THE last time I was at a live football match was on March 12th. That makes it 112 days now, not that I’m counting.

Rangers played Bayer Leverkusen at Ibrox that night, and as we mingled at close quarters with journalists from one of the worst Covid-19 affected regions of Germany at that point, there were some uneasy jokes about opening doors with sleeves and the buffet that we weren’t allowed to touch, but had to ask a server to dispense.

Queue some more gags about the difference in the portion sizes being scoffed through fear of being judged by the waiter, and more than a a bit of scoffing about how ridiculous the whole thing was.

Little did any of us, or the 50,000 fans present – including 1000 from Germany - that night know, that it would be the last time we would savour the thrill of the game at such close quarters for many months, and perhaps many more to come.

After the game, as news of Arsenal manager and former Rangers midfielder Mikel Arteta testing positive for coronavirus played on the screens behind Steven Gerrard as he gave his post-match post-mortem, the penny began to drop a little that life was about to change. In hindsight, it seems ridiculous that we were all there in the first place, especially given the decision to abandon the Old Firm fixture that was scheduled just a few days later.

Since then, it has been said that going ahead with that match could have led to thousands upon thousands of fans contracting coronavirus, and we might have been looking back on an even bleaker picture than the one we are faced with. How many people caught Covid-19 just a few nights earlier at Ibrox, we will never know.

Such has the prism by which we view life changed in the intervening period, that the prospect of attending stadiums to watch football almost seems an alien concept, but now, we have clubs in the SPFL Premiership publicly talking up the possibility of fans being allowed into grounds by late August.

Celtic are hoping to have 30,000 supporters through the turnstiles by that point, and Aberdeen are optimistic that they may be allowed around 7500 spectators inside Pittodrie when football at last returns to Scotland next month. Or, about the average gate in the late Mark McGhee era.

It is an exciting prospect. The novelty of watching matches behind closed doors, even in the world’s biggest leagues with the world’s best players on show, lost much of its initial novelty long ago.

It is perhaps no surprise to hear our clubs talking up such a possibility either, as Scottish football is particularly reliant on matchday income in the form of gate receipts in comparison to the cash that comes from broadcasting deals.

It is no exaggeration to state that the quicker our clubs can get access to at least some of that lifeblood which sustains them, then the more chance we will have of having all of our senior clubs still standing come the start of the season. It may be critical for some.

It was initially deflating then to hear clinical director Jason Leitch pour cold water on the idea, stating there was ‘pretty much no chance’ of having fans in stadia come August. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon then doused those flickering hopes further by saying that October may be too early to think about the prospect of even physically distanced reduced crowds.

Let’s hope that’s not the case, but as disappointing as it is to have your balloon burst in such a way, it is hard to argue against the position of extreme caution.

The lack of football hasn’t been the only sacrifice people have had to make during this crisis, and indeed, pales in comparison to the other aspects of life that we have been forced to forgo. Seeing loved ones, hugging family members on their birthdays, the things that truly matter.

True, with non-essential shops and things like hairdressers slowly opening back up, it is natural to ask why football stadiums cannot follow. But it is the sheer numbers of people who would be congregated in one place the further up the footballing food chain you go, sharing toilets and turnstiles, that make top-level matches such a hazard.

Sadly, all of the sacrifices made to get to this point shouldn’t be squandered by the desire to get football back up and running, and potentially putting supporters in harm’s way is too big a risk to take.

Our clubs will have to do their best to muddle through. And as I contemplate the approaching day 113 without live football, so will we all.


IT is a great move in my book for both Motherwell and Jake Hastie for the young winger to return to Fir Park on a season-long loan from Rangers, and could be the making of the player in more ways than one should the deal come to pass.

Purely from a footballing perspective, it will clearly be beneficial for him to be playing regularly in a place where he has flourished previously rather than treading water in the Rangers ‘B’ team, as it is now known.

It is a move that will also provide a test of character though, for there are a great many Motherwell supporters who aren’t exactly welcoming the young man back to Fir Park with open arms.

Some are still upset at the way he left the club, opting to join Rangers at the end of his contract, thus leaving Motherwell with only training compensation. But in his position, which of them could honestly say they would have instead signed an extension with Motherwell on much less money, when an opportunity to join a bigger club and potentially quadruple their pay packet may never arise again?

It’s all very well to say he should have stayed put and backed his ability to win him a move when he was truly ready, but a long-term injury would have put the kybosh on that idea.

Others are perhaps put out by the notion of developing a player for another club, but that is the very business that Motherwell are in, and one of the key recruitment tools at the disposal of manager Stephen Robinson. It is a platform and a breeding ground where you can enjoy success, but also go on to then earn a potentially life-changing move in what is a very short career.

Hopefully they will get behind him, and if he can strike up the same understanding as he did so devastatingly – if fleetingly – with friend David Turnbull once more, then I’m sure all will be forgiven.