With all due credit to the famous Wealdstone Raider for my headline, the continuing ban on attending large events, including our beloved football, is draining the lifeblood from things we love with a passion.
I, like most Evertonians, tuned in to the 236th Merseyside derby on Sunday 21 June, to watch a historical fixture on our hallowed Goodison turf. This year, however, it was devoid of its true heart and soul. All the stands at the ‘Grand Old Lady’ lay empty as if in mourning for the current state of our great game.
While Leagues 1, 2 and the National League Conference drew a line under the remaining fixtures for this season, the big money has driven our Premier League players out on the fields to fulfil the fixture list, sparing no effort in testing all players and staff for coronavirus . This task was accomplished quickly and efficiently – perhaps government should take note and employ a similar resolve and efficiency nationwide. It is interesting that cricket, far less lucrative a sport, but with far more physical distancing, is not back in action.
Well, it certainly isn’t football as we know it because football is the people’s game. We are not mere spectators, but the 12th player – actors in the play.
At Goodison Park 80% of the supporters are season ticket holders, many for several decades who will have never missed a home derby match in years. However many cardboard cut outs (or god forbid, Korean blow up dolls) are placed in the empty stands, or however much piped fake fan noise, the atmosphere is just not there. The Higgs Boson of the whole piece that holds our football together is missing.
Credit then, to the saxophonist who was playing outside the ground as a reminder of the ghost of the real football fans at the banquet.
While watching from an armchair might be business as usual for our United-supporting cousins down the M62 (or most probably down the M1), Evertonians live and breathe the live action. The club, founded in 1878, has a proud tradition and was the original club in a city that lives and breathes the game. It gives meaning to so many lives.
Everton in the Community is a vital charity link for many in a city that has its identity entwined heavily with football, be it red or blue. Our club is a symbol of identity and of hope.
Of course, we want to ensure health and safety for all fans, but shouldn’t we take the fans with us before we sell out our beloved game to TV money? It is our game, they are our clubs, despite whoever the transitory millionaire owner happens to be this season on paper. Without fans there is no ‘normal’ British football.
Let us get our game back for everyone as soon as possible. For the many, not the few.
Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum.