It’s official, following the Champions League Final which saw Chelsea rise to the occasion and beat favourites Man City, as well as all the Play Off Finals taking place over the weekend, club football for the 20/21 season is now over. This signifies the tail end of (don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it) a season unlike any other.
For the Premier League in particular, the last two game weeks were a breath of fresh air with the welcome return of fans into stadiums. Although numbers were limited, their presence gave a significant boost to atmospheres across the country.
Combined with the delayed end to last season which meant for a condensed schedule this time around, we’ve seen a peculiar string of results. Liverpool’s 68-game home unbeaten run came to a spectacular end back in January as they succumbed to six successive home defeats, something that hadn’t happened in more than 120 years. This played a significant part in them falling short in defending their Premier League title.
Despite finishing in the top two places, fixture congestion was a particular issue for the two Manchester clubs, whose involvement in the latter stages of European competitions last season meant they had little time to prepare in pre-season. They both got off to very slow starts, making their achievements all the more impressive. Having been languishing in ninth place in December, City went on a ruthless winning run of 21 matches in all competitions which saw them steamroll to the Premier League title. United, on the other hand, went unbeaten away from home all season, a particularly rare feat given their indifferent home form, perhaps another symptom of the lack of fans.
This has also been the season which has seen the football community unite in the fight against discrimination. The absence of supporters in stadiums has coincided with a spike in online abuse towards footballers, culminating in players, clubs and media outlets alike boycotting social media platforms in a bid to make them take serious action on abuse. Players have also continued to show solidarity in the fight against racism by taking the knee before matches throughout the season.
It was also a turbulent season off the pitch, with the financial impact of the pandemic on football clubs contributing towards the decision by 12 football clubs to launch a breakaway European Super League. Its inception threatened the entirety of the football pyramid, but was thankfully short-lived in this country at least. The fan backlash prompted most of the clubs involved to backtrack within a matter of days, while Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus face being kicked out of UEFA competitions for their persistence with the project.
It’s been an eventful season that has almost blended into two, and supporters couldn’t be blamed for feeling fatigued with it all at this point. Give it a week after the end of the season, though, and I’ll already be craving more. Luckily for us, we have the postponed Euros to look forward to. If this season has taught us one thing, though, it’s the true influence and impact fans have on our game. Hopefully full grounds and electric atmospheres are only around the corner.