Well that escalated quickly, didn’t it? There I was, quietly buzzing after a derby win and chuckling at Liverpool getting knocked out of Europe. Then the next thing you know I’m sat in the house, drinking too much, steadily munching through a fridge full of stockpiled food and cut off from the world outside. Pretty much a standard weekend then… but then they announced Coronavirus had arrived so normal life was promptly cancelled.
To be honest readers, personally speaking, it’s been an absolute doddle. I’m already an anti-social curmudgeon so being told not to go out hasn’t really affected me. Plus, let’s be honest now, a lockdown where you’re still allowed to leave the house every day isn’t really much of a lockdown at all. Being office-based meant I could work from home which proved another huge bonus. It started off being weird then quickly became ace once the realisation dawned I can do my job without getting dragged into banal conversations about things that people have read on Facebook every 10 minutes. 6 music on in the background, sun streaming though the window, showering at lunchtime… I honestly think I could live like this for another 12 months.
Not everyone sees it as a positive of course, because in reality it’s really fucking bad out there. Me, happy as a pig in shit inside my own little bubble is one thing, but it’s really not funny at all when there’s a deadly virus on the loose and hundreds of people are dying every day. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands who are unable to work at all because they currently don’t have a job. Then you’ve got the NHS workforce and an army of key workers risking their lives on a daily basis, lacking essential PPE yet still intent on keeping everything ticking over until this shitstorm of a virus eventually subsides.
The overall mood isn’t helped by the fact we’re being led by the shambolic troupe of gaslighting fuckwits who compose the senior-level of British government. Not an ounce of compassion or common sense between them, they saw this thing coming a mile off yet still managed to balls it up completely at every turn. Blundering through press conferences, manipulating testing figures and showing themselves up as the lying, evasive, deceitful twats you always suspected they’d be during a time of national crisis. It’s almost enough to make you wish football would come back.
Almost, but not quite. Because as anyone with even the teenie-weeniest bit of common sense would agree, talk about professional football resuming right now is not only grossly insensitive, it’s completely fucking idiotic. Straight away they were at it, before the death toll had even reached 3 figures. The very moment matches were cancelled and precious revenue streams turned off, the self-interested guardians of the sport immediately started dribbling on about the need to finish the season at all costs to preserve ‘the integrity of the game’. Integrity: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. Hahahaha, you couldn’t make it up.
The Premier League’s interpretation of integrity seems a little more abstract than how most people commonly interpret the word. In their desperation to launch #projectrestart it quickly became apparent that they were prepared to do literally anything to get football back on television. Playing in China, playing behind closed doors, neutral stadiums, shortening game lengths and banning spitting(?) were just a handful of the ever more ludicrous suggestions being mooted as deaths around the country continued to rise.
We all know that top-level football did its utmost to absolve itself of any sense of social conscience and civic engagement many years ago. It happily sold its soul in pursuit of untold riches and anyone opposed to the frantic cash grab was left feeling like a tree-hugging relic. We live in a world where people dedicate their lives to arguing on twitter that owning a tiny portion of land in East Manchester and laundering billions of £‘s into a football club to legitimise a murderous, despotic regime is actually something to be applauded.
Greed and self-interest are nothing new in the football world. However, during the current doomsday scenario of a global pandemic, the intention to plough on in spite of the obvious risk to everyone connected was absolutely breathtaking. I mean, we know football administrators are morally deficient in most cases, but I wasn’t expecting them to be so unapologetically brazen in announcing the fact. Surely now would be the time to demonstrate some decorum by keeping quiet for a few months? Maybe prioritise the health and well-being of employees above all else, just like every other workplace has been forced to. More fool me for expecting anything different, I guess.
One unexpected thing I didn’t see coming was how well our own club conducted itself throughout. Unusually for the PR disasterclass that is MUFC, there wasn’t a misstep to be seen whilst other Premier League clubs continued to make complete arses of themselves. Season ticket renewals frozen, a commitment to refunding any games unplayed, casual staff paid until the end of the season and players donating 30% of their wages to the NHS. We’re the first to point out when the club does something wrong – it’s one of this fanzine’s raisons d’etre – so it’s only right we highlight those odd occasions when they get things right. Fair play to all concerned.
I suppose we should give a nod of acknowledgement to Corona for the two-footed, knee-high challenge it delivered to Liverpool’s title-challenge just as they were clean through on goal. I know this makes us look incredibly petty and bitter but what else are we supposed to do? Should we forget the decades of intense rivalry and start lighting candles for them instead? I don’t think so. Let’s make this perfectly clear. The clamour to restart Premier League football is motivated by money, but never underestimate the scousers’ influence and the consequences for any individual seen as conspiring to deny them their moment of glory.
If it was any other club top of the table, there would be pressure to resume playing again but the narrative being played out in the tabloid press would be vastly different. My mind keeps going back 20 years to when any MUFC defeat was greeted like VE Day. If this was a United team closing in on a 3rd consecutive league title, I fully expect there’d be speeches in Parliament calling for the Premier League to cease and desist. Instead, we’re being fed the message that football’s return will somehow “lift the nation”. I suppose it might if you’re a Liverpool or a Leeds fan, but no one else seems to regard it as high on the list of priorities right now. Most are of the opinion it’s a ridiculous idea.
Ultimately, your response to a crisis like this reveals a lot about a person. You either take the sanguine approach and accept shit happens in life or you make an almighty tit of yourself, running round the supermarket hoovering up 700 bog rolls. No matter how much Liverpool delight in their hilarious ‘Tory Tory Man United’ jibes, let it be remembered that we weren’t the club furloughing staff and arguing with our own mayor after he deemed the Premier League’s resumption a “non-starter”. Interestingly, according to a report in The Times, Liverpool were supportive of moves to abandon the Women’s Super League on safety grounds. Probably just a coincidence that they’re in the relegation places there, I expect.
Anyway, that’s me done I think. We live in strange, uncertain times and whatever your situation, I hope you’re doing okay and filling your time productively. Try not to strangle your loved ones and I’ll see you next season when we’re all 25 stone and suffering with chronic liver disease. Wash your hands, take care and enjoy the extended break.
Copyright Red News – May 2020