It's not fair, it's not ideal but it is what it is and it's time for League One's mardy bums to accept that: Liam Hoden column

Hands up. Who fancied being confined to their house for a couple of months?

By Liam Hoden
Sunday, 31st May 2020, 1:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 31st May 2020, 5:55 pm
League One
League One

Who fancied not seeing their family and friends for even longer than that?

Or having week after week of worry about how much longer they would have a job?

In the grand scheme of what is ideal and what is not, what has befallen this country over the past four months has been very much at the negative end of the spectrum.

Even beyond the horrors and tragedy of death, nothing about the manner in which Covid-19 has impacted society has been ideal.

And all that makes the bickering and scrambling going on in League One all the more unpalatable.

This is not some virtue signalling, happy clappy, we-should-all-be-in-this-together comment piece. Hopes that dormant community spirit and togetherness would be ignited by this crisis have long been extinguished.

No. This is a ill-fated attempt to suggest some parties in the third tier of English football take one look at what is going on outside their windows and accept whatever is decided upon in the next couple of weeks will be far from ideal, but just needs to be accepted.

The reason there is no hope for community spirit is because there are far too many people who cannot accept the situation and just get on with doing the right thing.

People who breached lockdown rules, just because they got a bit bored or needed to test their eyesight. People who cannot follow the arrows on the aisles of supermarkets.

Football clubs who cannot accept that, although they might be inconvenienced, certain outcomes are better because they ensure more clubs will exist when we land in whatever the new normal might be.

It is hoped that we are entering the final throes of determining what will happen with the League One season.

But, after everything we have seen in the last month, who really believes that it will not be dragged out for much longer?

The EFL will take a lot of stick for it. But really, they are attempting to find the best way to shepherd into one pen sheep that all want to go in different directions, knowing that if certain noisy sheep find themselves in a pen they don’t want to be in, they’ll call in their sheep lawyer friends.

Those particular sheep are determined to chase something entirely hypothetical, based on a major sense of entitlement that gives little thought to the wider context.

They can say as many times as they like that they sympathise with those clubs who have genuine and deep concerns about their futures, those who are staring into the financial abyss.

But really, they don’t give a monkey’s what happens to anyone other than themselves and their own interests.

It has all got very selfish, very spiteful and very childish in the third tier of English football where a severe case of can’t-see-past-your-own-nose-itis has set in.

Out in public, and in much more murky dealings behind the scenes, there have been attempts to single out individual clubs as not being worthy of what they are likely to receive should the season go on. Attempts to unite against an imagined enemy in a bid to strengthen their own lop-sided arguments.

One club, just down the road from here, seems to have been firmly in the crosshairs. Apparently, if that club are promoted without having played their final nine matches, in spite of the circumstances, will ‘have got away with murder.’

Let that claim sink in.

Clearly, finishing the season on the pitch would be the ideal outcome. It is what we are in the business of.

But, in the current circumstances, it cannot be argued that it is an ideal solution at all.

Even before you get to the costs of doing so, with no supporters and twice weekly Covid-19 testing helping to wrack up a bill in excess of £500,000, restarting the season would not be the seamless task some clubs are clinging to.

It would be like starting a brand new mini-season with the same players - if they indeed felt safe to do so.

A team’s form from before shutdown would be meaningless after what would be at least a 14 week gap between matches - longer than the usual summer break from competitive domestic action. Players ruled out for months with injury would be available to play in matches they had no hope of featuring in.

Ultimately though, the arguments for playing on only exist because they suit the clubs that are shouting them the loudest. The clubs stamping their feet and throwing mardy hissy fits.

So pointing accusatory fingers at Wycombe Wanderers, for being happy to end the season but willing to play in the play-offs which are likely to follow, is bare-faced hypocrisy.

The next several hundred words could be spent arguing why Doncaster Rovers had a very good chance of finishing in the top six if the season were to have continued.

It could be pointed out that there was growing impact from relatively new arrivals such as Jacob Ramsey and Jason Lokilo, that Fejiri Okenabirhie was available again after his suspension, that Niall Ennis was delivering increasing goal threat, that Rovers had eight wins from 14 matches since the turn of the year.

But the only judgement we can make on the season with any real certainty is with what happened in the first seven months of matches.

Claiming any team was on the rise, or another was on the wane at the time when shutdown happened is pure hypothesis.

It is simply no way to argue that the outcome would have been different to that of the current standing of the division.

It is no way to argue against seven months of matches delivering a league table that reflects which teams have been consistently strong and which have not.

Is it ideal that any team would be promoted or relegated without having played the number of matches they had set out to at the start of the season?

No. And it is not particularly fair either.

Nor it is ideal or fair that some teams will leapfrog others in the standings because mathematics has been used to level it out based on the number of matches played.

Mathematics is not football. But if we are to have any outcome barring the one few seemingly want to see, where the season is declared null and void, it is the best we have.

Particularly so when you consider that playing on will finish some clubs for good.

And if mathematics means one club that very well might have won something instead gets nothing, then it is time to roll out one of football’s most oft-used cliches - it is what it is.

None of this is fair, none of this is ideal, none of this is normal.

But it is what it is - and swallowing what it throws at you and getting through to the other side is the only way to go.


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