Dave Woodhall on Villa, coronavirus and a top of the table clash.
I should be writing about Villa’s epic victory over Chelsea on Saturday aftenoon, a resounding win that showed the watching TV audience that our run of bad form was over and that the team were in fine spirits for the rest of the season.
But, of course, we were overtaken by events and with their usual indecision the Premier League dithered before back-tracking at the last minute and cancelling all matches until the beginning of April. This is, of course, a stop-gap measure and nobody really thinks that there will be any top-level football until well after that date.
How the problem of sorting the 2019-20 season is a bit less clear-cut. I know that as a Villa supporter I’m biased on this subject but I really can’t see any way in which the season can continue, or that there can be any other decision than scraaping the whole thing and starting again at a date yet to be specified. It would be impractical to have a gap of several months before finishing the rest of the fixtures, with some squads that were unaffected being allowed to train while others have been in self-isolation, and that’s before going into the technicalities of playing through the close season and starting 2020-21 at a point yet to be determined.
There’s been some talk of scrapping relegation and promoting the top two teams from the Championship, and while Leeds and Albion could certainly put up a strong case based on the current table, one question is how far down the leagues and into the pyramid would this idea be practical? From League One down the promotion race is a lot less clear-cut and if it would be unfair to say Villa should be relegated because we’re in the bottom three with a game in hand, it’s equally unfair to say that Wycombe, currently eighth in League One, shouldn’t get a chance to go up as they’re currently three points behind second-placed Rotherham, albeit with a much worse goal difference, having played a game less.
The simplest way would be to void the leagues, give Liverpool the interim Premier League title (it’s an idea that works well enough in boxing) and use the parachute money to help tide over EFL clubs who would otherwise be struggling. But I would say that…
Football being the indecisive beast that it is, there was no uniform approach to the weekend’s matches. The National League were able to play games between unaffected sides, and Notts County’s crowd of 4,942 was more than some EFL fixtures would have attracted. At step three the Southern League was called off while the equivalent Northern Premier continued. Feel free to add your own regional stereotype here.
Most of the local games lower down the pyramid were unaffected and I spent a couple of hours at one of them. FC Shush v Inkberrow in the Midland Football League division three (step eight – the lowest in the area) was my choice, not least because the home side are a headline writer’s dream. It was third versus second in the table, with the visitors seven points ahead and the highest scorers in the division.
Shush play at The Glades, Lugtrout Lane, on the outskirts of Solihull. It’s a decent enough place to watch grassroots football, with a stand that holds around fifty and a bar open throughout the game. The crowd fluctuated between 25 and 30; spectators came and went as the match progressed and nobody seemed too worried about illness.
The home side went ahead in the first half when a foul on the edge of the box saw an Inkberrrow player getting a straight red and the resultant free-kick was dispatched in a style Conor Hourihane would have been proud of. The visitors equalised not long after and were on top for much of the second half, going 2-1 up only to concede a penalty for the equaliser with one of their players sent to the sin bin (something I’ve never seen before and I wonder whether the higher leagues are looking at this idea) for ten minutes.
Honours even, a 2-2 draw and an afternoon of honest endeavour making up for any lack of skill. I passed a few minutes after the game talking to a couple of Blues supporters who agreed with me that the season should be scrapped and they reckoned that games at this level will continue while clubs are still able to field a side. I hope they do – it gets me out of the house.