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Football's Back, But Not As We Know It
Some thoughts as football action returns to Hillsborough

Well football for SWFC is back – it’s not quite as we have known it but at least it’s back. If truth be known I haven’t been pining for it to come back as I have not massively missed it, or least that is what one voice in my head is telling me! In recent years I have grown increasingly alienated by the influence of the PL, even more so as it has negatively impacted on the Championship and the rest of the football pyramid. Soon after lock-down began there was a sense that governing bodies and the game as a whole might be coming together to rescue football from the Covid crisis but that soon dissipated into the usual divisive self-interest driven agendas. At least the new leadership of the EFL have appeared to be saying the right things about the need for fundamental change, but my guess is that won’t happen unless and until at least 16 out of the 24 Championship clubs are ready and willing to end the PL dominance by instituting a salary cap regime, refusing to allow relegated PL clubs into the Championship with parachute payments and higher allowable FFP losses. I feel sure that the Covid crisis is going to drive some sort of change in football, the only questions for me are who is managing the change, and how much damage will be in the process. We will see.

Whilst we have been away, I have read John Nicholson’s book titled Can We Have Our Football Back which is a brilliant polemic on the damage that the PL has done to football and what should be done about it. As a consequence, it has driven me to action and our Sky Sports subscription has been cancelled, to take effect 8th July. If we want to achieve change the financial rug has to be pulled out from under the whole structure and stopping funding it is the best way to make a start. The other book I have finished is John Dyson’s Our Lowest Ebb which tells the story of Wednesday in the years 1973 -1976 which truly were our darkest days. We were down to gates of less than 8,000 in a stadium that then held 55,000, we had a leading scorer who played on loan for 2 months and we were one game away from being relegated to Division 4 (League 2) for the first time in our history. Add to that a financial crisis and sacking a Wednesday legend, Derek Dooley, from his job as manager on Xmas Eve. The book is a wonderful piece of research from both the archives and the experiences of fans who were there and lived through those dark days. It is also lovingly put together with a real sense of the time and events running through it, even though the author was not around at the time. It is a recommended read for all Wednesdayites.

The current times at S6 are not as dark as those of 73-76 but they are a bit gloomy! Clearly, there are some significant structural issues regarding finances, club strategy and the fall-out from the outcome of the EFL Disciplinary Commission to sort. The squad also needs some major change and if results don’t improve significantly, we might be looking for a new manager too. Securing out of contract players, at least till the end of July, is becoming a late-run thing as is securing the ones we might want to keep in the longer term. I have seen speculation on who we might want to recruit for next season but we it’s hard to do that when we are not sure what league we will be in, how the finances will look and whether we might be under a transfer embargo or not! The first thing we have to do is to try to secure our Championship future by gathering the points needed to keep us significantly clear of the bottom three and hopefully with enough leeway to ensure that a points deduction cannot relegate us – rebuilding in the Championship will be easier than trying to do it in League One with the wages budget we will be carrying.

Our form since Xmas has been abysmal and nothing Garry Monk has tried has made any significant difference to the pitiful performances offered up by the players, this was encapsulated in the hammering at Brentford just before lock-down. It is to be hoped that the period away has allowed Garry Monk to get his ideas across and to improve performances to the level that fans expect to see from our expensive squad. Equally, and maybe more importantly, hopefully the players have reflected on their own contributions to the position the club is in and will come out with renewed vigour and positive attitude to put things right.

I am not even sure that football should be back in the current circumstances but playing behind closed doors is definitely right just now from where I am. But it is going to be very odd watching games on TV only in an empty Hillsborough with less people present than there would be for an Under 23’s game. The real thing I will miss though will be seeing the regular faces who sit near me and the post-match craic in the New Barrack Tavern. Football really is about fans, their interactions with the club and with each other. Anyway, we shall watch the games as best we can, subject to the vagaries of I-Follow, whilst WhatsApping mates and hoping for some improvement on the field. Enjoy it all as best you can!

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26.09.2020
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