Written by : Nick Moore

The tragic loss of life associated with the Coronavirus has put the football season on hold and a poor season into perspective.  Please remember to stay safe.

Project Restart Quick Before We Have To Pay The TV Contract Money Back will have the Premier League back under way on the 17th June. For West Ham it restarts on Saturday 20th at the well-known traditional kick off time of 5.30p.m. It can, of course, all go off the rails again if there is an increase in infection rates.

There will be changes in the rules. More substitutes for Moyes not to use and bring on too late to make a difference. Lots of people will be running round cleaning and disinfecting balls and equipment. Players must not approach the referee and must stay at a distance of over two metres. This is except for Manchester United who as under current rules are allowed to chase referees wherever they like, though they have not been as effective at this since Roy Keane moved on.

But the big change is no fans. Lower down the football pyramid no fans means no money and therefore no football. Most of those clubs are trying to cut costs as soon as possible with no money coming in.

The Premier League though has huge contracts with Sky and BT and media abroad. Having already spent a lot of the money and with no gate money coming in, the Premier League will play out the rest of the season to stop having to pay money back.

Apart from the occasional disciplinary matter games behind closed doors have been very rare. In fact there are good arguments for this not being ‘proper’ football at all. What do you remember about your first match? My bet is that for most fans it’s the noise and atmosphere. When you see kids over the park mucking about scoring goals what’s the noise they make as they wheel away after a great volley/header/thunderbolt? It’s that crowd noise they’re imitating.

It’ll be interesting to see if we get used football matches without crowds.  Personally I hope we don’t. Watching matches without fans making noise is like watching movies without a musical soundtrack. You may think it shouldn’t make a difference but it does.

But West Ham have been here before.

“…I puzzled over how to prepare my team for a European game in an empty stadium. We were trailing 3-1 from the first leg, and normally in those circumstances the atmosphere generated by a packed house at Upton Park plays a vital role in fuelling the players. This time there would be no atmosphere.” John Lyall – from his book Like My Dreams – My Life With West Ham.

So what did John Lyall do back in October 1980? He organised full scale practice matches. He made them ‘fiercely competitive’ so that the players got used to hard games with no crowd. He also excused Trevor Brooking as he was nursing an injury but did use him in the game. In normal time we won 3-1 to level the tie and scored two further goals in extra time to win.

As the Bundesliga has shown us there will be plenty of surprise results with the home advantage negated by the absence of the crowd. We’ve been rubbish at home this season. We’re in the bottom three of the home form table. But even so we have picked up more points at home than away (15 – 12) though we are higher in the away table).

These nine games will be played under totally different conditions to the rest of the season. With no prospect of fans getting to games in the foreseeable future it’s down to the players. This is probably not a good time to mention that David Moyes has not had back to back wins as West Ham manager. It’s a good time to start David.

We have to approach every game as winnable. We have to win and gain more points than the four sides below us. It’s the only game in town. Given the way the season has subsided it’s hard to be confident.

Stay safe – COYI – and beam me up Scotty.