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Old Blackburnian's View - Pt 35 - It’s Back, Back, Back...But Are WE Ready ?

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It’s Back, Back, Back...But Are WE Ready ?

Where were we then before we were so rudely interrupted? 

Football is “back” and on Saturday afternoon, Rovers will take on Bristol City...but is it truly back? Should it be back at all, even in this stilted format? Are WE even ready for it?

A lot has happened in the intervening three months and very little of it good. We have seen some Premier League clubs suddenly develop deep-seated values and integrity predicated solely it would appear on league position. The fine upstanding board at West Ham United for instance, was very keen to declare the season null & void way back in March, as the pandemic was clearly the number one priority confronting society and football merely a sideshow. This admirable stance in no way influenced by their perilous position in the league table I feel sure.

The government, which has demonstrated levels of competence and assurance last seen in such abundance, when a certain Mr S Singh was purveying his peculiar brand of wisdom in these parts a few years ago, saw fit early on in the public health crisis to focus upon *checks notes* Premier League footballers. Apparently, according to the MP for Newmarket, “the first thing that Premier League footballers can do is make a contribution, take a pay cut and play their part...”

The extraordinary efforts of the new leader of the opposition, the admirable Marcus Rashford; stepping up to the plate to feed hungry kids and Jordan Henderson initiating the “Players Together” initiative have thrown into dark shade the feeble leadership of the health minister and his colleagues. Mr Hancock let us not forget, once a trainee jockey and recipient of substantial campaign donations from the racing industry seemed for some reason to prefer to concentrate on announcing the return of...that’s right, horse racing – this for instance in a Tweet on 30th May.

“Thanks to the nation’s resolve, horseracing is back from Monday Wonderful news for our wonderful sport.”

The country has suffered tens of thousands of excess deaths, each one causing misery and distress, but it would appear that the return of sport symbolises the genesis of some kind of vague normality and allows unfinished business to complete, thereby protecting the sporting integrity of the competitions. As a happy coincidence, it also means that the TV contract revenues are protected and this is paramount for the salvation of many top-flight clubs. For those clubs lower down the food chain, gate revenues make up a much higher percentage of income and so behind closed doors football, broadcast far and wide on TV & the internet, is far from the panacea for their business models. It is merely a sticking plaster on the gaping wound of impending financial oblivion.

As for the protection of the hallowed sporting integrity, it is an inarguable fact that the conditions prevailing in the final series of games; behind closed doors, bereft of human spectators, cardboard cut outs, piped crowd noises, five substitutes allowed, shoe-horned into a frantic month-long footballing binge; are completely different to the experience of the previous thirty-odd games. It’s akin to finishing the last couple of miles of the London marathon...three months later...on roller skates, via Zoom. But here we are, a summer with no Wimbledon, no Open golf, (as yet) no cricket, no Euros, so the football fix will remain a domestic affair. 

I must confess to struggling to build up enthusiasm for this ersatz sporting buffet, but inevitably, I will tune into at least some of the televised Premier League games out of curiosity, and I will do battle with the iFollow platform to check in on my beloved Rovers, but let’s be clear, it isn’t the same. Let no TV executive have any brainwaves off the back of this.

After all, what is football fandom? The visceral thrill of being amongst your fellow fans, the collective moan after a misplaced pass or shot, the euphoria of a goal, but most of all the sense of community. The warm feelings of familiarity accompanying sightings of the shirts, scarves and hats as you approach the ground. The pre-match huddle in the pub. The camaraderie of your fellow devotees around and about your seat. For years now, that has been the most influential element of attending football matches for me; less the on-field spectacle, rather everything else surrounding the match-going experience.

The friendships I have made through football have sustained, where many others have withered and my relationship with football has matured to a point where the result takes its proper place in the scheme of things. Many watching their teams, by whatever means and even some of those playing and managing over the next month will have been directly or indirectly affected by COVID. They will know more than ever the true place of football in the grand scheme of things, the most important of all the unimportant things.


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17 hours ago, Tyrone Shoelaces said:

I feel it'll be like eating a toffee with the wrapper still on or, as I said a while ago, kissing your sister.

So that’s the reason Bunleh fans are looking forward to the season restarting 😜

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