Twenty-five points clear. Two wins away from a first long overdue Premier League title and a nineteenth title overall. The possibility of winning the league at Goodison Park in one of the most anticipated Merseyside Derbies in recent history was around the corner. Then football stopped and life as we know it came to a dramatic halt.
Normality may be a long way from returning but a sense of normality is what we crave as people and for football fans across the country the empty weekends and boring weeknights with no football has been painful. Especially for Liverpool fans who had only recently shrugged off the demons from the past and finally knew that the title was theirs. Every red was counting down the days and turning into mathematicians attempting to work out when it was possible to officially celebrate the illustrious title.
Now the counting down of days is for a totally different reason and that is just for the return of twenty-two men kicking a ball around on some grass. That is all it is to some people but to fans it is and always will be a way of life which goes without saying for Liverpool diehards. This title charge has been five years in the making as every season under the charming Jurgen Klopp has seen emotional ups and downs but at the end of each has seen improvement which does not seem to be slowing down. So, for the ultimate reward that was within touching distance to be taken away from the manager, players, coaching staff, fans and to be thrown up into the air after so many years of work has been frustrating to speculate about.
However, six weeks into the lockdown there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel with the Prime Minister saying that the country is ‘past the peak’ of the virus. Furthermore, after countless Premier League meetings over the last month and some controversial opinions from certain club owners ‘Project Restart’ has been planned.
The basis of the plan would be to play the remaining fixtures in eight to ten neutral venues to avoid fans gathering outside stadiums of their respective clubs. There has been an endless amount of suggestions but the difference with the neutral venues is that it would not be a suggestion that club officials can debate as this is the only way football continues. The integrity of the competition has been high on the agenda and whether this does indeed damage the integrity does not matter anymore as it is the only option.
Therefore, if the games go ahead there will be no home advantage meaning no fans. It has been public knowledge that if any sport were to continue it would indeed be behind closed doors due to the social distancing measures that are in place to stop the spread of the virus. However, it will hit home much more if and when the football returns.
No fans. No atmosphere. No pre-match drinks. No post-match drinks. No singing. No booing. No collective screams of man on. No passion in the stands. It is what the sport is built on. It will feel strange, but it may become the norm unfortunately for the immediate future. Additionally, there is no doubt that it will help raise spirits in this difficult time hence why the Government are backing the ‘Project Restart’.
So how will it feel to win a title behind closed doors? For a start there is unanswered questions such as will Henderson even lift the title in front of an empty stadium? Will the players go all out with their celebrations? Will it feel like a proper title win? Rival fans will hope it won’t be, but these have been thirty years of pain and wait. Fans will cherish the moment as much as the players.
Remember Macheda’s last minute winner, the Gerrard slip, the Palace collapse, the goal line clearance at the Etihad last season, Kompany’s once in a lifetime strike. Those moments of heartbreak got worse every time over the years. This season finally saw the deal with the devil that was made by Rafa Benitez in 2005 finally disappear with no utterly absurd way of stopping the reds from winning the title stress free, then a worldwide pandemic happened. Therefore if there is an actual chance to still be able to win the Premier League crown supporters have every right to celebrate in the safest manner that is possible away from Anfield.
Anfield of course is a special place that produces magical moments. There has been so many under Klopp alone and he orchestrates it hence why he has been such a perfect fit at the club. The Dortmund comeback, the Barcelona comeback, Salah’s wondergoal against Chelsea, the Manchester United win this season are just four examples of how the crowd have been a part of the success as they are always a catalyst for the team in red to perform to their best and the opposition to quake in their boots.
A team and a club from down the years that has relied on the crowd to drag them through games even away from home. The atmosphere is and always will be a part of the furniture. So, for the team to be crowned Champions without a passionate collective roar and a load of tears from each individual fan will be gutting but it may also make the glory that bit sweeter.
It has been thirty years in waiting so surely another few weeks or months of waiting will not do any more harm. This will be a lot of fans first league title and for the older fans, yes you are old, they will be waiting in anticipation to celebrate with such ecstasy just like the good old days that they have been reminiscing and banging on about forever. It will age like a fine wine as there will come a time for fans, players, coaching staff to all celebrate together whether that be a very belated title parade or the first game back with supporters allowed in.
The joy and pride that every Liverpool fan will have will give them such a powerful moment of happiness that will see these weeks of despair disappear for a certain period and that is the best thing about football. It is possibly the best distraction in the world. All worries or problems that are on one’s mind leave when you watch, listen or talk about your beloved team. Therefore, when a proper celebration can happen the problems that this pandemic has brought for individuals will go away even for as little as a minute because Liverpool fans will feel on top of the world with total euphoria.
Silence in the stands yes but on the pitch, you will hear how much it means to these special group of players who want this as much as the fans. As time and time again, this squad have shown that they just do get it. They understand what it means and what it takes to be part of this historically famous football club. They revel in it. They love it as much as the fans and undoubtedly will take on the celebration duties whilst every Liverpool fan in their households will rejoice with family and friends they live with.
Every household on Merseyside will be in full voice of delirium or full voice of despise if you are a blue regardless of whether the games are continued or not. A Premier League title win with an echoing silence but there will be an echoing sound of pride for many years to come from every Liverpool fan about a team that is the best many have ever seen in red.
Written by Elliot Thompson