What to write about when there’s no actual football?
You’d think it would be difficult to find something, but as per usual at Stoke City there has been plenty going on.
First off, the decision to postpone fixtures can only be the right one.
As far as the whole discussion about what happens once we are able to play football again, you are either in the camp that we should finish the league season and delay the Euros (which has come to pass this morning) or stop the leagues now and then either run with the promotion and relegation places as they are or just void the entire season and start again.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this. However, we can’t really lose either way.
Having somehow extricated ourselves from the relegation zone under Michael O’Neill we wouldn’t be at any threat and given our form since the new manager’s arrival if we started over we are likely to be amongst the play-off contenders, so all good on that front.
Clearly, the integrity of competition should really be maintained, so I’d favour finishing the division, although there are huge logistical issues over that option.
There is precedent for starting all over again, although last time that happened in 1939 the suspension was due to the intervention of Herr Hitler and lasted seven years until the league formally started up again. There was still football in the regional leagues in the interim war years and there were only three fixtures lost from the first season, so the two situations aren’t really comparable for all sorts of reasons.
More Stoke City specifically, the Fans Forum evening which took place recently threw a range of titbits to enliven discussion about our club while there isn’t any on pitch action.
Firstly, and most importantly, it was yet another opportunity to see what a superb manager and man we have in Michael O’Neill. He was impressive and erudite. Clear and concise. And also very funny!
Secondly, it was also impressive that two villains of the last couple of dreadful years – John Coates and Tony Scholes – fronted up at the event and took on questions about how the club had found itself in this mess.
The answers weren’t always pretty, but did at least acknowledge the culpability of the board and decision makers regarding key decisions such as signings, contracts and managerial appointments.
What wasn’t quite so cathartic was the moment when the Chief Executive stated that he didn’t understand the issue with the left-back position at the club.
Now, admittedly there have been a lot of issues for Tony Scholes to deal with in the last few years, but surely to heavens he understands enough to know that the ridiculous situation with that position has been a major contributor to what has gone wrong on the pitch?
And if he doesn’t? Then it begs the questions what else doesn’t he understand. Indeed it could well be a little window onto the reasons why so much has gone so pear-shaped.
If that was a single moment of embarrassment for Scholes, then he is going to be involved in all sorts of decisions about the problems that will face Stoke now money is not going to be coming in during the suspension of football activities. Not having matchday income will hurt, but so will fans not taking advantage of the Early Bird season tickets offer simply because we have no idea when next season might start.
We don’t even know if we are going to get full value for our current season’s tickets. The whole thing is up in the air. And while none of that is of Scholes’ making, he does clearly have to show leadership on this.
Given the likelihood that many season ticket holders may be on sick pay or even laid off or made redundant in coming weeks it only seems right to extend the Early Bird period indefinitely until more clarity is able to be given.
Certainly fans shouldn’t be penalised for matters completely out of their control.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Just occasionally there are some moment of levity amongst the impending armageddon.
Those of you who have taken to Twitter to get you through this football fallow period may have noticed a wonderful meme around how former Stoke legend Abdoulaye Faye is going to save the world. Along the lines of: Stoke Legend Abdoulaye Faye has just been diagnosed with coronavirus … sources say the virus is expected to make a full recovery…
Stay safe, folks. Wash those hands, look after each other, especially your older relatives and neighbours, and dab when you cough!