In years to come, when we mention football in lockdown, it’s likely youngsters won’t believe their ears. So, as a document for them to look at in the future, here’s what fans in 2020-21 had to become accustomed to.
Football in lockdown
New balls please: a sanitised football at the Vale Park stadium
Tunnel vision: the opposition walk out of the Hamil End at the Vale Park stadium
Ten things Port Vale football fans will remember about lockdown
- Every fan saw things the same: well, at least in terms of the viewing angle. With no-one allowed in, we were all reliant on the much-criticised iFollow platform for our Vale fix and with that one camera view, we were all seeming the same camera angle at the same time.
- The commentary team may not be familiar: with travel restrictions in place, we had to become accustomed to having to listen to the opponents’ radio team. While some commentary is better than none (unless perhaps you’re visiting Forest Green) it has led to some interesting moments. “Devant” Rodney anyone?
- Injured or absent for other reasons: we also have to put up with unaccustomed absences from the team – and not just for injury. Last season, Vale have missed the likes of Nathan Smith and Tom Conlon as they had to “self-isolate” – something that could only occur during a global pandemic.
- There were cardboard cut outs everywhere: with no real fans in the stadium, there was a preponderance of cardboard versions as supporters put themselves “virtually” in the stadium. Well, at least it gives some semblance of a crowd and in Vale’s case it was all for a good cause too!
- Only one team came out of the tunnel: in the days of social distancing, the away teams started appearing at the top of the Hamil Road stand rather than through the traditional Lorne Street tunnel. We became used to the bizarre sight of opposition players trotting down empty seating to reach the pitch.
- Plenty of balls: we also had to become accustomed to the sight of freshly sanitised footballs dotted around the sidelines as teams take precautions to prevent spreading the virus.
- A random number of games played: at times the League Two table was almost incomprehensible as postponements for Covid resulted in a huge disparity in games played. At one point, Vale had played 28 games but six teams have played 25, one has played 24 and one (Carlisle) were a mighty five games behind the Valiants with just 23 played.
- There were loads more subs in play: due to the frequency of the games and also the effects of Covid on players’ availability there were far more subs (five) allowed to come on last season.
- iFollow frustrated everyone: it was unprecedented that the only way fans could see the game would be via a stream so it was perhaps understandable that iFollow has struggled at times. But it’s not just the technical glitches that irritate. Poor customer service and insincere statements have hardly endeared the service to fans, but last season, if you want to watch the Vale you have no choice!
- Celebrations had had to be toned down: well, there haven’t been too many of them last season but due to social distancing, excessive goal celebrations and the like were toned down. A good thing, some may argue.
Man in the mask: defender Adam Crookes arrives at Vale Park during the 2020-21 season.