As the current global health pandemic continues to hit the entire world hard, football will always be of secondary importance.
The main priority for everyone is ensuring that we get through this health crisis and ensure it doesn’t return. That, for the foreseeable future, will be the world’s common goal.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still talk about your football. Even if we’re in a period of lockdown in Britain and shutdown with regards to our favourite sport – talking and writing about it can still be a form of release. It can allow you to switch off for a moment and allow you to present your opinions on a subject you love to discuss.
I’m as much tuned in to the latest updates regarding this horrible virus as the next man. However, it doesn’t stop me from putting forward my own views and opinions regarding the future of the game.
And that brings me on nicely to the current league title situation in both England and Scotland.
Liverpool and Celtic have been romping away with their leagues for some time. There’s no ignoring the fact that the former have a substantially bigger gap at the top than the latter (Liverpool are 22 points clear with Celtic 13 ahead), but both find themselves in the exact same position.
Perhaps “worry” is the wrong word, but both will have one eye on this potential idea of a null and void verdict. A verdict that would wipe out their mammoth leads at the top of their respective competitions. A verdict that would halt Liverpool achieving what they’ve longed to for 30 years. For Celtic, it would be a decision that stopped them securing nine-in-a-row for the first time in 46 years.
And let’s not pretend it definitely won’t happen. The FA in England have already announced that the non-league season will be declared null and void – not everyone has been pleased with it either (Daily Mail). A precedent has been set for it, and it’s foolish to say that the idea can be wiped off the table completely. Not when you have the likes of West Ham’s Karren Brady effectively begging for it (The Guardian).
Yet, if the ridiculous happens and a void verdict did occur in both the Premier League and Scottish Premiership, then football should just pack up and go home.
The fact is, you’re looking at a Liverpool side who are only two wins away from securing their highly-anticipated first title since 1990. There is more work to be done for Celtic. They need to avoid defeat in four of their final eight matches. However, that’s double the amount of defeats they’ve had all season so far. It just wouldn’t have happened, and anyone with a straight face would say the same.
There is this argument of the fact that it’s not mathematically impossible for either side to be caught. True. But for a decision as serious as this, you have to look at probability. It can’t just be as black and white as you can or can’t be caught yet.
It’s borderline impossible. In fact, let me rephrase that – it IS impossible for anyone in the Premier League to catch Liverpool. It’s perhaps more borderline in Scotland where Celtic sit 13 points clear of Rangers having played one game more.
That’s the same Rangers who have won six of their 12 domestic games since returning from their winter break. Who can honestly say they were most likely going to catch Celtic, who had won 11 of 12 and were unbeaten in all of them? As for Liverpool, it’s difficult to even remember who’s supposed to be chasing them. Is it Man City? Is it Leicester? Is it Liverpool’s B team? They’re a staggering 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League having played a game more. The context here is vitally important and can’t be ignorantly dismissed.
Rangers-supporting pundit Alex Rae used an analogy on Twitter of a horse race. He asked whether a horse who’s miles ahead in a race only to fall with the rest of the horses would still be given the title of winner. He was effectively referring to Celtic, but it works in Liverpool’s case too.
But the fact is that comparing it to any other sport is a massive injustice. Horse races, for example, don’t start eight months before they finish.
The hard work that needed to be done by both Liverpool and Celtic have already been completed. Should that be taken away from them, you’re effectively saying that everything they’ve done since August has been meaningless.
From the moment Liverpool beat Wolves 2-0 back in May 2019, everything they’ve done since has been gearing up to this point. The same goes for Celtic and when they beat Hearts 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final during the same month. That’s effectively 10 months of grafting to get them into the commanding league positions they’re both in.
Is it really plausible to just turn around to both and admit “Sure, you were going to win the league and we all know it. But because we didn’t get to play a few of the final rounds of games, you’re not the champions”.
There’s something just not right about it. It undervalues their effort and is a slap in the face to the sport. Celtic and Liverpool, should the season end, would be worthy champions as both have been far and away the best teams in their respective competitions.
It would be different if we were in November and both sides had a three-point advantage over second place. But this current situation couldn’t be further from that. Both sides are effectively 2019/20 champions in all but official titles.
There is real hope for both, however. The Highland League in Scotland announced that Brora Rangers were the champions after a meeting between all of the clubs. That was the classy thing to do. Hopefully, it catches on.
There are a lot more important things going on in the world than football at the moment. But that can’t be used as an excuse to take away these terrific achievements that Liverpool and Celtic were clearly going to manage.