TUESDAY’S BIG STORIES

The Premier League is coming back…and it feels a bit weird

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It’s a strange sensation, writing those words, and reading the stories detailing the impending return of football in England.

On the one hand, the Premier League is heading back to our screens, emboldened by the ostensible success of the Bundesliga – if one weekend where seemingly nobody was laid low constitutes a success – something that took another step towards being a reality as Premier League clubs voted to return to training, after a fashion. A statement said on Monday:

Premier League Shareholders today voted unanimously to return to small group training from tomorrow afternoon — the first step towards restarting the Premier League, when safe to do so. Step One of the Return to Training Protocol enables squads to train while maintaining social distancing. Contact training is not yet permitted. This first stage has been agreed in consultation with players, managers, Premier League club doctors, independent experts and the Government. Strict medical protocols of the highest standard will ensure everyone returns to training in the safest environment possible. The health and well-being of all participants is the Premier League’s priority, and the safe return to training is a step-by-step process. Full consultation will now continue with players, managers, clubs, the PFA and LMA as protocols for full-contact training are developed.

In one sense we’re delighted. Of course we are. The little taste of football we got from Germany over the weekend was delicious, but that was a morsel: we want more, we want the whole meal, we want the full Premier League banquet.

But on the other hand it’s well to remember that this isn’t happening because there has been some great breakthrough in combatting coronavirus, or that a huge corner has been turned and the infection and/or death rates are plummeting or a vaccine has been found, still less manufactured and distributed.

Much like the lifting of restrictions more generally in the UK, this is happening because people are bored, because they (understandably) want some sort of normality to return and, perhaps more than anything else, for financial reasons.

Leaving aside the notion that the plan might not actually work, the Warm-Up is still left with the feeling that none of this should be happening, that football is returning for those financial imperatives but also because football has an overblown sense of its own importance.

These two sensations can exist side-by-side. There’s no need to feel guilty about that. But it really is a strange feeling, and one that will probably be around for a while yet.

Liverpool will get their trophy presentation

If we take all of those reservations as a given, you still feel a little sympathy for Liverpool, who have waited 30 years and have put together this rampant, unstoppable season, only for their title win to be a bit limp. Or at least one that will be won in an empty stadium, their fans won’t be allowed to properly celebrate and technically speaking their players won’t be able to either.

But the Premier League have said that, probably, they will have one moment of celebration, in the form of a trophy presentation, whatever form that presentation would take.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told Sky Sports:

If at all possible, yes, you’d like to have a trophy presentation. You want to give those players and the whole staff the moment they worked so hard for, if that’s what happens. Yes, we would try and do it, unless it wasn’t possible because of safety concerns.

Meanwhile – and this will shock you – Jurgen Klopp has declared that nulling and voiding the season would be a bad idea. Obviously this is very ‘dog bites man’ and the story would be more interesting if it was the other way around, but hey, what do you want from us?

“There was talk that people wanted to declare the season null and void. So you thought: ‘Huh? We have played 76 percent of the season and you just want to delete the thing?’” Klopp said at a talk at the DFB Academy, per Goal.

“That would have been something that I personally would find unfair, to just say that it didn’t happen.”

Kai Havertz: good, in our opinion

The good thing about football coming back is we can roll out the most piping hot takes like this headline: Kai Havertz is indeed a good player, as he demonstrated on Monday night when Bayer Leverkusen took another step towards a top four spot in the Bundesliga by making short work of Werder Bremen.

4-1 was the final score, Havertz bagging a couple of them as Leverkusen’s impressive young side closed the gap on RB Leipzig.

We’re not sure what is more emphatic about this first goal: the header and the sense that this kid is the real thing, or the absolute despair of Bremen coach Florian Kohfeldt, raging at the utter unfairness of life, raging at the universe for inflicting this woe upon him. Or perhaps cross that he’d forgotten to tell his players that they needed to mark the opposition’s best player. One of the two.

Graham Ruthven had some further thoughts on the game, Leverkusen and Havertz, here.

IN THE CHANNELS

Who’s the best goalkeeper ever? Ben Snowball has nailed his colours to the big red-nosed mast, but there are other options…

Perhaps you’re a Gigi Buffon fan. Maybe Iker Casillas is more your bag. Peter Shilton might be your choice. Happily, those things no longer need to exist in the abstract, and you can cast your vote for the best, here. Use it wisely.

IN OTHER NEWS

We make zero (0) apologies for sharing this important content.

RETRO CORNER

On this day in 2012, Chelsea won the Champions League, beating Bayern in their own stadium in what was remarkably only the second-most traumatic European Cup final defeat for the Germans.

HAT TIP

Friday, May 19, 2000. Early evening, 20 years ago today, and the bus leaves the Hotel Atlántico, a crowd gathered outside. A couple of miles away, Cuatro Caminos, meeting point of multitudes, is preparing for the biggest party the city has ever seen — if they make it, and some don’t dare believe after what happened last time. It was six years ago now, but still it lingers and still it hurts. God, it hurts. The bus pulls out and begins its journey, past thousands of people in blue and white, air filled with smoke, past the flats where flags hang from balconies, and toward Riazor, where Deportivo de La Coruña face Espanyol

Sid Lowe for ESPN tells the story of how little old Deportivo La Coruna won La Liga in 2000.

Never fear: in an uncertain and often quite frightening world, some things can be relied upon, and one of them is Ben Snowball. He’ll be here tomorrow.

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