Drogheda Independent

| 17.4°C Dublin

Feast of football was just pants!


Seamus Coleman of Everton outmuscles Sadio Mane of Liverpool during the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

Seamus Coleman of Everton outmuscles Sadio Mane of Liverpool during the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

Seamus Coleman of Everton outmuscles Sadio Mane of Liverpool during the Merseyside derby on Sunday.

For Father's Day this year I got some underpants, socks, pyjamas and a 'feast' of Premier League football.

I say feast because there was plenty of it to sink my teeth into, but unfortunately it was about as palatable as a burnt roast and as boring as listening to Coldplay on a loop.

The return of English football last week was greeted with the sort of excitement normally reserved for Christmas morning, but so far it's been more of a drag than Jack Nicholson taking a prolonged puff of a cigar.

I wasn't expecting fireworks after the enforced break since March, but a half decent contest is hardly too much to ask for, rather than watching team after team simply go through the motions.

The visit of champions-elect Liverpool to Goodison Park to face local rivals Everton would surely be a change from the humdrum action we witnessed before it, wouldn't it?

Not a bit of it. Like every game that had gone before it since the hiatus, it lacked any semblance of intensity and had the feel of the latest in a long line of pre-season friendlies. Simply an exercise in blowing the cobwebs away.

I guess it was always going to take a bit of time for teams to get back up to speed, but everything has been too slow, too casual and just downright monotonous since the return of football across the water.

Of course, the lack of crowds doesn't help.

The footballers may be professionals who are there to do a job, but they definitely feed off the buzz of the crowd, and vice-versa.

It's no coincidence that in Germany the percentage of home wins has dropped dramatically since they returned to the fold behind closed doors, something which is sure to be a disadvantage for less glamorous teams fighting for survival.

The Premier League at its best is certainly a hell of a lot better than what we've seen in the past week or so, so why exactly has it been so off colour?

The simple answer would appear to be that players are not ready to perform at their peak.

Some may scoff at the idea that millionaire footballers are unable to produce the goods at will, but the fact is these are completely extraordinary circumstances and times.

The football shutdown due to Covid-19 was far longer than a usual off season, shrouding sport and all other matters in a cloud of uncertainty.

Players, like everybody else, didn't know for certain when they'd return this season, if at all, and with the best will in the world they couldn't come close to replicating the sort of work they do with their clubs in isolation.

Then when they were informed that they were back in business there was no time for the usual pre-season, which was always going to create problems when you consider they had an eleven-week break from team training.

We've already seen a raft of injuries since the return, with an unusual number of players being substituted before half-time, so it's quite clear that bodies and minds are not yet completely tuned in for the battle.

Fans watching the action unfold on their television screens must be tearing their hair out, having to endure games that are undoubtedly of a lower standard than we've become accustomed to.

Teams that would normally impress with their swashbuckling style and non-stop energy now lack cohesion and in some cases look to have lost interest.

And that too could be part of the problem.

We're still coming through a unique situation, and kicking a football may have been well down some players' list of priorities over the past few months.

Both physically and mentally players are nowhere near 100 per cent, so we'll have to be patient.

With more training and, more importantly, matches, matters will improve, but for now we'll just have to be satisfied that English football is back on our screens, albeit a diluted product.

As supporters we'll just have to make do with annoying fake crowd noise, a surreal atmosphere and games that fail to reach the dizzy heights that we're sometimes used to, and for now we'll just have to accept it.

You can't have it all, but, on the bright side, at least I'm wearing comfortable, spanking new socks and underpants.

Drogheda Independent