Premier League and the EFL each demonstrated the sort of flexibility usually associated only with an experienced yoga class. From robustly insisting that the weekend’s football would proceed unimpeded, the realpolitik of the situation soon demanded a pragmatic response and following a u-turn, football eventually was stopped. Just like that.

Faced with an exponentially-growing, global pandemic, it was testimony to the prevailing power of modern-day sport that postponement was held at bay way longer than seemed sensible. The commercial ramifications seeming to hold primacy for an indecent period of time, the health of the sport’s audience and practitioners evidently some way down the pecking order. The presence of around 3,000 Atletico Madrid fans in Liverpool last Wednesday already looks like crass complacency of the highest order. Football’s lack of joined up thinking at the highest levels it seems is rivalled only by that of our most senior politicians.

Against the backdrop of the biggest public health challenge of, at the very least, a generation there are no complaints from this quarter regarding the cancellation of a mere sport. But, I do miss it, already, after just a single blank weekend. It’s the routine, the camaraderie, the tribalism, the sense of community provided by football that is so very difficult to replace. 

How long will we be without our drug of choice though is the question? At this juncture, it seems that it will be months, rather than weeks, at the very least. Whilst there is even the slightest risk that the virus could spread amongst fans travelling to a game, drinking in the pubs before and after or cheering on their favourites during it; then football must stop.

A quote circulating once more in the press over the weekend and curiously, attributed to both Arrigo Sacchi and Carlo Ancelotti proclaims football to be, “the most important of the unimportant things in life”. A more accurate representation of the current state of affairs than the famous Bill Shankly quote, which was delivered, I strongly suspect, with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

The single biggest revelation of last weekend was just how much time I typically spend watching, reading about, thinking about, Tweeting about and thanks largely to this very column, writing about football. I had so much spare time that at one point I found myself tidying the loft and sorting out my vinyl LP collection, which had lain untouched for some fifteen years. As it turns out, my wife is actually quite pleasant company but she no longer works at Woolworth’s apparently. The old ones are the best as they say.

Football is likely to be off the agenda for quite some time. There are of course many other pressing priorities to address. Once those are under some semblance of control, then and only then should the resumption of sport return even to the conversation. When it does, there is a whole host of issues to be resolved. The prospect of the season being voided looms large. The 2020 Euros have just been postponed. The pre-Qatar World Cup football calendar could end up looking radically different. 

As for our very own Rovers, what prospects lie in wait? The cashflow impacts of no football for several months will take their toll; hopefully Venky’s will continue to fund the wage bill but they too, in their core business, will not be immune from the worldwide impacts of a recession or worse. Contracts will expire at the end of June, loanees will return to parent clubs, but what will happen to the unresolved fixtures?

Many of the remaining 71 EFL clubs will be in far worse a state of jeopardy than Rovers but you do sense that Bury FC will not be season’s only casualty if this crisis continues as expected.

How many of these footballing paradises will be paved and replaced with parking lots before the next football season kicks-off?  How many seats in grounds nationwide will be tragically and unexpectedly empty? 

Stay safe people, look after your families, friends and neighbours and let us hope we can all reconvene here soon, fit and raring to go. 


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Thanks for that. As you say chances are there will be clubs that won't survive. 

On a similar musical theme can I recommend  Joe Tex - " Hold On To What You've Got ".

Edited by Tyrone Shoelaces

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