These have been unprecedented times in English football as the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the domestic football season, leaving Manchester City and all other football clubs in limbo.
This is the name given to the English Premier League plan to resume Premier League football in England and allow the 2019/20 season to conclude fully before the 2020/21 season commences. Right now they are working towards a plan to start playing football matches by mid June with a view to completing the domestic season by end of July 2020. The belief is that after this date the FA Cup and Champions League could be completed in August with a brief break before the start of the new season in late September 2020.
Of course this plan hinges on playing all the remaining matches (and possibly some of next season) behind closed doors, and maybe even in neutral stadiums. Quite how this leaves the integrity of the Premier League remains to be seen.
Project Restart requires the players to be ready, for Government to give the go ahead and for there to be adequate medical advice in place to support the return. Much of this will become clearer in the intervening weeks but as of today not all of these ingredients are in place. Much hinges on the English government announcement regarding social distancing and lockdown which is expected on 10 May.
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The players have had an unexpected and unscheduled break and many have chosen the moment to retreat to their homes abroad. As many as 11 of the Manchester City first team squad and the senior management are all currently out of the United Kingdom and will need to return, to be free of any state mandated quarantine periods and then will need to achieve match fitness prior to any resumption of football.
For Manchester City there are some players such as Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane who were injured but may well now be fit to return to action.
Pep Guardiola lost his mother to coronavirus back home in Spain and this period will have a profound effect upon him. Like the players, the management team will have to ease back into working conditions and become “match fit”.
They will have to contend with all manner of unknowns – playing behind closed doors, possibly in neutral venues and the impact this may have upon elite athletes who may well already be fearful of the health of themselves and their loved ones.
Many match going fans are appalled at the idea of the resumption of football without fans and it remains to be seen what the impact of this will be in the long term upon the fan base. Quite how to market Project Restart to be anything worth watching may prove difficult as the appetite for football may be much reduced, especially in an artificial climate in an empty stadium.
For us as Manchester City fans all we can do is watch with interest as the plans unfold and then decide quite how much we choose to be involved.
These are strange and sad times and it remains difficult to think of football as anything other than a distraction currently.