Liverpool kicked off their restart of the 2019-20 Premier League season on Sunday at an empty Goodison Park. They continue it tonight at an empty Anfield, with no certainty about when or in what form an eventual return for supporters will take.
It’s a situation that feels completely removed from what existed just three months ago. The players, though, will be thinking about the fans who aren’t there in the stands—knowing that, somewhere, they’re still watching and cheering.
“So much has happened in the world,” said captain Jordan Henderson ahead of tonight’s match. “Football is back, but it returns in very different circumstances and against the backdrop of a virus that has had an impact on everyone in the world.
“We know we are fortunate that we are allowed to resume playing. Of course we all want the fans back as soon as possible, because they make the game what it is. But the fans haven’t disappeared—they’re just somewhere else. They still watch and they still support.”
There has been some talk of fans returning for the start of the 2020-21 season, likely in September and perhaps as early as the Community Shield between Liverpool as league champions and the eventual winners of the FA Cup.
For the remainder of this season, though, what we the players experience on Sunday when Liverpool took on Everton is how it has to be. It isn’t ideal, but it’s still football, and just as most fans are happy to have it back in some form, so too the players.
“I really hope the amount of games we play with the seats empty is kept to the lowest number possible,” Henderson added of the fan-free resumption of the season. “But in the meantime it is not an excuse for less effort and commitment.
“If anything, it’s the opposite. We have to embrace the responsibility of delivering for them, because we have a chance to be in the stadium today and they don’t.”