Goals galore in Premier League, but the out­look for fans is gloomy

Bangkok Post - - SPORTS - By Nobby Piles

When you get down to the ba­sics in foot­ball, it is goals that peo­ple want to see and that’s what we were treated to in the Premier League last week. The clubs out­did them­selves with a record 44 goals be­ing scored in the 10 games.

The only prob­lem, but it is a very big one, was that there were no fans in the sta­di­ums to wit­ness this en­ter­tain­ment.

Even worse, be­cause of the coronaviru­s threat, the UK govern­ment an­nounced it could be an­other six months be­fore fans are al­lowed into the grounds at English league clubs.

It is not an ex­ag­ger­a­tion that this news could sound the death knell for some clubs in the lower leagues who had been promised that some spec­ta­tors would be al­lowed into grounds from Oct 1.

But let’s savour the good news first. It is re­mark­able that with all the re­stric­tions play­ers are sub­jected to in their “bub­ble,” they should come up with a ver­i­ta­ble har­vest of goals, beat­ing the 43 scored in Fe­bru­ary 2011.

Three games fea­tured seven goals — Ever­ton 5 WBA 2; Leeds 4 Ful­ham 3; Southamp­ton 2 Spurs 5; while an­other had six, Le­ices­ter 4 Burn­ley 2.

It is hard to ex­plain where this goal glut sud­denly came from.

Ad­mit­tedly there was some very poor de­fend­ing and the ridicu­lous new hand­ball rule also con­trib­uted to a cou­ple of goals.

We are go­ing to see a lot of silly hand­ball penal­ties this sea­son un­less the au­thor­i­ties are brave enough to amend the law. Note, this is not a VAR prob­lem, it’s a rules prob­lem.

But for all the de­fen­sive frail­ties, we must ap­plaud the goalscor­ers who made it so en­ter­tain­ing for fans watch­ing TV.

Steal­ing the lime­light was Tot­ten­ham’s South Korean striker Son

He­ung-Min who rat­tled in four goals in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion, with a lit­tle mat­ter of four as­sists from Harry Kane, who also helped him­self to one goal.

Son’s sheer pace and pre­cise fin­ish­ing was quite stun­ning.

There was an­other hat-trick at Good­i­son Park where Do­minic Calvert-Lewin banged in three in less dra­matic fash­ion, but nonethe­less im­por­tant goals.

Brighton’s Neal Mau­pay net­ted a brace in the Seag­ulls’ sur­pris­ingly com­fort­able 3-0 away win at New­cas­tle.

It is pos­si­ble the very lack of fans has eased the pres­sure on the play­ers and es­pe­cially those away from home.

In the first two weeks nine teams have let in three or more goals in a game while play­ing at home, in­clud­ing Liver­pool and Manch­ester United.

An­other re­fresh­ing statis­tic is a no­tice­able ab­sence of any drawn games, al­though that is un­likely to last.

While it is a Premier League record, the 44 goals is not the high­est-ever in the top flight.

That hon­our goes to the most fa­mous Box­ing Day in English foot­ball — Dec 26, 1963 — when an amaz­ing 66 goals were scored in the 10 top flight games (the old First Divi­sion).

Just imag­ine switch­ing on the ra­dio at 5pm to lis­ten to the foot­ball re­sults that Satur­day and hear­ing the fol­low­ing:

Black­pool 1 Chelsea 5; Burn­ley 6 Man U 1; Ful­ham 10 Ip­swich 1; Le­ices­ter 2 Ever­ton 0; Liver­pool 6

Stoke 1; Not­ting­ham For­est 3 Sh­eff U 3; Sh­eff Wed 3 Bolton 0; West Brom 4 Tot­ten­ham 4; West Ham 2 Black­burn 8; and Wolves 3 As­ton Villa 3.

In­evitably there were some fine in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances high­lighted by Ful­ham’s Gra­ham Leg­gat scor­ing four, in­clud­ing a hat-trick in three-min­utes.

Two other play­ers notch­ing four goals were Liver­pool’s Roger Hunt on his way to 31 goals for the sea­son, and Andy Lock­head of Burn­ley.

At Up­ton Park, both Fred Pick­er­ing and Andy McEvoy claimed hat-tricks for Black­burn.

The high scores on that day were partly at­trib­uted to muddy pitches, some­thing we can cer­tainly rule out in last week’s matches in which the play­ing sur­faces were pris­tine.

But enough of those won­der­ful mem­o­ries and back to the grim re­al­ity of 2020.

For all the bril­liant goals, foot­ball needs fans and it looks like spec­ta­tors at matches is some­thing that will not hap­pen in Eng­land un­til next March at the ear­li­est.

The Premier League ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment at the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion and warned of a “dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on clubs and their com­mu­ni­ties.”

You can only imag­ine what ef­fect it will have on the smaller clubs. Rick Parry, chair­man of the Foot­ball League, which rep­re­sents the 72 clubs be­low the top flight called the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion “deeply frus­trat­ing.”

BBC sports ed­i­tor Dan Roan com­mented that the UK govern­ment’s de­ci­sion “will in­fu­ri­ate sports gov­ern­ing bod­ies that in­sist it is much safer for fans to be in a highly reg­u­lated, so­cially dis­tanced, of­ten open-air venues or sta­di­ums, than watch­ing the TV in a pub.”

How­ever, it can be ar­gued that if fans could at­tend games they would min­gle in pubs be­fore and af­ter the match.

Meanwhile, af­ter all the ex­cite­ment of the past two weeks, what’s the bet­ting that this week­end we will be sub­jected to a goal drought and bore draws.

Who knows? Foot­ball can be a funny old game, even with­out spec­ta­tors.

AFP

Tot­ten­ham’s Son He­ung-Min scored four goals against Southamp­ton.

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