John Smith’s Preston North End Fans’ Panel: Friday 13th a dark day in history

I will always remember Friday, March 13, 2020 as the day I was stunned by the rapid development of the coronavirus situation which suddenly hit very close to home after seeming to be so detached from my personal life following its outbreak in China nine weeks ago.

On Friday morning as I started the last day of my working week I was looking forward to North End’s trip to Luton Town, the spiritual football home of the late Eric Morecambe, hoping that as in the lyrics of the comedian’s famous song I would also have some laughter and sunshine in my smile and see our recent run of wretched results end with an away win.

However by lunchtime the decision of the FA to suspend the professional game until at least April 3 left me feeling completely numb with seemingly no brand new bright tomorrow for myself or any football fan to look forward to.

Although there had been rumours of a possible suspension and some recent matches in Europe had been played behind closed doors I was of the belief that following the Government announcement on Thursday it would be business as usual this weekend and that my non-refundable train ticket to Luton would not have ended up in the wastepaper bin 24 hours earlier than expected on Friday evening.

PNE's Deepdale stadium

Bill Shankly once said that football was more important than the matter of life and death but in my opinion this is certainly not the case.

If having the stand bearing his name at Deepdale – along with the stands around the rest of the country – empty on Saturdays for the foreseeable future, as part of the extraordinary measures taken by the suspension of my favourite sport, saved only a handful of lives it will have been the right and proper decision, given the circumstances.

However personally I find it hard to understand how come more than 60,000 people were allowed to attend the Gold Cup race meeting at Cheltenham on the day this decision was made.