REJOICE. For good and bad, for richer and poorer, warts and all, in less than three short weeks the Premier League will be back with us.
Earlier this month I wouldn’t have given them a hope in hell of pulling this off, so respect to everyone involved.
Somehow, it looks like they’ve found a way of making it happen. It’s a massive achievement.
Even better than that, for Arsenal fans, they won’t have to bother going to Manchester midweek to see a defeat, because they’re not allowed to.
London to Manchester isn’t as far as London to Durham, but for Gooners it would surely have been the last word in unnecessary travel.
Forgive this unnecessary jibe, but it’s exactly the kind of thing the absence of football has robbed us of.
This stuff is the meat and drink of our normal lives. Let’s get it going again.
Let’s get arguing about something other than whether the jogger just sprayed us with droplets or the playground really needs to be closed or whether the idiot panic-buying all the toilet rolls is even more of an idiot for not wearing a face-covering.
Referees’ terrible decisions — remember them? I’ve not had a row about a dodgy call in months now. No wonder we’re all going mad.
And what about VAR? It’s all we talked about, and now I realised I haven’t uttered those three letters since early March. How are we going to find time for it all again?
Behind closed doors or not, we all want this return.
The whole point of football is to give you something to worry about other than the things that really do matter. And how we need a bit of that now.
For a few hours at least, we can forget about the competence or honesty of the Government, or the Government’s critics.
And we can give ourselves just a little break from worrying ourselves to a standstill for our family and friends, and what lies in store for all of us as this horror story continues to unfold.
Exercise can help you take your mind off things, so may alcohol for a while. Endless box sets can divert you too. But nothing, in my experience, works like football to take you to another place completely.
Watching matches played behind closed doors here will be weirder for us than it was watching Belorussians, Koreans and lately Germans slog it out.
Who’s eaten all the lockdown pies
The familiar will look staggeringly unfamiliar, but we’ll get used to it. If we’ve got used to there being no pubs open, no flour in the shops and talking to our loved ones and colleagues on computer screens, then we can get used to this for a while.
And think of the entertainment it will provide.
There’s so much to look out for. Which player, I wonder, will look most as if they’ve eaten all the lockdown pies?
Who will have gained a yard of pace, and who will have lost two?
Teams could come back transformed. Who’s to say — and perish the thought as a West Brom fan — that Aston Villa won’t thrash Sheffield United and go on a winning streak to take them into Europe?
Five things to look out for in the Closed Door Premier League run-in:
❶ Socially distanced goal celebrations. I’m not sure what is going to be allowed or disallowed but kissing will surely be banned. What will the punishment be?
And if a big, cuddly group hug ensues from an important goal, will the referees have to don masks and gloves and wade in to pull them apart?
❷ Whether spitting is allowed or not, it will surely be frowned upon. Maybe it would warrant a yellow card? VAR could be deployed here.
❸ Players shouting at each other. Presumably we’ll be able to pick up every word.
My grandad took me to a West Brom reserves game in about 1977 and I was completely gobsmacked to hear the players’ voices. I’ve not really heard them since.
What on earth do they yell? Useful tactical stuff, or abuse, or encouragement or what?
❹ Who’ll be the first to be caught giving the ref a proper mouthful, having forgotten it’ll be millions more than just the ref hearing it?
❺ Tackles and foul play. Will the cries of anguish accompanying the rolling about turn it into a kind of WWF-style spectacle?
It’ll all be mad, good, bad and brilliant. Chaos will reign in ways we haven’t considered yet. I can’t wait.
Football’s coming back — the surest sign yet that things might, just might, be getting back to normal.