Barnsley striker Conor Chaplin is sceptical of the proposals to finish the football season behind-closed-doors and ‘wonders if it is inevitable’ that the Championship will be cancelled.
The 23-year-old, one of the star players for the relegation-threatened Reds with 12 goals in all competitions, wants to complete the campaign and is following developments closely. The EFL and FA are reportedly keen to restart early next month, with a preferred option being to play the remaining fixtures in empty grounds.
Chaplin told the Chronicle: “I don’t see how you can play games behind-closed- doors and I don’t really understand why it’s even being talked about. If fans aren’t allowed in, I don’t see why players would be allowed to play games and have to put themselves in that position. Some of us will be worried about the risk. Also, if there’s football without fans, it takes away 90 per cent of the enjoyment and 100 per cent of the atmosphere. Games can be swung by fans so you would be taking away such a big part of the game.
“I don’t really agree with it but money rules the roost in terms of whether the season will finish or not and, I guess, that will be the overriding factor. That is sad but it is the way the game has gone. “When people say ‘no fans’ they maybe don’t realise that quite a lot of people will still be gathered in one place including all the medical staff and ambulance staff.”
Barnsley’s players are discussing a temporary paycut or a deferral of wages. Chaplin said: “We have been told from the hierarchy at the club that it is in a good position, financially, which is testament to the way it has been run. There are talks going on and I can’t say too much. All the players are prepared to look at it.”
Chaplin, who began his career at Portsmouth, briefly moved down to his family home on the South Coast but now he is back in Yorkshire. He said: “I am at my place near Leeds. I did go back down south but there wasn’t much room at the inn. I have all my gym equipment up here. I am just keeping busy with exercising and Zoom calls with the staff and the players. But I am a bit frustrated.
“The day-to-day life of being a footballer is what you miss the most, being with the boys throughout the week. You can’t recreate that and there’s a bit of void. There are much bigger things to think about at the moment but, from a selfish point of view – and the fans probably share these feelings – we really miss football. Even with the games on TV throughout the week, it takes up so much of your life so, when you don’t have that to fill up that time, you are searching for other things to do. I have some 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles from charity shops that I am working my way through at the moment.”
As well as doing jigsaws, Chaplin is following the latest news on the lockdown and is glad he does not have to solve the puzzle of how and when to restart football during the coronavirus crisis. He said: “I would hate to be making the decisions because it is hard. I don’t know how they will come to a decision that is fair for all the clubs, I don’t think it’s actually possible.
“I watch Sky Sports News more than my girlfriend would like because I like to keep up to date with what is going on. The French league has been cancelled which is a big story because there is a lot of money in that league and, sadly, money does run the game and it’s a big reason for why the Premier League hasn’t been cancelled. From our point of view, I guess we would just go off the Premier League’s decision. You see other leagues get cancelled and wonder if it is inevitable that that will happen to us.”
The Reds are currently seven points adrift of safety at the bottom of the Championship with nine games remaining. Chaplin says that, even if Barnsley do return to training on the scheduled date of May 16, they would not be able to play that month. He said: “I think it would probably be three or four weeks before we were match-fit. You can do all the running you want but playing is completely different. I’m guessing there wouldn’t be any friendlies, maybe some against our under 23s. Maybe, for the first three or four games out of the last nine, we wouldn’t be 100 per cent fit.
“The lads haven’t lost hope of staying up at any point, and this hasn’t changed that. We are trying to put a positive spin on it that, because it’s been so long, you are putting those bad memories to bed and starting afresh. We fall into the small group of teams that would benefit from the leagues being cancelled. You have clubs like Charlton who have only been in the relegation zone for 20 minutes this season, so obviously it wouldn’t be fair on them to relegate them based on the current league tables.”