There is no atmosphere anymore, no intensity. The financial implications will cripple clubs across the football pyramid. Injuries and postponements are stockpiling. It’s still football, though, isn’t it? Brilliant, crazy, chaotic, emotional, magical football. It’s ours and it matters.
Even in these most trying of times, football has proven its ability to inspire, to excite and to capture the hearts of all those who follow it. Even in this crazy season, even amongst fixture congestion and COVID outbreaks, football has proven it matters.
Try telling Aston Villa fans it doesn’t matter. Villa have had an exceptional season so far, defying all odds. They have built on their narrow escape from relegation with a wonderful transfer window, strengthening in areas required. They have a thriving centre back partnership banging on Gareth Southgate’s door in lead up to this summer’s Euros. They have a manager in Dean Smith who is finally showing the tactical potential hinted at during his Brentford days. And, of course, they have Jack Grealish – arguably the Premier League’s star performer this campaign.
Try telling the fans of Swansea City, Brentford or Blackburn Rovers it doesn’t matter. The Welsh outfit have bounced back from the heartbreak of missing out on the play-offs last summer and are currently flying high this season, sitting in second behind relegated Norwich and boasting the league’s best defence. The league’s most potent attack, Brentford, lie in third, with new signing Ivan Toney flying high at the top of the goalscorer’s chart – not to mention a League Cup semi-final appearance for Thomas Frank’s side. Blackburn’s young attack have also beaten expectations this campaign, with free-scoring Adam Armstrong leading the line and Liverpool loanee Harvey Elliott outperforming most of Europe’s best U18s. Rovers will be eyeing a play-off push in the second half of the season.
Try telling Lincoln City fans it doesn’t matter. As outside bets for a play-off spot, Michael Appleton’s League One side have impressed all comers this campaign with their possession-based style and are currently in the automatic promotion spots. But for some more efficiency from the penalty spot, the Imps would be well out in front, an outstanding achievement from Appleton’s men so far.
Try telling Marine or Chorley fans it doesn’t matter. In proving the magic of the FA Cup is alive and kicking, eighth tier Marine faced off against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur in the Third Round in one of football’s greatest David vs Goliath encounters. Neil Young’s men performed admirably on the biggest night in the club’s history, with fans watching on, overcome with pride. Sixth tier Chorley went one better by reaching the fourth round after beating a young Derby County side, before going down fighting against Premier League Wolves.
So be it Grealish’s mazy dribbles, Swansea’s defiance, Lincoln’s rise or Marine’s heroics, football has proven what we all knew already, that it matters.