A few days back, EOTK sent Dave Maddock of the Mirror some questions about life, Liverpool and the ramifications of this horrible pandemic on both of those.
His answers are brilliant. Check them out, here, and give him a follow on Twitter.
So – we’re finding it quite hard to write about football when there is no football on. When this normally happens, the transfer window is open, but that’s not the case either. How are you finding covering football and Liverpool during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I won’t lie, it’s been bloody tough. No one wants to talk about football when there’s a potential apocalypse happening outside the window, and so discussing anything other than the ins and outs of when it will return, when it’s safe to return, what are the conditions required for a return etc, is hard. It seems flippant. And people in football realise they can’t be discussing flippant stuff with such a crisis going on. I did write quite a bit on the absolutely criminal decision to play that Champions League game against Atletico Madrid at Anfield, and I stand by that reporting. People in Government need to be prosecuted for that when all this is over. To have 5,000-plus people from the ridiculous coronavirus hotspot of Madrid travel through major UK transport hubs when they were banned from travelling to games in their own country – hell, even at their own ground – was ridiculous. And now we see the results. A major spike in cases on Merseyside, and many, many deaths. The rate of infections in Liverpool before that game was well below the rate in Manchester, less than half. Three weeks later it had spiralled to three times the level in Manchester, and the death rate was MUCH higher. Liverpool themselves tried as hard as possible to get the game postponed, but it was completely out of their hands. It was a government decision, and they failed us all, really badly.
We expected the club to reverse its decision to furlough staff a few weeks back. The backlash was simply too great. But do you have any idea why they thought it was a good idea in the first place? It seems such a bafflingly strange choice to make for a club who preaches ‘This Means More’.
It was a PR disaster, wasn’t it? But we shouldn’t be too surprised. The original decision was a financial one, designed to produce the least impact on the club, and therefore the long term employment of many of their staff. In their eyes. But that’s the problem, with the Premier League as a whole – decisions are always finance based, and mostly through cold eyes. Success is so directly correlated to income, that you need to maximise it to stand any chance of winning. It’s like capitalism on steroids. And it leads to terrible decisions like this one. But in defence of Liverpool (and believe me, I still criticise them), who is pointing the finger at some of those multi-national companies whose turnover and profits dwarf those at Anfield? Where is the outcry against them, those companies who make billions in profits here and don’t pay UK taxes? One in three companies in the UK have furloughed, yet only Liverpool and Spurs have been criticised. That’s bollocks.
Why do you think there is a bizarre argument circled among rivals that it’s more morally acceptable to ‘void the season’ than simply start it when it’s safe to do so? Despite the fact that both these outcomes would only see football back in appropriate circumstances.
Quite an easy answer that one – you only see that argument on Twitter, and almost always from clubs that are close rivals to Liverpool. No sensible fan would want to see the season voided, especially when it seems it will be perfectly possible to play behind closed doors to get it done. And those fans need to look at the financial implications too. There are plenty of Premier League clubs who budget from month to month (including those with fans who say void the season), and if they lose out on a third of the income from a campaign, they’d be in real trouble. That will hit the League massively, so it doesn’t make sense to shout about voiding the league, when Germany – for instance – already have their footballers back in training, and have an effective plan to resume playing in May. If our government pulled its finger out of its arse and started testing like the Germans do, started investing in ICU beds like they do in Germany, we’d be talking of a return soon, too.
We’re a little worried about the financial implication COVID-19 may have on football. TV companies and sponsors will surely not pay anywhere near the sums they were in upcoming deals, but players will still be on astronomical wages. Are transfer fees, then wages set to drop – and could this conceivably ‘level the playing field’?
This is one of the points I referred to in the previous answer. I think the Premier League will be ok, because it still sells, and people will be desperate to see it when football can return. But losing the revenue from an abandoned season would kill some clubs. Lower down, and across other countries tv companies will want to drive fees down, and that will cause real hardship, perhaps some leagues collapsing. But it won’t level the playing field – the richest clubs will always be the dominant ones.
If Liverpool win the title behind closed doors – what will happen? Will Henderson lift a trophy in front of an empty crowd? Will we wait until next season? What’s your prediction for how this plays out?
If they resume, then it will all be on tv – perhaps even EVERY Premier League game screened on tv – and that will mean Sky and BT will want a trophy lift when it’s all done. Fans will want to tune in to see Liverpool crowned Champions, so yeah, there will be the sight of Henderson lifting the trophy in front of an empty stadium. That stinks, but it’s better than the alternative. My prediction is, the government are getting very nervous about the economy and the financial situation in the country (and how that will affect their election promises over Brexit, which believe me, will be hit incredibly badly in the post-Covid economic climate) so they will want the lockdown partially lifted soon. They’ve even promised to start testing as well, though don’t hold your breath. To me, that will see conditions some time in May that will allow players to return to training under closely monitored conditions. If we can go to plant nurseries and DIY stores, then footballers can train in twos. Then they will return to play games behind closed doors, perhaps even as early as June. So long as there is widespread testing. Targeted testing of all the people involved. That all depends on our rubbish government actually doing the right thing. You know, like testing and stuff, giving NHS workers PPE, increasing ICU bed capacity in the NHS. LIKE THEY HAVE DONE IN GERMANY AND WHERE THE DEATH RATE IS VASTLY LOWER THAN OURS!!!!
And finally.. A boring, boring transfer question. Who do we want in the summer – go on – give us a name nobody has heard of to get us through another day of quarantine!
It’s probably not in my interests as a journalist on a national newspaper to be honest with you as I’m about to do…but f*ck it. Anyone who tells you right now they know exactly what will happen in the transfer market, are either lying, or a bit foolish. Look. Here’s the truth. The global crisis has changed the landscape of the transfer market. Absolutely for this summer, and almost certainly well beyond that. So yeah, clubs like Liverpool who do a lot of work beforehand on transfers – maybe two years in advance in some cases – will have targets singled out for this summer. Clearly Timo Werner was one of them. But any fee discussed (and his release clause has been reported variously between £25-50m, and I believe it closer to the bottom end) will now have to be reconsidered in the light of the shift in the market. That’s not me saying that, it’s the main people at the biggest clubs in Europe saying it. Any exec who commits to a £100m deal, a £50m deal, even a £25m deal right now would be insane. It would be financial irresponsibility of the worst kind. Clubs will wait, see where the market’s at when the window finally opens, and then start discussing fees. So very few deals are done.
With all that in mind, instead of giving you a name that is probably irrelevant, I’ll give you one I’d LIKE to see Liverpool sign. And it’s a former player. I really like Conor Coady, he’s a terrific fella, great character and wise talker…and a bloody good footballer too. You don’t get to be captain of Wolves under Nuno Espirito Santo without being a top class defender. I’d love to see him go back to Anfield, and I suspect deep down he’d love to, as well. But I admit it’s improbable, if not impossible.