By Daily Star for Lolwe digital
PAUL MERSON COLUMN:The Premier League is due to return in June without fans – but those conditions could prove helpful for relegation-threatened clubs, contrary to their current concerns.
Premier League players are going to find it incredibly tough to play behind closed doors when football eventually returns.
Of course, fans are counting down the days until they can watch their favourite team in action even if it will be from the confines of their own living room.
But footballers may struggle to adjust to playing important fixtures in empty stadiums. Such an environment could prove a great leveller.
I struggled to find my best form in practice games or having a run-out for the reserves when I was coming back from injury.
It had nothing to do with a lack of professionalism or effort.
I always tried my best but when you’re used to performing in front of 40 or 50,000 fans, it’s very different when there’s just one man and his dog on hand.
Top footballers by nature are entertainers. They feed off the frenzy generated by a big crowd.
Adrenaline kicks in and somehow you find something extra which just isn’t there when there’s no atmosphere.
Don’t get me wrong, football probably has no option but to get started behind closed doors. Difficult times make for exceptional circumstances.
But it won’t be the same – and I’m not just talking about noise levels.
Back in my day, there were numerous occasions when the Arsenal first team would lose a practice game against the reserves or even the kids because they couldn’t find their A-game on the training ground or at a deserted Highbury.
And that’s why I can see plenty of shock results when the Premier League campaign resumes.
Another of my former clubs Aston Villa think they’ll be at a big disadvantage playing at neutral venues rather than on home soil in front of their fans.
I’m not so sure. In fact, I have a feeling some of those teams fighting relegation will benefit more from the new arrangement than the Manchester City’s of this world.
As I’ve already said, top professionals love an audience and the bigger the stage, the better they tend to perform.
Take away the fans, the cheers, even the jeers and inevitably their game will suffer, however much they try to avoid it happening.
I’ll be very interested to watch the reaction of players when they score a goal, which, believe me, is the greatest feeling in the world when a whole ground suddenly erupts or is stunned into silence.
It won’t feel the same and I can’t see there being any outrageous celebrations.
But, like everyone else, I’ll be tuning in to as many games as possible.
And mark my words, we’ll witness a host of upsets because of the unfamiliar conditions.
In fact, I can even see one or two of those teams currently at the bottom of the table stringing together four or five wins.
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