Three months since football was put on hold due to the Coronavirus, Manchester City returned to Premier League action on Wednesday as they swept past Arsenal in what could really have been a training session.
But it was a surreal experience for the team and the supporters, as they watched from home with only their families and annoyed next door neighbours to hear their screams of delight as Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden gave the blues victory.
It was strange to watch, and listen to as fan noise was piped into the ground, while the stadium announcer still announced the goal scorers as if there was a crowd to hear it. So how was the match for you?
For me, it felt totally wrong. There was no surge of crown anticipation when City built an attack, no screams of injustice whenever a foul was committed and obviously, no one on the stands going wild as thew ball hit the back of the goal. In fact, the club were playing one of City’s most famous anthems, ‘we are City from Maine Road’ when the ball fell to Sterling and only when the ball hit the back of the net did that change.
It was a good effort by the club to give the occasion a more ‘normal’ feel, but piped crowd cheering when the blues scored just wasn’t the same as 50,000+ fans going mental in the stands, before starting with the obligatory chants towards the opposition supporters.
The players themselves seemed to feel it too. When Sterling scored, he turned away in delight, before realising there were no fans to celebrate with and it all became a bit muted. De Bruyne looked like he’d just scored in training (well it did feel like a training sessions to be honest) and Foden was obviously delighted but he too calmed down all too quickly.
And then to listen to the stadium announcer say the name of the goalscorer to an empty ground was just odd to say the least.
The other thing that struck me, and it’s happened again while I’m sat here watching the Bournemouth – Palace match, is that the teams are asked to enter the pitch separately, but in five minutes time, they’ll be tackling each other, committing fouls and no doubt at some point be kicking lumps out of anyone nearby, so why go out separate? It’s just a bizarre situation that I’m still struggling to get my head around.
Although the measures to play the games behind closed doors is good for supporter safety from this horrible virus, I can’t help but feel that it’s just wrong to be playing yet. But it just shows how much of a part the fans have to play matches. The players are the ones on the pitch, they’re the ones scoring the goals and create the drama, but it’s the supporters who really make the game what it is.
They deserve to be back at the matches and the sooner they are back, the better for the game.