There are just five days until Premier League football is back in our lives and nine days until Liverpool line up against Everton in the Merseyside derby. The UK has been in lockdown for close to 12 weeks and a Premier League ball hasn’t been kicked since Monday 9th March.
For many, the lack of football will have been a blessing but for those like myself who class the sport as one of their true loves in life, this has been a difficult time to say the least. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the impact a lack of football could have on a fan’s mental health and well being.
|Image via Science Focus|
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not somebody who has suffered with significant mental health issues (though I know plenty who have) but I think the lack of football, the lack of a routine, something to look forward to, has had a significant impact on my personal mental health.
Football is escapism in its purest form, unlike a film or a TV show, you can’t successfully predict the outcome. You’re taken on a ride, through a rollercoaster of emotions, you’re often shouting expletives at the opposition but this is a release and without it, without this release of emotions and the experience of the highs, something huge is removed from your life – it’s only natural that you then struggle in its absence.
Pile onto this the fact you couldn’t leave your house aside from one bit of exercise initially, maybe you’ve been furloughed, maybe all your mates don’t live close enough for you to have a socially distanced BBQ… and all of a sudden you’ve created the perfect storm.
It’s for this reason, and I know I am not alone in this, that the feeling of relief knowing that Liverpool will be back on our screens in less than 10 days is an immense one.
It’s not just fans who have struggled through this Coronavirus lockdown, players have suffered too. Liverpool were reported to have provided mental health advice to players early on including breathing exercises and social media advice. It’s also been reported that players who were close to the end of their contracts have had significant mental struggles and have been reaching out for support.
I was reading some very interesting snippets from Kevin George who is an ex-professional and mental health in football expert (I need to check out his book “Soccology”) and for me he hit the nail on the head:
“Coronavirus has taken everyone out of their routine and this is what can bring problems. People get lost without the comfort of their schedule or what their schedule may be protecting them from for example sitting with thoughts. Creating a schedule also puts control back in your hands instead of sitting in uncertainty, waiting for updates.”
Football forms a huge part of that “schedule” for me and I know for many others and so taking it day by day and forming a plan for each day has been a real coping mechanism.
For anybody struggling with mental health issues I highly recommend the Mind website which is packed with superb advice. The NHS also produced “10 tips to help if you are worried about coronavirus“.
Looking ahead, when football does restart next week. As a Liverpool fan born in 1989 I have literally been waiting my whole life to watch us lift the Premier League title. You couldn’t have ever predicted that a pandemic would delay proceedings but I suppose after waiting for that long, I can wait a while longer.
After it was confirmed recently that the Reds will be able to play the Merseyside Derby at Goodison and not at a neutral venue, it could be that this is where Jurgen Klopp and the boys claim the title. This is dependent upon the Manchester City v Arsenal result on Wednesday.
I’ve dreamed of this moment for years, we’ve come close on occasion, Gerrard’s slip still causes a physical pained reaction whenever I see it but it’ll all have been worth the wait after the way this year has unfolded.
Yes if we don’t win it at Goodison we win it in another empty stadium with fake fan cheers and no opportunity to gather and celebrate but at this stage, I don’t care, to watch us lift the title after lockdown will be phenomenal. Cider will be flowing, Si Senor, You’ll Never Walk Alone and the Mo Salah chant will be sung, it will be an emotional moment for all Liverpool fans and I for one cannot wait.