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Roker Ramble: Filling the void

How do you face living in an apocalyptic football-free world? Reach for the toilet roll... and, say what you like about the coronavirus, but it’s stopped everyone moaning about VAR.

General Views of Sport Venues After Events Postponed Due To Coronavirus
Now if you were looking for a cheap house....
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

There’s been a refreshing lack of communal moaning about the absence of footie in our lives, certainly in the social media world I occupy, although there’s undoubtedly a section of the dark web where desperate subversives sweating in their cold-turkey like state furtively organise 5-a-side games in the middle of Essex, illuminated only by car headlamps.

But the truth of the matter is – I don’t miss it, I really don’t. Not yet anyway.

True, if I was a season ticket holder at Anfield I’d probably be suicidal by now, denied my regular adrenalin shot of top-notch sexy football, win after win, lauded across the world as the team of the moment.

Liverpool FC v RB Salzburg: Group E - UEFA Champions League
So glad I’m not one of them....
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

But I’m not. As they pulled the plug, my team had just lost to Bristol Rovers, a side that couldn’t win an argument all season. My team, which had started to promise something, teasing you into thinking that ‘this might be it’, turned round yet again and hinted pretty strongly that it probably wasn’t.

So when they announced the postponement of the season, I can’t say a wave of relief washed over me, but part of me, without doubt, was glad that the spectre of disappointment that’s been associated with supporting this club for the past few years had been lifted temporarily.

Now I know that for many that the matchday experience means far more than the match itself - the social side, the craic, the routine - and I get that, but for me it was always the game. Living away from the area, if I was going to commit to 12 hours in the car with a break in the middle then I wanted that break to be fun, to be entertaining, to mean something, and for too long it had just been a total drag.

So I don’t do the match thing anymore and probably won’t till we start getting some real momentum, so my football experience is more passive than others, but I’m still a fan. I don’t care if Liverpool or City win the League, I don’t care if Norwich and Watford escape relegation – although I really would like West Ham to go down – but I do care if Sunderland beat Rotherham or Fleetwood or Burton or Bristol Rovers... and when we don’t, it still buggers up my weekend good and proper.

I have however had to change the habits of a lifetime. I’ve always waited till 5.00 pm on a Saturday when the results were in to start drinking. Now I don’t – and it’s fine.

So I think the phrase ‘enjoying a hiatus’ is appropriate at the moment. And there’s still plenty of football on demand to be seen. I’ve been reliving the Peter Reid and Roy Keane eras on YouTube, and it all comes back with a warm feeling to the nether regions, just how good we can be, just how good it can be, and it made me think.

Do we need a really passionate Sunderland till I die chairman - someone who lives and breathes the town and the club, knows the people, the history, thinks like we do and really gets it - before we can be successful again?

Man Utd v Sunderland
Peter Reid always maintained Sir Alex was taller than he looked....

Surely it can’t be a coincidence that the two periods of success we’ve had a recent years coincided with the stewardships of Bob Murray and Niall Quinn?

As much as we love Peter Reid and Roy Keane, their track record proves that they weren’t great managers. They were only successful at Sunderland, and that has to be because of the direction and inspiration of their respective chairmen. So maybe that’s what we need to aspire to, find someone in that mould to lead from the very top... Kevin Ball anyone?

Elsewhere, the football authorities are wetting themselves on how they’re going to wrap this season up when we get to the point when we can all start touching each other again, and I don’t hold out much hope of a sensible solution. The FA’s decision this week to cancel the current leagues for all teams below The National League in England is totally outrageous, and the authorities have only done it because they know the clubs are too small to fight back in the court room.

Had they considered this to be the correct course of action then it should’ve been applied across the board to all clubs, all leagues; why is it okay for South Shields, Sunderland Ladies, and dozens of other clubs to be stripped of their rightful place and reward but not Liverpool and the bigger clubs? What it means is that the FA is not fit to represent these clubs, and a change to a more representative structure is surely on the cards.

And the problem of resurrecting the current season is that many players will be out of contract in June when the season was supposed to end - are they then obliged to ‘finish’ the season with the team they started with or are they free to move on, in which case can teams then go into the market and buy their way out of trouble with lucrative contracts containing highly beneficial hand sanitizer clauses?

So, the two things that totally confused me about the current crisis were, firstly, having to sneeze into your elbow... what the f*ck is all that about? You sneeze into your elbow – you have a snotty elbow – what possible good is that to anyone? And secondly the panic buying of loo rolls. It’s a respiratory disease, why do you need to exit the supermarket with your body weight in toilet paper?

When future generations look back on these extraordinary times, on how the human race reacted to the most testing of circumstances, are they simply going to shrug their shoulders and point to vast numbers of people playing keepy-uppy and kicking bog rolls round their living room on social media?

General Views of Sport Venues after events postponed due to Covid-19
Although toilet rolls permitted under certain circumstances.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

They say that nature abhors a vacuum - the fact that we chose to fill the absence of football in our lives with a toilet-roll based experience will no doubt keep the academics of the future scratching their heads in bemusement.

And say what you like about the coronavirus, but it’s stopped everyone moaning about VAR.

OK – now go wash your hands.