There was nothing like a good old lockdown to remind everyone of the unashamed self-interest that enveloped the vast majority of clubs in League One in 2020, was there?
That’s right - no one of a red and white persuasion will have forgotten the shambolic decision to decide the league on a PPG basis, playing into the self-serving, moral vacuum that was, principally, Rotherham, Coventry, Fleetwood, Oxford, Wycombe (actually mainly this lot of absolute cheating toads) and Portsmouth vote to finish the season early? Spare a thought too for Tranmere Rovers, relegated for the same reasons. If only they hadn’t subbed Clint Hill in that FA Cup match eh.
Sometimes it feels like my life is a big black book of football clubs that have wronged me.
Justification was given in some quarters that clubs could go out of business. I.e. the poorly run ones perhaps, who couldn’t survive the circumstances because they were run on the edge in the first place? One owner said he feared up to 60 clubs could go bust amidst all the hand-wringing. Amount of clubs that have actually gone out of business? Zero.
Ultimately this was a smokescreen for pretty nefarious intentions - it was in every sense of the word anti-football. We just don’t want to play because we can enrich ourselves by not playing. Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?
Well guess what - it’s happened again! This time though it’s a raft of football matches being cancelled up and down the land due to what has often been called “covid and injuries”. Since when has it been the case that injuries have ever necessitated the postponement of a game? Ask Bryan Robson and Middlesbrough who in 1996 failed to turn up at a match against Blackburn because they had 23 injured or suspended players. The result? Well as we all know, a three point deduction which led to their relegation from the Premier League.
However now we’re in a situation where clubs can fairly arbitrarily cancel games at very short notice because of what they report on the injury and covid status of a club. But really - we know what’s going on here: there is pretty disgraceful gaming of the system taking place due to the rules in place being as stringent as some Jeremy Kyle aftercare.
Remember those EFL press releases last season when it said a club had requested a postponement and that a full investigation into the circumstances would now take place? Well, what actually happened there? And is the same thing happening now?
Simply put, certain clubs in this league - and others across the Premier League and EFL are falling back on excuses to not play football because of one reason: they are scared they will lose.
Now some applications for postponement will be legitimate but it’s starting to create a bit of a mess in our league and beyond - and the consequences might not be fully realised for a few months yet.
Also, it’s important to note that a long break is in no way a good thing - just ask Sheffield Wednesday.
Keown spills his paintbox
Part of the job interview for a pundit at BT Sport must be something along the lines of asking the applicant to repeat the following words typed out on the page in front of them: Apple. Ball. Dog. Comb. Grass.
Get 5/5 and you’ve got the job.
This severely lacking recruitment process is the only legitimate reason I can surmise that the bigwigs at the channel decided to employ Martin Keown as a co-commentator (with a special mention to Jermaine Jenas who also makes you want to go all Van Gogh on not one, but both of your ears).
Big Marty was on the co-comms mic this weekend at the Arsenal versus Man City match; you had to ask yourself the question after an appreciably short period of time - just how much alcohol remained in his system from the previous nights’ festivities?
It’s no exaggeration to say that he was all over the place - but no more so than an exchange that occurred in the first half with Darren Fletcher. As Kevin de Bruyne did his usual talented thing on the ball, Keown must have felt overcome with emotion that he just couldn’t stop himself.
“I always say his feet are like paintbrushes” the big man opined. I was jolted out of my semi-distracted state - did he just say that?
The lack of reaction from Fletcher was telling - stop talking Martin. However, he gamely continued “the pitch is the shape of the... canvas... and his feet... are the paintbrushes.”
Christ on a bike Martin, did you get a bump on the head last night?
It does play into the wider frustration of many people out there that there is a feeling among some - indeed many - ex-pros out there who do media duties, that they can simply turn up without proper preparation simply because they played the game.
“Must do better” in red pen right across your mid-season report card, Martin.
Safe standing to return
Finally this week - something long mooted, but welcome.
The reasons for why all-seater stadia were introduced in first place were of course the unspeakably sad events at Hillsborough in 1989, and the Taylor Report that followed. However this weekend will see the reintroduction of safe standing at selected football grounds, starting with Chelsea against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
The trial period, which involves five clubs - Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham - will be in place before a decision on a wider rollout is made ahead of next season.
Something that is broadly a good thing for sure - you can stand at football as it is done in a safe and controlled way. Let’s be honest - it’s happened already, having spent two seasons before lockdown standing throughout the whole 90 minutes at the back of the SWC.
Time will tell how this will affect us at the SOL.