Alex Miller's Sheffield Wednesday column: On? Off? Behind closed doors? We have to trust the experts
Garry Monk will admit himself that there haven’t been many moments in the past few weeks that have seen him compared with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp.
But when faced with an endless stream of questions on the impact the Coronavirus will have on Sheffield Wednesday’s season yesterday, he reiterated a point already so eloquently made by the German; that this is one better left to the experts.
Klopp’s frustrated volley that he is simply ‘a man in a baseball cap with a bad shave’ may have attracted more social media hits and news attention, but in admitting that issues of life and death are better left to those who know, the Wednesday boss handled the inquisition with superb calm and sensibility.
Monk and the overwhelming majority of the football-watching public would prefer matches to be played at a later date than behind closed doors, but he was surely right to be accepting of the idea that, in these most exceptional of circumstances, faith has to be placed in those making the calls – whatever that call may be.
Whether games are on, off, played behind closed doors or decided over a game of Subbuteo, there will surely have been painstaking thought behind the decision.
Surprised as a great many of us were at Boris Johnson’s announcement that football will keep calm and carry on this weekend, it has to be assumed that some incredibly clever people swimming several thousand leagues higher than Johnson in the pool of pandemic expertise believe there is reason to do so.
Every indication we’ve had from experts at home and abroad is that this thing is here, it’s coming on strong and it’s potentially all going to get a little bit scary. But those experts, with years of experience in this field, have made the call. It’s their job to steer us through whatever’s next.
Alongside disruption in leagues across Europe, Formula 1, The Players Championship and so on, Euro 2020 is apparently under threat – a multi-billion pound enterprise – one they wouldn’t push that back unless they had good reason. These tough turns are being made hour by hour.
As Monk said; football without fans is nothing. We all subscribe to that.
But the vast, vast majority of us don’t have the first idea of what’s what when it comes to global viral pandemics that have killed – on last count – 5,000 people and counting.
It’s a number that is up-curving skywards all the time. It’s a virus that targets some of the most vulnerable in society.
So play, postpone, play behind closed doors. If the season is cancelled then so be it. In these increasingly concerning times, we might be best just playing with the hands we’re dealt and getting on with it. Clean hands only, of course.
Gary Lineker quoted another iconic Liverpool manager in his Twitter summary of the situation earlier this week when he dared to point out that Bill Shankly was wrong. It’s bloody important, but football is not more important than life and death.
The experts on how to handle this thing must rule all. What else have we got?