Now it becomes serious.
In the past few weeks of lockdown everything has felt surreal, different, mildly amusing even. The prospect of leaving the house has felt like climbing Everest in espadrilles. Actually watching live football being played by our team has been so far off the radar even E.T. couldn’t find a home game.
But football is beginning its long road to recovery as lockdown eases across the country, bit by slow bit.
Now the German Bundesliga is back (no doubt you’ve all chosen your favourite team to follow – mine’s Robert Huth’s FC Union Berlin… he told me to) then there is at least something to watch to get your footballing tastebuds salivating.
The clubs of the Championship are determined to finish the competition, despite all of the associated issues.
At a meeting of the lower two divisions of the EFL clubs on Friday, League Two came to a conclusion but there was no decision made in League One, only a consensus to kick the problem into this week.
Heaven knows when it can be possible for anything definitive to be arrived at.
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland, Adam Davies, Adam Federici.
Defenders: Danny Batth, Moritz Bauer**, James Chester*, Nathan Collins, Tom Edwards, Liam Lindsay, Bruno Martins Indi, Ryan Shawcross, Tommy Smith, Harry Souttar**, Josh Tymon, Stephen Ward, Kevin Wimmer**.
Midfielders: Joe Allen, Sam Clucas, Jordan Cousins, Peter Etebo**, James McClean, Badou Ndiaye**, Nick Powell, Ollie Shenton**, Lasse Sorensen, Ryan Woods**.
Forwards: Benik Afobe**, Tyrese Campbell, Mame Diouf, Lee Gregory, Tom Ince, Julien Ngoy, Thibaud Verlinden, Sam Vokes.
**out on loan
It’s difficult enough to envisage the players even to get to train ‘normally’ – as contact at the moment is going to be banned in training – let alone play competitive matches.
Even tackling has a new ‘requirement’, turning your head away. That could be dangerous in itself. Given that Stoke’s first game after the resumption is against Reading, I don’t fancy watching Charlie Adam launching himself into a tackle whilst looking the other way. He’s dangerous enough when he is looking directly at his opponent…
One ingenious option on protection has emerged on social media: Zorb football – until recently the province solely of the over-enthusiastic office worker on an away day.
Zorb football sees players encased in an inflated 8 foot sphere. Perfectly safe, but also utterly hilarious and ridiculous. The product of too much refreshing Twitter during lockdown.
Watching a clip on YouTube is, at least, abZorbing…
Speaking of the ridiculous, recently we have had to suffer the ‘wisdom’ of pundit Danny Mills claiming that Stoke, and other recipients, should share the parachute money which is still being paid by the Premier League amongst the other members of the Championship.
It’s a nonsense argument for a huge range of reasons, but I’ve only got 500 words, so let’s just run with two:
1) That money was earned by Stoke City on the pitch, over 10 seasons in the Premier League, while Leeds, through utter mismanagement and incompetence, haven’t graced the top flight since 2004.
2) If the boot was on the other foot, as it may well be in year or so’s time, would Mills be advocating sharing Leeds’ hard-earned cash amongst the likes of Barnsley and Luton? I hardly think so.
Oh and if you didn’t know, Mills used to play for Leeds…
The former England full-back and luckiest man to play in a World Cup for the Three Lions does have a wider point: the inequality between Premier League and the rest has been seismic for years.
That needs addressing or one of the outcomes of this coronavirus hiatus could be that the ‘big’ clubs push for the much-vaunted European League, leaving the rest of us behind.
Mind you, there is a school of thought that says we would be well rid of the likes of the Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, although quite how the latter expect to get into any elite league based on ‘performance’ over recent years boggles my cherries. Let the oligarchs play in their fantasy football league.
I’d rather watch Rotherham on a cold Tuesday night anyway.
Or I might have gone completely crazy in lockdown.
If you need something to cheer you up, then take a peek at StokeonTrentLive’s ‘Our Heroes’ campaign.
For me, there are many heroes that spring to mind who are Stoke-related from this lockdown period: Stoke City FC themselves for everything they have done for the community, fans, employees and to provide testing facilities, Duck Magazine and Will Garratt and his enterprising goalkeeper son for incredible fundraising efforts.
Whether an award comes their way or not, all of them, plus the many others who are selflessly supporting family, friends, neighbours and even random others out of the kindness of their heart should be shouted to the rooftops.
Nominate your hero by emailing Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.