It’s not like football hasn’t found a place to extend a season yet. Where the will was – or more precisely, the direct need – the way was usually cleared.
We can probably all remember times when a campaign end date was rigid until … it wasn’t. United fans in the 1990s, for example, will remember the strange, overlapping conclusion from 1995/6, when the relegation-threatened Blues hung up longer than almost everyone else.
This was due to a pitch invasion and a postponement of Brighton’s game against York. When it was repeated on Thursday morning after the last Saturday afternoon, I remember sneaking a radio into GCSE Maths (sorry, Mr. Blanchard) and suppressing a cheer at the news that Brighton had taken the lead before York could predictably at three replied and Carlisle it was down.
Blues fans who traveled to Chester in 1982 did so a second time as the original game had gone down due to fog. On May 19, Pop Robson finally scored the goal that sent United into Division Two. The promotion to the top division in 1974 came almost a week after Carlisle’s last game, as Leyton Orient’s encounter with Aston Villa was the final crucial part of the competition.
And these were individual cases that arose from special circumstances. The entire schedule list didn’t creak or groan at the time.
Is that now. Or will it be soon. From January 26th through May 8th, Carlisle must host 25 league games at a rate of one every 4.16 days. At least seven of the next eight weeks are occupied with midweek games. That is without any further shifts that scar the calendar (wishful thinking certainly in Covid-Land).
Now it would be easy to talk about all of the Red Top columnists at Windbag and say that’s what they’re getting paid for, poor lambs, you don’t hear soldiers complaining, blah blah and blah.
Given that the world is a little less populist place because of the orange person who left Washington DC, we shouldn’t be leading the debate that way. Instead, let’s think what is fair and reasonable to ask of the most important people in an industry right now who are licensed, let alone pressured to continue at a time when others have closed.
Footballers are asked to show up for our entertainment and if they could do it almost every other day by spring that would be really helpful guys.
Well there is a point where the shoehorn snaps and it is one thing that football authorities explain is the season will end on time if you follow the Covid protocols and another that has that phrase against a backdrop read, who is littered with Twitter announcements of virus-controlled games, suspensions and related investigations – not to mention the devices dropped on wet or frozen pitches or floodlights that won’t turn on.
If there are logistical difficulties in pushing back the end date, they certainly count higher than below. The second division will not send many players to the euro. What it will do is hob some of them into the summer if we are not careful.
The argument for letting the campaign breathe a little more is getting stronger, and to insist on it would be a failure of thinking at a time when the normal way of doing things is very much to be won in our entire lives.
Again, there are those who will make fun of them, and there are certainly non-league players who laugh every four and a half days at the idea that a game is too much to take. Yesterday’s professionals might react the same way.
Just because one is or wasn’t ideal doesn’t mean the other has to be bad too. With the clock ticking, we’re nearing a point where the games in hand can become a curse rather than a blessing, unless 2020-21 could go a week or two further into May than planned.
Yes, this could lead to cumbersome rescheduling. No, those who organize play-offs and those like that wouldn’t particularly like it. And yes, renewing now would be more like after the event as clubs like United were asked to fill their immediate diaries between now and March.
The Blues have undoubtedly recruited considering this situation. Fortunately, your squad doesn’t want depth. However, football should never be too adamant for its own health.
We shouldn’t forget that the game has willingly moved other ways to keep this campaign from going under. FA Cup repeats, for example, no longer exist. The EFL Trophy has also been abolished.
Wait, no, it wasn’t. We could have known that a devalued competition that cemented the power of the Premier League by giving populated players “minutes” at the expense of relevance to the lower league would also prove resistant to Covid-19. The overcrowded fixture list probably could have done without this horror, but on we go.
The point is straightforward and boils down to giving professional players the care they deserve. If football must remain the national distraction, at least its key staff should be treated accordingly, not as shattered circus performers who are urged to walk the tightrope over and over again.