Lou Macari – Stoke City’s return is welcome step towards Championship games


Lou Macari has his say in his column for The Sentinel and StokeonTrentLive..

“Seeing Stoke City players report back for training feels like a major step towards getting football back.

I am not saying it’s going to be football as we were used to. Anyone who has seen the games from Germany over the last couple of weeks would probably agree that the game is not the same without crowds and an atmosphere.

But, the way I see it is football behind closed doors is better than no football at all.

Precautions have to be taken about players training of course but I am looking forward to the Championship and the Premier League coming back.

Every team will be in the same boat, no clubs have been able to train and so no one has an advantage. Now it is up to the players to top up their fitness with training for a week or two ready for that opening game.

So, it looks like the Premier League and the Championship will be back. It’s not the same lower down as League Two have already voted to call off their remaining games – and it looks as though League One might follow suit.

Teams at those levels have had to make that call because of financial reasons – and readers of this column will know I think they should have had far more help from the top flight.

But calling off their season has raised a host of questions such as should there still be promotion and relegation, can they have play-offs and how can the league positions be decided?

It looks like they will settle for points per game but there is no really fair way of doing it because no one can really know what would have happened over the last nine or ten games of the season.

You are promoting or relegating teams based on predictions, which is unsatisfactory to say the least.

It’s much better to get players back to training and have matches settled on the pitch. I know games behind closed doors aren’t perfect, but it’s better than deciding results by a committee. 

LAST Saturday would have been FA Cup final day and I am sure readers have their own favourites.

Mine has to be 1977 when I was fortunate enough to win the cup with Manchester United.

I had played in Scottish Cup finals before I came to England and, in terms of numbers, they were certainly the equal of the English game. In fact, in my first cup final with Celtic there were 128,000 there.

I went to Manchester United and two years later I was at Wembley for the 1976 final against Southampton.  We were the overwhelming favourites, but that was only because of the names of the two clubs, if you looked at the teams it was always likely to be a close game.

After 83 minutes, at 0-0, we conceded a goal which many people to this day say was offside, and Southampton won the cup.

Our manager Tommy Docherty said after the game that we would be back and would win it next time. We all thought he was mad because getting to an FA Cup final wasn’t a given for any team, but we made it 12 months later and this time we were the huge underdogs against a Liverpool side who were going for the treble and were without doubt the best side in the country.

But we managed to win it 2-1 and, whereas things went against us the previous year with Southampton’s winner, this time they went for us with a bit of a lucky goal when my shot hit Jimmy Greenhoff and went in the back of the net.

Whose goal was it? Whenever I see Jimmy we are still arguing about it!

But when you are at Wembley, the only thought you have is not who scores, but just for someone to score to win the cup.

It is all about winning and I have been on both sides. I went back with Manchester United two years later and we lost a dramatic game to Arsenal 3-2 so I certainly experienced the ups and downs over three finals in four years.

But win or lose, it was impossible to ignore the size of the occasion back then. The FA Cup was huge, no team rested players and crowds would go up, not down, for this competition.

The TV interest was massive for the final, at a time when live games were a rarity. But there are iconic moments from throughout the competition, such as those fantastic images of Hereford beating Newcastle in 1972 and celebrating fans invading the pitch.

The competition has been devalued over the years but the memories will always be special to me.”





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