The Covid-19 shutdown provides an opportunity for football to show it’s not just a selfish industry, says former Sligo Rovers manager Paul Cook.
Now managing Wigan in the English Championship, Cook has been impressed with some of the gestures of support to vulnerable groups from within the game, but admits thinking of others doesn’t always come naturally to football professionals.
Speaking in an interview with The Athletic, Cook said: “Anyone who is in a position to help out should be helping out in whatever way they can. If you have the time and money to do something to help in this situation, and you haven’t, you need to take a serious look at yourself.
“Players become used to fighting to get what they want. Then they become used to getting what they want. But the majority of football people are good people. We can show that.”
Some of Wigan’s players have joined the NHS volunteer service, and Cook contacted his local ASDA store to volunteer to help with deliveries.
“That was just the first avenue I thought of. I know they need help with deliveries so I thought that being fit and being able to drive, I could help get supplies to people.
“I was informed by customer services that someone would call me back. They didn’t, but it’s not a problem because I’ve been able to find another way to help out. I would rather not say what that is — it doesn’t need advertising — but I’m more than happy to do it.
“Everyone in this country loves football. But we also love breathing the air we breathe. We love being alive. And right now, with this virus, we’re facing a challenge where we don’t know when it’s going to be possible for football to start up again.”
Declaring the 2019-20 season null and void would suit relegation-threatened Wigan, but not Cook’s beloved Liverpool, on the brink of a Premier League title. But Cook has other priorities at the moment.
“Of course my thoughts are going to be clouded by what’s best for my club. But if I’m honest about it, that would be a totally selfish position to take. Playing out the season would be obviously the right and proper thing to do. But then we’re left looking at when that can happen. And the longer time goes on without returning, the more you wonder what will happen. If we’re still at home in three months, how can we finish the league?”
“I find it very sad that some people are talking about making the season null and void and I think it’s disgusting that some people are talking about finishing off the season behind closed doors. I’ve read people talking about keeping the players in sanitised camps and hotels so that they can finish the season. That would be a disgrace.
“Football isn’t about games behind closed doors. Liverpool fans don’t want to hear they’ve won the league behind closed doors. Trust me, there’s no one more desperate than Liverpool fans to see this season finished. But if they won it behind closed doors I think you would find people in this country start to turn against football very quickly. You need to be very careful about that.
“The perfect outcome for me would be for them to develop a vaccine and find a cure, so that everyone can return to work and everything can go back to normal. And after that, it would be for Wigan stay up and Liverpool to win the title at a sunny Anfield in June or July or whenever it was. In the meantime, we should all be doing as much as we can to help in our communities. That’s what matters right now.”