Alan Shearer: “Football can be proud of the work it’s done in recent months”
Coral ambassador on life during lockdown, football’s comeback and reliving Euro ‘96
Alan Shearer believes football can be proud of the work it has done during the Coronavirus crisis, with Marcus Rashford and Jordan Henderson among those the former England captain praises in his latest blog for Coral to mark the return of the Premier League this week.
“I think we’ve all learned during lockdown just how much we all miss live sport, but it is now starting to begin again, racing is back, golf is back, and this week football is back.
Throughout this break from live action I have been filming bits for the Match of the Day Top Tens, recording the podcasts, and doing pieces for Premier League TV, looking back at some of the great matches of the last fifteen, twenty years, so that, along with doing plenty of cycling, cutting the grass and walking the dog, has kept me busy. However, like all sports fans, I’m ready to watch some live action again now!”
Rewatching Euro ‘96
“Replays of Euro ‘96 have also been shown during lockdown, it was a great summer and plenty of good memories came back, along with some regrets. We tried very hard, with some great games, against Scotland, and Gazza’s goal, then we put four past the Dutch, I was lucky enough to get two, Teddy [Sheringham] got two, but then we had to relive that semi-final against Germany. Watching that penalty shoot-out again, I still expected Gareth [Southgate] to put it in the bottom corner. Oh well, never mind!
And one final thought from that tournament, in the game against Holland, would I have passed the ball to Teddy if the boot had been on the other foot? Not a chance! I wouldn’t have passed to Teddy if I’d been Gazza, never mind Teddy passing to me, I’d have had the shot straight away!”
The return of the Premier League
“It’s absolutely the right decision for the season to start again. There was a lot of collaboration between the Premier League, the clubs, the PFA, the LMA, the government, to get to this point when it is correct to resume.
There is testing twice a week, at the grounds, the training grounds, so a football club is arguably one of the safest places to be right now.
There was a lot of talk when this all started that the current season had to be voided, or brought to an artificial conclusion based on points-per-game for example, but I was always confident that given all the hard work being done by a lot of different people, and keeping a close eye on what was happening in the Bundesliga particularly, that we could restart, and bring things to a proper conclusion on the pitch.
Of course, it is restarting without fans in the stadiums, so it’s not ideal, but nothing is ideal right now. At least we are getting football back, and we are all delighted that it is back.”
Football’s positive impact off the pitch
“I do believe that footballers have come in for some unfair criticism during this crisis. When you look at some of the great work clubs have done, working within their local communities, Jordan Henderson getting all the captains together to make a huge donation to the NHS, and Marcus Rashford deserves great praise for the superb work he has done and continues to do, in providing so many free meals, and raising so much money as well as so much awareness.
So yes, I do think football can be proud of the work that’s been done in recent months. I know from personal experience with my own Foundation that this is a really difficult time for all charities, more than ever they need every penny to help with funding – the great work they do hasn’t stopped during this lockdown.”
How will players have prepared to begin playing again?
“Restarting now will be unlike anything else players will have experienced, in a normal pre-season the start date will be known well in advance, whereas with this, that date has only been known for a few weeks.
Every player will be different in terms of their own fitness levels, I know that from personal experience; in ‘94/’95 I missed all of pre-season training, came back five days before the first match, and then never missed a game all season, off the back of just those five days training, so it all depends on the individual. What’s important here is which players, and which teams, adapt the quickest in these circumstances.
We’ve seen in the Bundesliga that with no fans at games, there is less of an advantage to the home side, and we can expect a similar pattern here. There could well be a few more unpredictable results, particularly in the early matches, but as I say, the successful teams will be those who adapt the best and the quickest.
I don’t think playing in empty stadiums will be a major issue though. All players will have played youth team or reserve team matches in empty or near-empty grounds, so it won’t be an entirely new experience.
All those involved, players or managers, that I’ve spoken to recently are raring to go, excited about starting back, and most clubs will by now have played 11 v 11 practice matches at their grounds to prepare for the resumption.
What’s still at stake?
“While it is only a matter of time before Liverpool wrap up the title, there is still plenty to play for in terms of a top-four finish – and we shouldn’t forget what great seasons both Sheffield United and Wolves are having, sitting above Spurs and Arsenal right now – and down at the bottom, where, Norwich aside, just four points separate five clubs, so these clubs need no further motivation to make a quick restart.
I’m like all football fans now, I’m just excited that the sport is coming back. I can’t wait to watch the matches and get back into the Match of the Day studio. This break has shown us all how important football is to us, we’ve certainly missed it.”