What might have been for Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish today...

By Matt Maher | Aston Villa | Published:

Even during a lockdown, as one near identical day dissolves into another, it is difficult not to glance at the now defunct sporting calendar and not imagine what would have been happening.

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish.

Today would have been a significant one for the England football team, with a home friendly against Italy at Wembley – the first of several staging posts in the final build-up to Euro 2020.

It might have been an even bigger day for Jack Grealish, the Villa playmaker whose form over the course of recent months had surely done enough to earn a first senior call-up and might even have been enough to force his way into Gareth Southgate’s starting XI.

Of course, it doesn’t matter a jot now. The European Championships have quite rightly been pushed back 12 months and there is no guessing when England might actually play again.

As Southgate said in a typically perfectly-toned message to supporters last week, we really shouldn’t waste another moment thinking about the postponement. “Now is not the time for us to take centre stage,” he wrote. “The heroes will be the men and women who continue to work tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centres to look after our friends and families.

“They won’t receive the individual acclaim, but we all know their importance is beyond anything we do on the pitch.”

You can be certain the sentiment is shared by Grealish, who for all the heights he is capable of reaching on the pitch remains firmly grounded off it. His focus right now will be the same as everyone else, on the health and well-being of friends and family. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t feel an element of regret on his behalf, or for the thousands of other athletes around the world who have dedicated so much time and effort for competitions which have now been swept aside by global events.

Neither does it stop us from pondering the future and hoping for the sense of normality the return of sport will eventually bring, no matter how long it takes.

“The weirdest feeling I have is that I have found I really don’t have a life without football,” said Villa winger Anwar El Ghazi in a candid interview with the Dutch media last weekend.

El Ghazi will certainly not be the only one involved in the sport to have experienced that epiphany in recent days, no matter whether they are a player, coach, executive, or even journalist. On that score, things are only going to get tougher. This is no short-term shutdown.

The good news is at some point, some time sport will be back. And when it is, like many of the far more important things too often taken for granted, it will be celebrated and cherished more than ever.

Matt Maher

By Matt Maher

Chief sports writer for the Express & Star.


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