GLEN JOHNSON: With the eagerly anticipated return of the Premier League set for early June, Brand Ambassador Glen Johnson believes those in charge should take a leaf out of the Bundesliga’s book.
I didn’t get the chance to watch any of the action in the Bundesliga over the weekend, but from what I’ve heard and read about it, things seemed to go pretty smoothly. I’m obviously looking at it from a Premier League perspective and from my point of view, if the Bundesliga can make it work then surely we can in England too. I haven’t seen any negativity off the back of the first round of games which is what we were all so wary of and given that I think we’ve got to give it a go.
I’m not saying it’s the most ideal scenario but it’s a football match in a stadium and it’s sticking to the government guidelines. Things aren’t going to be as they were for a while, so we’ve got to find a model that works and is safe and the Bundesliga one seems to do that. I’m not sure I agree with those who say it’s worse than not having any football at all. We’re all football fans at the end of the day and we’ve just got to accept that for a while we’re going to be watching it in a very different way.
I was more in the camp of cancelling the season a few weeks ago, but I think we’ve got to try and make it work now. We’ve been waiting so long for a breakthrough and now it seems we’ve finally got one it would seem pretty silly to go ahead and cancel it. Surely it would have been more wise to have done that a month or so ago instead of leaving fans, players and coaches all hanging on?
Going back to training
It’s the first week the players in the Premier League are back in training and I think they’ll raring to go. When you’re sitting at home not doing an awful lot, you can forget how good training feels and what it’s like to be with the lads again, so I’m sure they’ll be happy to be back at it. It’s similar to that first day of pre-season, you’re a spring chicken again and you’re buzzing to get out on the grass. I loved it and I’m sure it’s the same for the players now. They’re obviously a few weeks off playing competitively again, but that goal is what will be driving them on, especially for the likes of Liverpool who are so close to that league title.
Behind closed doors
I can’t say I’ve played many competitive games when there are no fans in the stadium, but from the times I have done it the weirdest thing I found was the fact you can hear everything. When you usually play you can hear noise but it’s just a blur. You can’t really hear the ball, you can’t really hear each other talk and it’s hard to know what’s really going on. The best example I can give from my career was playing in an under-21 game where because the stadiums are never full you can hear a lot. It’s definitely a weird experience, though, and something the players will have to get used to.
The fact that the players will be playing in grounds without fans will be interesting because there isn’t going to be that fan-pressure. I imagine for the majority they’ll be in the same mindset as they’d always be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them forget they’re in a competitive game and their minds wander a bit as a result. When you’re doing well the fans are brilliant, but when you’re not doing quite as well they can get on your back, so it will be interesting to see how the players react when a big decision is made or a goal is scored.
Concentration will be key to being successful. You’ve got to remember this is as important a period of the season as any and there is still so much to play for. Especially for those teams down the bottom whocan’t afford to have stragglers and players not giving their absolute all. In these situations, senior players and backroom staff are so important to keep motivation and concentration levels high because they are what’s going to get you through.
It’s not going to feel like the Premier League at all. The league is tight, intense and the pressure is on the moment you leave the tunnel, but it is going to be like that because it’s going to be so quiet, so players will need to be reminded of the fact there are three points on the line.
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