Our Liverpool blogger Dave Tindall looks at the current state of play regarding football and coronavirus and runs through some potential outcomes for this season.
In a Red Letter published on January 8 when trying to advise other Liverpool fans not to count our chickens just yet, I talked about a doomsday scenario of City winning all their remaining games while we fell to pieces.
And, leaving no stone unturned in why the 30-year wait for the title might not end, I mentioned another pie-in-the-sky possibility:
“If I still sound unreasonably cautious and negative despite our record-breaking feats, I’ll leave you with this. While I’m getting antsy about Manchester City clicking into a permanent top gear, a mate of mine, a fellow Red, is genuinely fearful that the outbreak of World War III could deny us.
“And, what’s more, that was before it all kicked off between Trump and Iran…”
That didn’t happen but I wasn’t thorough enough. What I didn’t take into account was the possibility of a global health pandemic that would shut the entire football world down. Silly me.
If you believe some, there’s now the unthinkable prospect of this season – you know, the one in which we have a 25-point lead – being declared null and void.
It’s hard to use the word disaster when people are dying all over the world but this would be an astonishing way to miss out.
A tweet from @MattieP90 sums it all up. If not this year, then we are genuinely cursed.
We had 1 hand on the title and the greatest player in our history slipped over and it was gone.
We got 97 points. A total that would see Liverpool crowned champions 99 times in the last 101 seasons.
We finally piss it. Miles clear. Two hands on it.
— Pricey (@MattieP90) March 12, 2020
Another Reds fan on Twitter, @AnfieldRd96, adds this:
If the Premier League is cancelled and the season is to be declared void, I’ll be done with football I reckon.
— – (@AnfieldRd96) March 13, 2020
I obviously don’t read The Sun or take any notice of a bloke whose name rhymes with ears but, according to friends and my Twitter timeline, several well-known media types have talked about writing this season off as it would be the only fair thing to do. Yeah, right.
As if they’d be saying that if their teams were in a similar position or currently in the relegation zone (West Ham are only out of it on goal difference).
Four potential resolutions
Obviously, there’s an enormous amount of uncertainty but, in order of preference, here’s how I would solve the problem…
1/ See the crisis out and play the full season to its completion when it’s okay to do so. The 2020/21 campaign will just have to wait and fit in when we’re ready for it. Why should next season be seen as more important than this one?
There are windows of opportunity. It seems pretty certain according to some strong sources that Euro 2020 won’t go ahead. That frees the summer up and hence domestic seasons can be finished in July/August if necessary. Teams have either nine or 10 games to finish so two games a week (Saturday/Wednesday) for five weeks and it’s done.
2/ Finish off the season behind closed doors. It’s not ideal but quickens the process. Virgil Van Dijk gave his thoughts on the matter at the weekend.
“If we won it in an empty stadium and the fans weren’t there, I’d be gutted for them. Obviously, if there are no fans at Anfield, then it will be a bit of a blow – no one wants to play games without the fans. Until a decision is made on how we go on from here, then we just have to deal with it. But when it happens, we are still bringing the title to our fans, definitely.” As VVD says, it’s clearly a huge compromise. That’s why I have it only as No. 2 on the list. Then again, it’s better than No. 3
3/ Declare us the title winners now. I have a certain level of sympathy for this. In golf, if there’s bad weather, they’ll reduce the tournament to 54 holes and the winner is whoever sits top after three rounds. Not ideal but it gets it done. However, imagine the moaning and whinging for years to come from other fans and the asterisk next to it *season was called off after 29 games. It would feel slightly phony despite us being an absolute mile clear. Other supporters would bang on relentlessly that we were bottling it at the time the virus hit and we could never ultimately prove that we’d have gone on to win it even with such a massive lead.
I actually have a variation on this to try and make it slightly fairer. As several teams have played 28 games rather than 29, work out the average points per game each team has won so far and then multiply it by 38 (the full amount of games in the season). We’ve averaged 2.827 points per game to City’s 2.035. That would mean we’d end with 107pts to their 77. It doesn’t actually change the standings at the top or in the relegation zone but somehow seems a tad fairer.
4/ Abandon the season and declare it void. NOOOOOO!!
In these troubled times – in fact in all times, good or bad – it’s always good to listen to Jurgen. So if you’re struggling how to process all this, the boss made the following statement when the Premier League was suspended.
“I’ve said before that football always seems the most important of the least important things. Today, football and football matches really aren’t important at all.
“Of course, we don’t want to play in front of an empty stadium and we don’t want games or competitions suspended, but if doing so helps one individual stay healthy – just one – we do it no questions asked.
“If it’s a choice between football and the good of the wider society, it’s no contest. Really, it isn’t.”
He’s absolutely right, although let’s remember that those comments were a response to suspending.
When it comes down to the nitty gritty of how we finish this season, I’m also a fan of the more pithy comment made by Jamie Carragher in response to the “declare it void” merchants.
“The [football] authorities found a way to put a World Cup (2022) in the middle of a season so I’m sure they can sort next season out,” said Carragher on Twitter.
When this does pass, the only truly fair outcome is to play it to the finish.
If that means having a slightly weird 2020/21 season – fewer games perhaps – then at least everyone will know from the start what the deal is.
Unless this suspension is longer than we imagine, the goalposts on this season should not be moved.
• In the next Red Letter, I’ll rate our players on their seasons so far.