The league is postponed, almost all football is off. So now the minds which matter will start to discuss: exactly what happens to the 2019/20 season?
Liverpool were flying clear at the top and within touching distance of the Premier League title.
Only six more points were required to claim the trophy, and only three more are required if we play our next scheduled game – away to Man City in April – and beat them.
But plenty of talk since the confirmed suspension of league play has been around the small chance of resuming on the current date.
Naturally, Liverpool fans will hope that at some point, when the threat has lessened, we can resume and rightfully take our crown in the usual way: by winning games and points, and all of it in front of a packed Anfield.
But for now there remains suspicion, voicing of opinions on what should happen and a general state of ‘nobody-knows’ which will persevere until the coronavirus spread is halted, slowed or overcome.
Here’s a look around the football world at what those involved are saying, from club figureheads to media types and former players. Be warned, they range from the sensible to the stupid and self-serving…
It’s a bit transparent, Karen
Let’s get the ridiculous ones out the way first, shall we?
Most media outlets have suggested that there would not be any great opposition from rival clubs to Liverpool being handed the trophy – which would be normal, given we’re about 300 points clear of most of them.
So when one contradicts that view, it’s natural to squint at their words, take a side-eye view of the table and see exactly what pushes that agenda. And it doesn’t take long.
Sky Sports report that West Ham vice-chairman Karen Brady—writing for a certain rag which shall remain nameless, but it’s not a great start to taking her opinion seriously, is it—suggests that “the only fair and reasonable thing to do is declare the whole season null and void.”
Oh, really?! What a surprise. Well, let’s take a look at the league table, shall we?
Ahhh, yes: West Ham, out of the relegation zone only on goal difference. And still to play Wolves, Spurs, Chelsea, United…no, can’t see at all where that perspective came from.
How the table looks ahead of the weekend… pic.twitter.com/Npke6wZ3c4
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 11, 2020
Former Arsenal striker Alan Smith’s opinion is less to do with protecting his team—mid-table irrelevance that they are this year—but no more sensible, even so.
No, Smith, in his Evening Standard column, thinks that if “what ever happens now, the gloss has gone. If Liverpool do eventually get crowned, it’s going to prove a massive anti-climax.”
Really? A season of stunning play and relentless results will be forgotten?
The additional, unprecedented, challenge of the entire world having to come together to overcome a disease, before finally getting back to action in tandem with everyone else on the planet hopefully, then getting over the finishing line?
It’ll be an anti-climax to end an incredibly testing period in the year with an enormous celebration of achievement?
You know what, Alan; we think there might be rather more go into those celebrations than usual. Grief, relief, frustration, elation: you name it, Liverpool supporters and their families are facing it right now, just like everyone else, and football has always been a public source of emotional release.
Can we use this opportunity to reset the pundit world?
Wouldn’t it be great if, while this four-week period (at least) of no match action were ongoing, television companies finally sat down and looked at which of their commentators and pundits were actually of use, benefit and knowledge?
It wouldn’t take much: scroll through social media. Send out those online questionnaires to subscribers. Which of our pundits make you want to mute the match?
Somewhere near the top of the list would be the moronic, contradictory bleatings of Chris Sutton, who loves to argue so much he’s even doing it with himself.
Here for the Mail, he says we can’t award Liverpool the title just yet and declaring the season over, relegating teams in the process, would be unfair on Aston Villa (who have a game in hand) and opening a huge can of worms.
All fine, a reasonable take on the situation, even if you don’t specifically agree.
And then here, for the Daily Record, Sutton addresses the exact same situation north of the border…with the exact opposite suggestion.
“Just call [the league as it stands are] now. Celtic are 13 points clear at the top…There would be outcry for the teams who get relegation, but I’m sorry, that’s just the way it is.”
Oh, that’s just the way it is, is it? Chris has opened his mouth and declared martial law over promotion and relegation, so sorry Hearts fans – you have to live with it now. Ho hum, such is life.
Not all pundits are as bad, thankfully. Martin Keown has his admirers and detractors, but at least his straight-as-an-arrow view has an element of believability to it.
He says the season cannot be ended early, null and voided or anything else: it has to be played out, no matter what.
Keown isn’t known for nuance, the big burly former centre-back that he is, but his approach of “finish it, whatever it takes” will appeal to many.
Even if it takes until September, he says in his Mail column, the Reds deserve their chance to go on and complete the job and all the Championship teams chasing promotion deserve the same.
Voices of reason
Peter Crouch has his priorities spot-on: he barely even talks about it the season resuming, using his column in the Mail to instead note the more important factors at play right now.
In fairness to other columnists, some will be directly asked questions by a staffer ghost-writing the columns, which is why they’ll have a specific focus on the title/certain teams/the virus itself.
But Crouch has it right: “This is so much bigger than worrying about sport…There is no room for putting yourself first. [The title, the Champions League, the Euros]…all of it can wait.”
Two other quick opinions are worth taking on board too: ex-Everton goalkeeper Neville Southall says the correct moral stance would be to let the Reds win the league in front of their own fans, as it is those same fans who football is for, really.
And Rory Smith, chief football correspondent for the New York Times, says anyone suggesting a decision needs to be taken immediately should be regarded as having “opportunistic self-interest” (hi, Karen), calling for calm reasoning in this period of downtime and letting events unfold as we get nearer to April.