It was both feared and anticipated and finally confirmed in an EFL statement, seasons in the Football League are on an indefinite pause due to the COVID-19.
Necessary means to curb the march of coronavirus meant that ‘social distancing’ became a term that entered into the modern lexicon and is a term that is here to stay. The need to stop large gatherings meant that football, as did all other sports, ground to a halt and seasons were initially put on hold until April 3.
This date was quickly extended to April 30 and even that was a date that was seen as hopeful rather than realistic. Today’s news confirms what most people feared as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened; football would need to take an indefinite hit as health and wellbeing took precedence over sporting activity.
With no restart date in immediate sight, 71 clubs are going to all be affected in every conceivable manner. Chief worry amongst all will be, of course, uncertainty. Uncertainty when football will start again. Uncertainty as to how it will restart. Uncertainty as to when revenue streams will be affected. It’s understandable, we live in uncertain times.
Amidst all this uncertaintly, here’s a cherry-picked five teams who will suffer as this current season seems at an interminable pause.
Leeds United (Sky Bet Championship leaders): The Whites have a slender one-point lead over West Brom but a healthier seven-point cushion between themselves and Fulham who heads the chasing playoff pack. There’s much conjecture already as to whether the season will restart when it will, what will happen if it is voided and results expunged etc etc etc. United, like all clubs, are monitoring the training of their players away from the club in an attempt to have them as ready as possible to kick straight back into action as and when the season begins again. Notorious ‘bottlers’ over the last few seasons, will the uncertainty eat away at them again
West Bromwich Albion (Sky Bet Championship – 2nd place): The Baggies have just come out of a bad slump in form and have a mixed bag of two wins, two draws and a loss in their last five games. Whilst not fragile form, it is not certitude. A long lay-off might mean that West Brom are slow to kick into gear again which might allow league leaders Leeds to stretch away of the chasing play-off pack to edge closer. Slaven Bilic’s side have the attacking prowess that is the envy of most sides in the division but how long will it take for them to mesh together in a meaningful way during this indefinite stay of action?
Coventry City (Sky Bet League One leaders): Like Leeds United, Coventry have a healthy lead over the playoff pack in League One, the Sky Blues being five points ahead of 3rd place Oxford United who are a side in blistering form. Coventry’s form isn’t too shabby either, four wins in their last five games with a draw in the other. That’s consistency right there, staring you in the face. You often hear about consistency and impetus as two terms that lock together like a hand in a glove. The consistency is there but will this enforced break strip them of their impetus and momentum and allow teams like Rotherham (two points behind) or even a flock of six others who are within eight points, headed by Oxford United, to chase them down?
Crewe Alexandra (Sky Bet League Two leaders): the Alex share the top spot on 69 points, in one way, with Swindon Town but by the most slender margin of a one-goal better difference. Both themselves and Swindon sit just one point ahead of Plymouth Argyle (68 pts) in 3rd place, Cheltenham in 5th are only five points away from the Railwaymen and there are either nine or ten games left depending on who you are. Crewe have nine left to play and the lengthy wait would mean that they’d have to pick themselves up again, find their rhythm almost instantly and hope that they can pull clear quickly.
Stevenage Borough (Sky Bet League Two bottom club): Stevenage are looking at the darker side of a very different coin to the other four on this list. Whilst they will be praying that uncertainty with when football will kick in again won’t spoil their promotion hopes, Stevenage are in the pits of a relegation battle. They sit rock bottom of the Football League, 24th in League Two They have just 22 points and are 10 points shy of Morecambe. With Bury’s demise, League One needs to be rebalanced and that means just one side to be relegated to the National League. Stevenage haven’t a win in their last eight games. Training apart from each other for however long is going to do nothing for team cohesion and nothing for their chances of dragging themselves up that one place from the bottom that will guarantee them Football League safety.