08:15PM, Wednesday 18 March 2020
The former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once said: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
It’s not a view shared by the Maidenhead United boss Alan Devonshire who this week countered Shankly’s famous saying with one of his own: “There’s more to life than football. I’ve been in the game all my life and I love it but, at the end of the day, it comes second to people’s lives and I can’t believe we’re making such a fuss over it.”
The game across the country, both at a professional and community level, has been suspended until next month because of coronavirus, with the National League falling in line with the other leagues by suspending matches until April 3, although many believe players won’t be pulling their boots back on and kicking a ball in anger until much later than that.
United slipped into the bottom three of the National League off the back of their 2-1 defeat to Stockport County on Saturday, with Devonshire claiming – both before and after the game – that it was a ‘disgrace’ the game went ahead (see page 54).
“It’s all about life now,” Devonshire said this week.
“We don’t want to be relegated, we want to stay where we are now (in the National League) and we’ve got eight games to finish.
“But this is unprecedented. I’m hearing a lot of talk about football and all that but this is people’s livelihoods we’re talking about right now.
“People will lose their jobs, their businesses that they’ve worked all their lives for. It’s unprecedented and we just don’t know what the answer is going to be to anything.”
It’s not just football that’s been suspended nationwide. Pretty much all sport has been postponed for the foreseeable future, while no one is sure whether the coronavirus pandemic will pass quickly or take its time.
And it’s already taking its toll with sporting events – including Euro 2020 – being cancelled and league rivals Barnet FC announcing this week that it was putting all non-playing staff on notice of redundancy.
“I’m hearing from medical people that we’re not going to be peaking yet for months,” said Devonshire.
“And then there are other experts saying it will die out in a few weeks. I don’t know.
“Until this virus is sorted I don’t think we can think about football.
“I haven’t spoken to Peter (Griffin) (about its financial impact on the football club). I leave that to Peter. All we’ve spoken about is checking that he’s ok and we’re ok.”
Devonshire – like everyone else – doesn’t know what will happen in the coming weeks and months, or if the season will be played out to a finish.
But he says football clubs will just have to accept the decision from the powers-that-be on whether the campaign should be played out to a finish when it’s safe to do so, declared null and void, or have teams promoted and demoted in their current positions.
“I honestly don’t know if the season will be completed,” he said.
“Yes, we’d like it to be but when is that going to happen?
“Yes, the players will tick over, and they might need a couple of weeks (to get back their fitness), but I don’t think we’ll have a couple of weeks.
“If it clears up quickly, which I hope it does, then we’d just go straight back into games to get it done. That’s the situation we’d be going into and we just have to be ready for that.
“I don’t really have an opinion (on the fairest option for finishing the season). People are saying leagues should be declared null and void.
“That’s going to be hard on a lot of clubs. But how can you say who should be relegated when there are eight or nine games left? It’s just unprecedented and we’ll probably never come across anything like this again.
“We just have to accept whatever happens. There are going to be people who don’t like the decision whatever that ends up being. If we can’t get the season finished and they have to make a decision there will be a lot of clubs saying ‘oh yeah, happy days’, and a lot of clubs saying ‘I can’t believe that’.
“But surely the decision will have to be everywhere. You can’t have a situation where one league plays out its games and another doesn’t. The Premier League is the richest league in the world, so I’d imagine we’ll take their lead. But with everything that’s going on I just think it’s secondary. I don’t find it that important.”
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